Friday, June 25, 2010

Use Division to Find Nonfiction Writing Ideas

Guest post by Katherine Ploeger

One of the more useful writing methods for nonfiction writers is that of division. Unlike classification, which takes many individual items contained within a topic and puts them in groups or categories organized by a central principle (the topic of another article in this series), division simply breaks up a large topic into its subtopics, and later, if deemed necessary, divided into even smaller topics (sub-subtopics).


Division breaks up a topic into its smaller parts, keeping all the parts together that make up the whole. When you are writing a book about a large topic, you will use division to break the topic into smaller parts, each part contained within a chapter. Or if you are writing an article, you can divide the topic into sections, each identified with a heading, for ease of reading.


Anytime you have a large topic that you need to break into smaller parts to facilitate discussion, use division. If the topic is that large, you should take each smaller piece and discuss that individually so the reader can learn the details. Then you, and the readers, can put all the pieces together to gain a full understanding of the topic itself.


If you were to divide the writing process into several parts or stages, you might discuss "planning, drafting, and revising." You could explain each step of the process and present techniques to facilitate learning and implementing those steps or stages.

If you were to discuss the topic of clouds, you could divide the topic into the different types of clouds and how each looks and functions in the overall weather patterns of this planet.


1. Is your topic large enough to have several distinctive parts or subtopics?

2. Would dividing the topic into these subtopics help you explain your topic more easily and fully to your readers?

3. Can each of these subtopics be divided into even smaller parts, with their descriptions also helping your process of explanation?

4. Do you have smaller topics within the larger, main topic that need to be divided and explained?

5. If you are creating many parts (dozens of them), should you group the parts into intermediate categories to better show the reader the way the topic is described?

Division is one of those writing methods used by all nonfiction writers, but it can also be used to generate ideas by examining your topic to find topics with the potential for division to enhance your explanations about the topic.

Katherine Ploeger, MA, MFA, is a writer, editor, writing coach & consultant, and publisher. She writes practical, process-oriented publications for writers of all types. She publishes at Quilliful Publications ( ). Her latest book is Write That Nonfiction Book: The Whole Process. She also writes workbooks for writers. Two recently published are Common Writing Errors Workbook and Time Travel Workbook for Fiction Writers. She also offers lots of free and helpful information at her blog, Katie's Writing Notes at

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