Writing non-fiction doesn’t have to be hard, and this author proves it by laying out the simple steps to take, starting with making sure your message is clear to readers.
by Randi-Lee Bowslaugh
Non-fiction authors bravely put their lives out to the world, hoping that a reader will find value. The key ingredients that make non-fiction memorable and valuable happen when the reader feels invested. They have all details, including the backstory, and become emotional while reading. For an author to become memorable, many drafts will be written, re-written, and re-written again.
Start the process with a general idea of what message you want to convey through sharing your story. When writing Good-Bye Too Soon, the message was that people with addiction have loved ones that miss them; A Mother’s Truth was for other parents not to feel alone; Embracing Me was that we are all perfect as we are—three unique books written by the same author with different messages. No matter your message, it must stay at the forefront of your mind while outlining the content to include in your manuscript.
Once the message is solidified, outline what chapters will help convey the message. The outline can be in point form and is fluid as you write the manuscript. This outline will help you stay on track and stick to the message.
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The first draft is a time to get your life onto paper. The first draft won’t be the final draft; simply get the story out of your head and onto the paper. Non-fiction manuscripts can force an author to think back years (even decades), which is why the first draft is to get out whatever you can remember. As you write, more memories may surface that can be added.
Start with a general idea of the message you want to convey. It must stay at the forefront of your mind while outlining your manuscript.
Once the first draft is on paper, it is time to read it through and find holes. It is tricky to write your story to someone you have never met. They won’t have any background knowledge, and you must fill in all those blanks. That’s one of the ‘memorable makers’—having background information to the story. When reviewing non-fiction, I want to know why someone did what they did. It helps bring the reader into the story.
After the holes are plugged, it is time to add the emotions. Adding emotions is a separate step in my process because emotions can make us forget or be scared. Adding emotions in the first draft might make an author second guess whether they want to share the information. Once the events are on paper, adding the emotions is a smoother process.
Then it is time to edit, edit, edit! Once you have done as much editing as possible, give it to a professional. Ideally, someone who doesn’t know your story; that way, they will be able to find any other holes and missing information. Clean up any of their suggestions and return the manuscript to the editor. Once you are finally satisfied, you can move on to the publishing stage.
Writing non-fiction is emotional and may bring out emotions and thoughts that are harmful, scary, or sad. Make a conscious effort to take care of yourself while writing. Take breaks when needed, speak to a therapist, and breathe. Before publishing, be ready for your story to be out in the world. Your message is important, but your health comes first, and you must be mentally prepared to share your life.
Randi-Lee Bowslaugh is an author and outspoken advocate for mental health, sharing her true story with honesty. Born and raised in Ontario, Canada, Randi-Lee had a passion for helping others from a young age. She attended Niagara College and graduated from Community and Justice Services at the top of her class. In 2021, she was diagnosed with moderate autism, which finally gave her answers to questions about herself that had been nagging at her. Randi-Lee enjoys kickboxing, which she has been doing for about ten years. She’s a mom to two and grandma to one, and her youngest child has autism.
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