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NARRATIVE VOICE IN NONFICTION: 2 Ways to Perfect It

POSTED BY prbythebook ON February 3, 2015

illust081by Guest Blogger, Susan Mary Malone of Malone Editorial@MaloneEditorial

People write nonfiction for so many reasons. Whether penning a memoir, a business manual, a psychological how-to, or a host of other nonfiction categories, writers get a bit bumfuddled by narrative voice.

You know—the tone, the structure, whether to be scholarly or conversational—all these questions arise when writers of nonfiction approach me.

The questions are universal, and there’s a danged good reason for that—it’s one of the most important parts to get right, no matter in what category or sub-category you’re writing.

The voice and tone you use influences every word in your manuscript. And often in ways hard to see at first.

For one example of how this relates to the rest, often nonfiction writers question the need for attention to characterization. “But I’m not writing a novel,” is a common refrain. No, but unless there are no people in your book (which I can’t actually remember seeing!), you want to breathe life into the ones contained in the pages. That adds a richness for the reader, and makes the read itself so much more enjoyable.

But that’s just one of the sidebars:)

The point being, your voice has to fit not only the subject matter, but who you are as a person/teacher, and also in a manner your reader can relate to. That can be daunting indeed!

When writing successful nonfiction, the goal for your voice is two-fold:

  1. Expertise. You want to come off as an expert in whatever field/category you’re writing. That sounds simple enough, no? But I often see manuscripts where the writer really does know his stuff, but comes across as somewhat timid. For example, sentences such as, “I believe x,” or “It is my opinion y,” or, “I think z.” Any time you qualify the statement, you’ve just watered down your expertise. And we don’t want to give your reader any reason to doubt you. Remember, said reader is buying this book because you are the expert. Otherwise she could just ask Aunt Edna.
  1. Accessibility. On the other hand, the voice and tone of your book works the very best if your reader finds you accessible. This is often the most difficult aspect for nonfiction writers who truly are experts in their fields. Many are used to teaching, and that comes across clearly on the page. I.e., the book is filled with perhaps brilliant insights, but the read is so sterile only those within said field will wade through the book.   And didn’t you want to reach a broader audience?

I often have my scholarly and business-type authors take a paragraph and read it aloud. And then without reading, explain the very same paragraph as if to their 12-year-old daughter (remember that sixth-grade reading level publishing is so fond of?). Translate the jargon into common English. And notice the inflection of your voice when explaining it to your child/grandchild/niece/etc.

WRITE THAT DOWN. Immediately. See the difference in your voice on the page? There’s your model for the rest of the book.

Your reader wants to know he’s “listening” to a real person.

A great way to achieve both of these is to include personal vignettes, which relate directly to the subject matter, show you in situations where what you’re presenting applies, and create you on the page as someone real.

Because in the end you’re teaching something of value, or you wouldn’t have started the insane process of writing a book to begin with!

As Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

And in order to educate, fashion your book so that readers can relate.

Teach on!

 

 

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5 Tips to Launch Your Big Idea

POSTED BY prbythebook ON January 29, 2015

by Paxton Kelly, @PaxtonKelly3 This past Thursday, I listened in on a webinar titled “How To Launch Your Big Idea”, hosted by Greenleaf Book Group’s Manager of Brand Strategy, Scott James. The presentation started off with a quote by Victor Hugo, “nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” James shared tips […]

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The Voices of Austin: A Q&A with Texas Lifestyle Magazine

POSTED BY prbythebook ON January 12, 2015
The Voices of Austin: A Q&A with Texas Lifestyle Magazine

The people of Austin love to make their voices heard. From activist to musician, foodie to wine connoisseur; the voices of Austin are a force to be reckoned with. Talented, hard working and unceasingly creative, media of Austin work to recognize the accomplishments, oddities and dreams of our unique city. PR by the Book has […]

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How to Become a Millionaire and Enjoy the Ride! Author Michael Wigge Pursues the American Dream

POSTED BY prbythebook ON January 9, 2015

The One Million Dollar Challenge! The challenge of making one million dollars in one year and laughing all the way to the bank seems like an impossible dream. But award-winning challenge seeker Michael Wigge is ready to take on this super-challenge – he‘s willing to go for the million. He wants to prove that the American Dream still […]

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Texas Farm Girl: Reap What You Sow Available Now

POSTED BY prbythebook ON January 6, 2015
Texas Farm Girl: Reap What You Sow Available Now

by Paxton Kelly, @PaxtonKelly3 Alright y’all, today is the day! Rebecca Crownover’s latest addition to her Texas Farm Girl children’s book series is now available for purchase. Texas Farm Girl: Reap What You Sow shares lessons with children on how to overcome adversity and take responsibility for their actions. One dollar from every copy sold […]

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