Feed on


Once in a while I write nonfiction. These handouts are personal essays designed to instruct and to impart my beliefs about fiction writing. They evolved from my classes on writing.

Sometimes I’ll be asked to write “a piece” for a newspaper, magazine or newsletter. I always do and have an outer motive. The publishers probably won’t pay me money, but they will put my name there as author and insert a little blurb at the end, stating who I am, when my next novel is coming out. Sometimes they send me copies. That’s always nice.

That takes care of my apparent reason. My hidden or inner motive (motivation) is that it exercises my writer’s brain. Fiction is wonderful; it’s what I do. But once in a while I like to be me, to speak directly to my readers, tell them exactly what BK thinks and persuade them to my “truths”, reveal my slant.

My Oxford American Dictionary says an essay is ” . . . a short literary composition in prose.” Prose is ” . . . a written or spoken language not in verse form.”

Writing a successful essay is one of the world’s greatest thrills. It takes practice and persistence. It means finding your voice, being relaxed and at ease coming off the page.

If your great desire is to write essays, think pieces, commentaries or remembrances, you already admire the writings of certain people. I always think of Leon Hale or Russell Baker, or Charles Lamb. Study the great essayists past and present to learn what they say and what they imply. Refine what you want to talk about (topic). Know your premise/theme/slant going in. You will learn where to include your thematic statement.

In nonfiction, you can–oh, joy!–actually tell. You can also “show” or illustrate by citing incident.

That thematic statement? Once again, go to your favorite essayist. He will tell you, usually up front, what he thinks and wants you to learn. Try to figure out topic and slant/premise/theme. Read the essay over and over. Isolate the thematic statement. This will help in writing your own essays.

Your first attempts may shock and disillusion you. Don’t give up. Try again. You’ll develop your own sound, voice and rhetoric. That’s your job right now: Learn to say what you want to say, the way you want to say it.

Writing essays and feature articles (even op ed pieces), commenting on current or past events, on a character, perhaps a situation, is also good training for writing fiction.
_________________________________________________________________ WRITING YOUR OWN STORY

Using a series of essays to tell your life story is an excellent idea. Structure them chronologically. (But avoid beginning too soon. Unless you really were born in a log cabin, simply state the date and get on with your story.)

Warning: You are writing this story for yourself and your descendants. It will probably have no commercial potential. But write it as though it will end up on the NYT Bestseller List. #

Thinking about writing doesn’t work. Get busy and do it.

Comments are closed.