Monday, April 25, 2011

Ten Hot Tips for Writing Non-Fiction by Angie Kay Dilmore

I recently attended Houston’s Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference. Several hundred conferees packed a ballroom at the Merrill Center in Katy. Six out of eight speakers were either an agent or editor. Because so many traditional publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts, conferences like these are essential for getting your foot in the door of publishing houses. It takes time and money to attend conferences, but if you’re serious about your writing, they are definitely worth it.
Brenda Murray, Senior Editor at Scholastic, spoke to us on writing non-fiction. Naturally, she geared her talk to writing for children, but most of the principles apply to any non-fiction writing. Listed are Ms. Murray’s suggestions.

1. Know your audience. Know their reading level and what they enjoy reading. Then speak their language. Include a glossary if appropriate.

2. Research the competition. How is your book different? Is there room in the market for another book on that subject? If there aren’t other books out there on that subject, is there a reason why?

3. Make it interactive. Include quizzes, puzzles, experiments, games, and activities. (This would be more applicable to children’s writing.)

4. Keep it brief. Say what you need to say in as few words as possible. Follow word count guidelines.

5. Focus your subject. Can you narrow a broad general topic to create a more interesting subject?

6. Consider narrative in your non-fiction writing. Rather than merely stating facts, tell your reader a story, with a beginning, middle, and end.

7. Introduce a new concept. Tell your reader something he/she does not already know. Or add a new twist to a familiar subject.

8. Use exciting language, strong verbs, and interesting word choices to grab your readers’ attention.

9. Don’t assume your reader has prior knowledge of a subject. Add clarification or explanation in your story where necessary.

10. Include bonus material with your non-fiction work, such as maps, photos, illustrations, websites, etc. (Often the publisher takes care of this. Depends on where you’re submitting.)

If you consider yourself a fiction writer, don’t dismiss non-fiction writing, as I did when I first started writing. Any prolific published author will tell you, non-fiction sells way easier than fiction. I once heard a remarkable statistic at a writers conference. I wish I could remember the quote exactly. Though the specific numbers escape me, the powerful message did not. But it went something like this (I’m making this up, so do not quote me.) There are ten fiction writers for every two non-fiction writers. And there are ten works of non-fiction accepted for every two fiction pieces accepted. The odds are definitely in the favor of non-fiction writers!

Angie Kay Dilmore is a freelance writer originally from Pittsburgh Pa., and has lived the past several years in southwest Louisiana. She writes for the children’s magazine market and contributes regularly to Boys’ Life. Angie reviews books for The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog, a literary website featuring publishing industry news, essays, reviews and commentary. She also writes picture books, poetry, and is working on a middle grade historical fiction. You can find Angie blogging at The Trials and Triumphs of a Transplant.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stimulate Your Muse and Stay Focused by Pamela S. Thibodeaux © 2006

Okay, so you’ve jumped off the deep end and quit your job to stay home and write. You researched all the possibilities, you know that it sometimes takes up to two years for freelance writers to make a significant amount of income, and you’re prepared. Your office is set up; you have an ergonomic keyboard and comfortable chair, plenty of office supplies and an empty filing cabinet. What now? Where do you start? How do you find enough writing projects to begin earning that income? Better yet, how do you know what to write and where to submit?

Here are a few tips and ideas:

• Read. This should go without saying, but if you’re interested in writing for publications like the ‘True’ magazines, Guideposts and Angels on Earth or even Chicken Soup, then read those publications.

• Research. Another given when it comes to freelance writing. Visit different writing sites and newsletters and check out their “current needs” section, you can often get your articles/essays accepted easily because what you’re writing is exactly what they are looking for. Checking out the current needs of a publication will stimulate your muse should you be in a slump.

• Blogging has become not only a fun thing to do, but informative and for some, lucrative. Sites like Blogitive and PayPerPost are just a few places, but a web search on “get paid to blog” revealed over 39,000,000 links. The freedom you have in blogging is another way to get your creative juices flowing.

• **TIP** Once you sign up at one or more blog sites, check out their “high dollar words” and use these words to create your niche and build your readership.

• Freelance Sites offer numerous opportunities to write. Some like Freelance Writing.Com, Freelance Work Exchange,, and Elance have programs where you can bid on jobs, but there are hundreds maybe thousands of other sites out there. Most of these sites offer a free newsletter that keeps you informed of the latest jobs available.

• Newsletters like Writers Gazette, Funds for Writers, Scribe & Quill and others are FREE and always include writing opportunities.

• There are millions of writers’ ezines, websites, and writer groups’ newsletters who are always looking for content. Writer Success, Writer2Writer, Byline, and Novel Writer Magazine come to mind.

• Become an Instructor: Places like Inspired Author, and need instructors to teach writing courses.

• Become a Topic Editor. Inspired Author is a site that offers professional help on various writing topics. A TE for IA will receive tons of promotion plus opportunities to write and earn money.

• Become an Expert! Sits like, Helium Knowledge and Associated Content pay for expert advice or ‘tips’ as well as offer writing opportunities.

• Write Ebooks: Writing and self-publishing ebooks through places like is quickly becoming a way for freelance writers to make money. People buy “How To” ebooks that are short, concise and informative.

• Check out Writing Schools like Longridge Writers Group who often pay for interviews and chats as well as purchase articles for their website and newsletter content.

• Rewrite/revise/resubmit. Once your article or essay is accepted for a publication, make a list of other places where you can submit it as a reprint or revise/rewrite and submit to an alternative market.

So now that you know what to do, what do you do with all of those leads, links, and guidelines?

There are several ways to keep track of the information you receive but I have found that if you save it in a file on your computer or bookmark the different sites, you’re going to spend as much (if not more) time reading than writing. One thing that helps is to print the guidelines for different sites you’d like to write for and file them alphabetically in an expandable file folder. If you receive writing opportunities via newsletter or ezine, print and file them according to deadline dates.

These are just a few ideas on stimulating your muse and staying focused. Remember, Freelance writing is a business and should be treated as such. Schedule regular work hours, take routine breaks and keep accurate records for tax purposes.

Award winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-founder and lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction and creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!” and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.” Website address: Blog: