The most difficult parts of writing a non-fiction book

What are the most difficult parts of writing and self-publishing a non-fiction book?  I found them to be the last chapter, the inter-connection between chapters, deciding on the amount of factual detail to include (or in fact what not to include), and finally the most difficult of all – marketing and promotion. So I will discuss each of these in turn in the coming weeks.

The Last Chapter
There are many theories on how one ‘rounds off’ one’s writing. Some writers make the last chapter very short – only a page or so, whereas others make the chapter a lengthy and sometimes boring summary and conclusion. How do you make it end so that it does not leave the reader just hanging there? I am not at all happy with my final chapter. It really became a character analysis of the two main characters in my historical bibliography, “Two Squatters” – what they were like, what they had achieved in life. I also placed most of my speculation on matters of their lives when no records are left. For example, who was his first wife, where did she come from. Historical records simply call her ‘Mrs Jennings’. What was her first name? I formed the view that in a non-fiction book you lose integrity if you simply create solutions. The only way therefore is to have a final section covering all these speculative situations, clearly labelled as speculation.

It did occur to me that perhaps one could write another shorter book in which you the author just created a novel around the skeleton of the facts – in fact that would be quite fun to do, although I suspect one would get bored by the repletion of the story.

The Next Book
Changing tacks a little, once I get the marketing and promotion of “Two Squatters” under control , I must get back to writing regularly again. The best way to get that discipline of a daily writing time will be to decide on the next book. Lots of ideas – but limited time.

Next time, I blog I will discuss the difficulties of good interconnection between chapters.
This is Marty Playne signing off for now.


One thought on “The most difficult parts of writing a non-fiction book

  1. ‘The only way is to have a final section covering all these speculative situations…’ The trouble with this approach is that it leaves the reader wanting to explore speculations about a set of facts when they are first presented, or at least to wonder whether the writer thought of such-and-such a possibility and did they follow that through. Inga Clendinnen does this well in her ‘Dancing with Strangers’. For example (p.126), after presenting the incident of the spearing of Phillip by aborigines, she begins her speculation or thesis ‘It is easy to become over-ingeneous in interpreting the intentions lurking in other minds, but I also want to consider the nature of the spear which passed through Phillip’s body.’ Thens she presents a view, well-argued of course. She quotes E. P. Thompson ‘History is made up of episodes, and if we cannot get inside (episodes) we cannot get inside history at all’. So just trying to only present ‘the facts’ in the body of the text, and then speculate at the end, may not be the most satisfying for the reader or do justice to ‘the history’. I think it’s about the honesty of our speculation rather than where it is placed. In ‘Two Squatters’ the allegation that ‘Mrs Jennings’ was George’s sister is dispatched immediately (p.49): ‘This is not so, as has been clearly proved in the research for this book’. I wanted to know more. But had to wait for the Speculation (p.289), to find she could be ‘the close mutual friend’; a widow of a half-brother; a ‘Mrs Jennings’ – George’s fellow-passenger to England, and George’s visitor. And could she have been an unrecorded half-sister of George?

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