Monday, September 27, 2010

5 Writing Tips From Professional Nonfiction Writers

photo by svenwerk

Guest post by Linda Aragoni

If you would like to be a better, more productive nonfiction writer, take some tips from journalists. Facing daily deadlines, they must learn to work efficiently in order to write effectively. To become a better nonfiction writer yourself, use these five tips from the pros.

Good writers do seat work.

Positioning your seat on the seat of a chair is the first requirement for improving your writing. You will not get better without working at it. If you must write on the job, or even if you blog as a hobby, you must do your seat work daily over a period of months or years.

Good writers keep their eye on the goal.

Before they write their first word, the pros determine who will read their work, what the reader already knows about the topic, what the purpose of the writing is, and what the reader should think or be able to do after reading. Setting out with your goal firmly in mind saves time. Your goal prevents you from doing needless work.

Good writers sweat the big stuff.

Professional writers concern themselves with having something to say and saying it clearly. They deliberate over the best way to organize the material. They debate ways to make the reading painless. They worry over every element that has potential to confuse or mislead a reader. Only then, when all the big stuff is right, do professional nonfiction writers worry about minor points of grammar and punctuation.

Good writers repeat success.

For poor writers, each new piece of writing is a new challenge. For good ones, a new piece of writing is more or less like previous ones. Journalists have a repertoire of mental templates for the kinds of writing they most frequently have to do. Instead of having to develop an outline and procedures for each new assignment, they have only to see what the new assignment demands that is different from their template.

Good writers avoid grammar problems.

Poor writers think they must have a thorough knowledge of English grammar to produce good writing. Professionals do not worry about grammar if they can possibly avoid it. Rather than use correct grammar that will distract readers, they will rewrite a sentence to avoid the issue.

If you aspire to be a good nonfiction writer, practice these five principles. Self-discipline and consistent effort on the most important writing elements will pay off.

Linda Aragoni, webmaster of, has spent most of her life writing, editing, and teaching nonfiction writing. She believes nonfiction writers are most efficient when they use a writing process that mimics what good nonficion writers do. Copyright 2010, Linda G. Aragoni. You may reprint this article provided the whole text, the author's name, the links, and this copyright notice remain intact.


  1. Very interesting. At WriterL, a list run by Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Franklin, the posit is that narrative nonfiction writers should emulate the effective techniques of good fiction writers.

  2. Excellent tips! I particularly like the one about the big stuff--these are things that many beginner writers overlook without realizing it.

    Thanks so much for sharing!


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