(Back by Popular Demand)
Here are six simple guidelines to follow when writing creative nonfiction:
1. Get your facts straight. If readers, publishers, and the media find out you’ve taken liberty with the truth of what happened, you and your work will be ridiculed and scrutinized. You’ll lose credibility.
2. Issue a disclaimer. Most nonfiction is written from memory, and we all know that human memory is deeply flawed. If you aren’t sure about the details but are determined to include them, be upfront and plan on issuing a disclaimer that clarifies the creative liberties you’ve taken.
3. Consider the repercussions. Some people are extremely private and don’t want any details of their lives published. Others might request that you leave certain things out, which they feel are personal. Otherwise, make sure you’ve weighed the repercussions of revealing other people’s lives to the world. Relationships have been both strengthened and destroyed as a result of authors publishing the details of other people’s lives.
4. Be objective. Nobody wants to read a highly biased biography. Book reviews for biographies are packed with heavy criticism for authors who didn’t fact-check or provide references and for those who leave out important information or pick and choose which details to include to make the subject look good or bad.
5. Pay attention to language. You’re not writing a textbook, so make full use of language, literary devices, and storytelling techniques.
6. Know your audience. Creative nonfiction sells, but you must have an interested audience. When writing creative nonfiction, a clearly defined audience is essential.