NNFN: Non-fiction writing tips – a guest post by Susie Hodge

This month we’re encouraging everyone to have a go at researching writing their own non-fiction book – and as well as creating plenty of resources to help schools, families and other groups do just that, today on the blog we’ve a guest post by Susie Hodge, packed with non-fiction writing tips.

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Susie Hodge has written more than 70 books, many about art for children. Her latest book, Why is art full of naked people? & other vital questions about art (illustrated by Claire Goble) is an irreverent but informative primer that addresses the common questions on what makes art art – both an introduction to art history and a toolkit to enable young people to feel confident asking about art and to begin to enjoy and truly appreciate it. Now, over to Susie:

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“When I was a child, I loved reading, drawing, painting and making. My fingers ‘itched’ to be creating things.

People don’t really change when they grow up. You’re still you. I still like animals, having lots of friends, art – and of course, reading, writing, painting, drawing and making things.

Saggy bookshelves
Now I have hundreds of books. They’re everywhere. My house is filled with books and cats! My bookshelves are sagging. When I was a child, my favourite non-fiction books were some encyclopedias my dad had bought. For me, they were like an oracle – they had answers to so many things. There was a whole series of them. If I was asked to find out something for school, or if I was extra interested in something, I looked in those books. If we were going on holiday, I looked up where we were going. I looked up about the planets, history, famous authors and artists, the weather. Almost anything. They were so informative, I believe they inspired my love of books. I also loved a book on drawing that my mum bought me, and some small books she already had; one on drawing dogs (I drew them all, over and again) and a couple on two artists – Paul Gauguin and Camille Pissarro. I still have them.

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Questions everywhere
Now I love sharing my knowledge and finding out more. I write for adults and children, mainly on art and history, sometimes on other subjects as well. For Why is Art Full of Naked People? I had thought for a long time about questions that children often ask when I go into schools all over the world. They’re questions that you don’t usually see in books, but children everywhere ask the same. It was fun thinking about what questions to include (there are lots more, but I’ll save them for another book).

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Tips for writing non-fiction
Writing non-fiction is really fun. You get to research fascinating subjects and write about them, thinking all the time about what the pages will look like.

If you think you’d like to write non-fiction books, here are some tips:

  • Find a subject you love, and think about what books might be needed on that subject. Then start researching. Go to the library or relevant museums, ask experts, read books, search on the internet. (Tip 1: you’ll have to research and find out a lot more about a subject than you’ll ever put in one book). (Tip 2: check your facts several times by looking up lots of different sources. Don’t just accept the first ‘fact’ you find).
  • Plan your book. What age group is it for? Who will want to read it? What makes it different from other books on the subject? How many pages will it have? Will it be part of a series? Plan thoroughly; what will be on each page, including any pictures or illustrations.
  • Write your book. Think of one person and write as if you are speaking to that person all the way through. Be friendly and polite. What will your reader want to know? How will you explain complicated things, making it clear without being boring? Break up your writing into manageable chunks. Long pages of writing with no breaks can be off-putting.

  • Over to you!”

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    Thank you, Susie!

    You can find out more about Susie’s work on her website http://www.susiehodge.co.uk/. You might also like to visit the website of the illustrator of Why is art full of naked people?: http://www.clairegoble.com/.

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