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Live your subject

Non-fiction writers live their books before they write them. From biography to travel to books about music, art or sheep, for the non-fiction writer the success of the book depends on the research period, which is undertaken as life, rather than work.

So, you cannot possibly write a good book about Bob Dylan unless you have lived, imaginatively or actually, stories analogous to those his songs tell. You would have to be so soaked in his music that it had either accompanied and/or partially directed significant periods of your life. You would know his life story better than you know your own.

For the writer of non-fiction, therefore, writing is actually walking, or interviewing, or listening, or obsessively pursuing a band, or climbing glaciers. The other bit, the making of the book, is just typing really.

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Freedom in Fabrication

The Japanese writer Tanizaki complained that he could not read his contemporaries. Every time he picked up a…

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Radical Reinvention

One way to think about writing is as a tool of curiosity. A way of finding out about…

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Poetic truth

Once, when I was reading a Selima Hill collection, I noticed that she’d used an epigraph by the…

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Let the place do the talking

It is tremendously difficult to write about a place you know as if you are a travel writer….

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Tips for Travel Writing

First, you need to find a subject that lights you up. If beach resorts are not your thing,…

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Writing in a Spoken Voice

If you find the point of view in your stories tends to wander around the place (sometimes very…

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The Gap Between

I’d like you to do something very simple. Sit back, close your eyes, and try to remember an…

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Veiling the Narrative

Stories are one of the ways we have to make sense of the world.  I’m interested not just…

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Read As If Your Life Depended On It

In What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics the great American poet Adrienne Rich says “You…

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Exploring different third person points of view

Write part of a story in the form of a scene from a play, beginning with a description…

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Subjective third person narrative

When I was a child, like most young readers I wanted to identify with the characters in books….

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