Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Are you the right person to write a nonfiction book?

The right person to write a good nonfiction book will have three things: Authority, passion, and a good idea.

Today's post is about authority.

Gaining authority
Let's say you want to write a book on kayaking. One of the first things to ask yourself is "Do I have recent, first-hand experience"? If you are a world-class kayaking expert, the answer is yes. You do.

But what if you are not already an expert?  Then your job is to gain the experience you need to become an expert. You might do something like doing a year-long kayaking training program, and then going on your own kayaking adventure. Ideally the adventure will be something remarkable. Like kayaking around British Columbia's Victoria Island, or perhaps Ireland.

As you train for your adventure, take detailed notes on the day's experiences. Ideally before you go to bed each night.

Always try to take notes the same day. The more hours that pass between the experience and note taking, the less valuable your notes become.

By the end of your training program and the following adventure you would have the authority you need to write a kayaking book.

Finding authority
Another way to gain authority is to work with someone who already has the authority you need for a successful book. You might interview and quote dozens of kayakers, kayak manufacturers, kayak teachers, and kayak experts, or you might decide co-author a book with a famous kayaker.

Whatever method you choose, you need to find some way to gain first-hand experience.

If gaining first-hand experience is impossible--say you are writing about a historical event--you still need to immerse yourself in the field. You might read everything you can find, talk to all the experts possible, and visit historical sites.

1. Note taking apps
Use your smartphone for notetaking.  Writing in the New York Times, Kit Easton tells how to use a smartphone with an app like Diaro (Android) or Day One! (iOS) to record your thoughts. Take and attach photos and audio interviews to your notes and then store the results in the cloud.

2. Gaining or finding authority
Marc McCutcheon's book Damn! Why Didnt I Write That? contains one of the best explanations of the importance of having or finding authority that I've found.

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