All Things Writing

The Craft of Writing

Writing Nonfiction – Starting

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So how do you start? Do you sit down and start writing or do you do some planning? How much planning? What type of planning?

It seems that writing nonfiction should be easy. It’s based on facts. What’s the problem? This happened and then this happened and then this happened. You just need to tell it like it was. Except it’s never that easy because there is always so much that happened.

There are several ways to get started, so this time we’ll talk about the Timeline Approach:

  1. Write a summary of the entire event from start to finish. Don’t jump around. Go in chronological order. Don’t go into vast amounts of detail.
  2. When the summary is complete, go through and highlight all of the events that happened in one time-sequence. If everything happened in one day, highlight each hour or segment of the day. If everything happened in one week, highlight the events that occurred each day. If everything happened in several months, highlight the events that occurred each month…
  3. Take a page for each segment and copy and paste or cut and paste that info to that page.
  4. Now you are ready to decide what is most important. With that in mind, rank the events of the day in order of importance to the overall event you described in your summary.
  5. With that in hand, start a new page or notecard and identify the key players and setting for each event.

You now have your story broken down into its component parts. From these pages or notecards, you can decide what type of narrative element would serve each event best. Perhaps it will be a scene or perhaps it will be descriptive text. This is the time to mull it over.

The next step is to decide upon your plot points – yes plot points. Narrative nonfiction has a plot and plot points that are absolutely factual and true. In the same way you plan how to tell a story, you will plan how to tell this story.

More on this next time!


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