A very warm welcome National Non-Fiction November 2016! We’ve a month of exciting news, views, and giveaways ahead to help you discover wonderful non-fiction books and learn more about the processes which go on behind the scenes in creating them.
If you haven’t already discovered them, don’t miss our free resources for celebrating all things non-fiction – including a resource pack, games, and more.
One of our big themes for the month is encouraging children and young people to have a go at researching, writing and publishing their own non-fiction book, and to help get the ball rolling, today we’ve got some TOP TIPs for writing non-fiction from non-fiction author extraordinaire, Dominic Walliman.
Dr. Dominic Walliman is a scientist who lives and works in Vancouver where he works on Quantum computers. He studied Quantum Device Physics at Birmingham University where he also taught Physics. He’s the author of Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space and Professor Astro Cat’s Atomic Adventure (both wonderfully illustrated by Ben Newman). And here are Dominic Walliman’s very top tips for non-fiction writing:
“Choosing a topic
Pick a topic you are super interested in. I have found that one of the most fulfilling aspects of writing children’s non-fiction is learning loads of new interesting things. This is hugely enjoyable if it is a subject you want to find out more about, and your enthusiasm will inevitably come through in your writing as well. Also, inevitably you will find that some of your writing will be cut from the final book, this is always sad but the consolation is the satisfaction of having learned something new.
My books are very comprehensive, I cover an entire subject like ‘space’ or ‘physics’, and so my research is focused on making sure that I don’t miss any important topic out. For this I normally start with good popular science books (for grown ups) that cover the subject matter to make sure that I understand the subject well. Then I will use as many other resources as possible, kids books past and present, and the wealth of information on the internet. However it is important to fact check because I have found several contradictory facts in both printed material and on the web.
One of the hardest things for us grown ups is to imagine what it is like to not know all the things we know and take for granted. The key to explaining things well is to imagine what it is like to be exposed to that information for the first time, and don’t use words of concepts that too advanced. I have got pretty good at this but it is always a challenge, and one that I am always very aware of. One trick I use is to imagine myself explaining things to my nieces who are 6 and 10 years old. Another trick is to run your writing past someone who really is seeing that information for the first time and see if they get it. The best people to do this with are those who will not be happy until they feel like they really understand it because they will ask the right questions and point things out that you didn’t even think about.
The most useful tip I can give is to have a good framework first, before you start writing. Break the book down into pages, and have a title and description of what will be covered on each page. Then work out how many words you can have for each page to give yourself a word limit. Doing this planning can save you a huge amount of time in the long run. In the past I have written much too much, and then I had to edit it down to the word limit which is much more work that writing to the word limit in the first place.”
Our thanks go to Dominic for his advice today – we do hope it inspires many of you to not only read some non-fiction, but also to write some! You can find out more about Dominic and his work on his YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/user/dominicwalliman and on Twitter, @DominicWalliman.