Writing non-fiction

After yesterday’s momentous decision, I have decided to comment on non-fiction writing for a change.

There are lots of writing books on the market and some of them try to lump fiction proposals and non-fiction proposals together. They are different in several ways:
  • Fiction really needs to be finished before you submit a proposal and chapters
  • Non-fiction doesn’t need to be finished, inf act you can submit an idea and a couple of chapters
  • You need a synopsis of your work for fiction, but for non-fiction you need a full proposal of your project.
  • For non-fiction, you need to compare you book to other similar texts and show where the ‘gap’ is for it and how you will build on knowledge
  • For fiction you need to describe the genre you are aiming for and how your novel is different from other books

Of course, both non-fiction and fiction writing need to be original but similar enough to something else to sell.

I’m at the beginning of a project where I have conducted some research and I will write it up as a non-fiction book. In the proposal I need to produce a rationale for my work. I need to make it stand out amongst the other work about green theory and state who my audience is. I will then need to identify other similar texts and argue how I will extend the thinking in those books to make my book an addition to what is already published.

Then I will detail an outline of the chapters of the book, with a title and a chapter summary and a estimated word count. Finally I will need to estimate how long it will take me to write.

This is very different from the submission process for a novel. the completed proposal (with 2-3 complete chapters) is sent directly to publishers. They will send out your book to experts (probably the authors you have compared your work to) and there will possibly be revisions and resubmissions. Then the proposal must pass the editorial test, and eventually a final decision is made and the contract is signed.

From then, you will have the support of the publishing house on style and content.

My non-fiction book, Gaia Mind, dealt with Gaia Theory and the way people relate to environmental problems. As I sit and write there are no guarantees I will be published, but it sure has been an eye opener to find out the opinions people hold about climate change. The book will include anonymous quotes from people about their views and hopefully reveal how prepared we are for Lovelock’s ‘Final Warning’.

But that’s another blog for another day! From today I’ll be blogging about social concerns as well as writing – I feel another moan coming on!

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