Pleasures & Perils of Writing Non-Fiction, Post 10

We are continuing to consider Phase Four of the non-fiction writing process. For an overview of the four phases, see Post #2.

The fourth phase is, “Carry Out the Actual Writing of the Piece.” Let’s move on now to the step after initial drafting: sending your draft to colleagues and friends for their inputs.

My perspective on this step is conditioned by the fact that I’m an independent scholar, which means that I have scholarly credentials (a doctorate) but no affiliation with a university or institute. …


Pleasures & Perils of Writing Non-Fiction, Post #9

We are discussing Phase Four of the non-fiction writing process. For an overview of the four phases, see Post #2.

The fourth phase is, “Carry Out the Actual Writing of the Piece.” This begins with initial drafting. When you are ready to draft a chapter, you have two items in front of you: a blank page on a screen, and a bunch of notes.

As I said in Post #6, note-taking is foundational to the non-fiction writing process. Now that you are going to begin drafting a chapter, you need to have…


Pleasures & Perils of Writing Non-Fiction, Post #8

In Post #2, I said a non-fiction writer’s process has four overlapping phases. Let’s move along to Phase Four:

4. CARRY OUT THE ACTUAL WRITING OF THE PIECE: By “writing” I’m including initial drafting, sending drafts to colleagues for comment, re-drafting, submitting to editing, finalizing and, let’s not forget, giving credit to the sources of your information.

But first, a digression. A decade ago, I purchased a copy of “Émile, or On Education,” by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. …


Pleasures & Perils of Writing Non-Fiction, Post #7

In Post #2, I posited that there are four overlapping phases of writing non-fiction. We’re ready now for the third.

3. DECIDE ON OR REFINE THE MAIN POINTS YOU WANT TO MAKE: Achieve clarity with yourself about your purpose in writing a book before you finish writing it!

Did that sentence surprise you? Did you expect it to end “…before you BEGIN writing it”?

My experience convinces me that it’s perfectly fine to begin working on a non-fiction book with no more than a general sense of purpose. A detailed sense of…


Pleasures & Perils of Writing Non-Fiction, Post #6

In Post #5, I discussed sequencing of the information you’ve collected. Let’s stay with that.

In my experience, note-taking is a foundational ability of efficient and effective non-fiction writing. “Note-taking” refers to the intermediate step between locating factual information on the one hand and drafting your book on the other.

For me, the purpose of note-taking is realized while I’m making decisions about sequencing and while I’m drafting my book. During these phases, I shouldn’t need to reach for any of my sources — books, articles, etc. — because my notes prove…


Pleasures & Perils of Writing Non-Fiction, Post #5

In Post #2, I said a non-fiction writer’s process has four overlapping phases. We’re ready to explore Phase Two:

2. CONSIDER HOW TO APPLY THE INFORMATION COLLECTED: From all the information you collect, what will you use? How can it best be sequenced in your book?

During 2014, I became aware that there were hundreds of reports by researchers who had traveled to East Asia to determine why students there academically outperform American students. …


Pleasures & Perils of Writing Non-Fiction, Post #4

Post #3 discussed Phase One of non-fiction writing: locating and collecting accurate information. Let’s think more about that.

Post #3 suggested that non-fiction authors always use documents of one kind or another. OK, not always. There’s another way: direct contact with human sources. One can interview or, better, observe or “shadow” people to better appreciate the nuances of their situation.

Historians work very largely with documents. But if they’re dealing with the recent past, they’re dead keen to interview participants in the events they’re recounting. …


Pleasures & Perils of Writing Non-Fiction, Post #3

In Post #2, I said a non-fiction writer’s process has four overlapping phases. Let’s discuss Phase One:

1. LOCATE AND COLLECT ACCURATE INFORMATION: In short, do your research. What your research looks like day-to-day depends on your objective. There are two types.

The first type of objective is to reveal totally new information to human beings. This requires original research, meaning that you examine a phenomenon that no one has ever examined before. …


Pleasures & Perils of Writing Non-Fiction, Post #2

Let’s first consider the processes a writer uses to create a non-fiction work.

Hold on! Does “create” really belong in that sentence? If this blog were about writing fiction, no one would question “create” in that sentence. Already we’re encountering a fundamental difference between writing fiction and non-fiction. It’s about different meanings of “create,” which means that something unique is caused to exist as the result of someone’s thought or imagination.

If IMAGINATION causes the unique thing, the implication is that it’s formed out of something wholly internal to the person who…


I write non-fiction at the intersection of anthropology & education. This is my author’s blog.

Most readers of authors’ blogs, I imagine, are curious about how writers of fiction go about creating their work. How much do the authors draw on their personal backgrounds? Which luminary fiction writers do they try to emulate? Do they have ways of keeping track of all the little details about their characters? Have they ever wished they’d created a different ending?

In this blog, I’ll be sharing with you my experience of the pleasures and perils of writing NON-fiction. The experience of writing non-fiction…

Cornelius N. Grove

Educator, independent scholar. I write books for Americans with insights re how parents & teachers in other societies deal with young children & their learning.

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