Writing is an art, a skill to express yourself, what you feel, think, or imagine. It is also the skill to express what is happening or happened in the past, as it is, in a factual manner as it can be.
So What is Non-Fiction Writing? A piece of non-fictional writing is meant to provide a narrative account of some incidence. One can attain factual information about the subject of the writing through a non-fictional work. Non-fiction may provide information about a range of subjects including places, personalities, societies, philosophical ideas, political accounts, scientific phenomenon and a lot more. It is not necessary that a non-fictional piece of work will always offer accurate or true information. Yet, a non-fictional work is meant to offer truthful narrative or account of the subject being discussed.
To explain why a non-fictional work cannot always be true, we can take an example of a non-fictional writing about a belief system. While offering actual information about a belief system, the writer is required to present the beliefs of that system as they are. However, all those beliefs can be far away from truth. Similarly, while writing about a mythological subject, the writer is required to offer all information and concepts of the mythology as they have been expressed since ages. However, the non-fictional writing about a mythology doesn’t make it true. The subject of a non-fictional writer can be a fictional work. For example, a Hollywood movie review is an example of a non-fictional writing, but it doesn’t represent truth, it represents a fictional work.
While writing a non-fictional work, it is necessary to consider about clarity, simplicity and a systematic direct approach towards the subject. While reading a non-fictional work, the reader will expect direct and clear information about the theme of writing and its subject. In general, a non-fictional writer can take two different approaches while writing a piece of work. They may write a non-fictional write up based on actual facts and reason or they may write a non-fictional work expressing their opinions along with the opinions of others about a particular subject. In most of the cases, the writer intends to offer factual information about the subject along with their own opinions and understanding of the subject. Like any other piece of writing, a non-fictional write up is also produced for attaining as much audience as it is possible. To achieve more readers, it is necessary to explain the facts about the subject in a non-fictional work in simplest and direct manner.
History of Non-Fiction Writing
Since the beginning, people have shown their interest in expressing and explaining what they observe in appropriate manner and whenever a person try to depict or write about what they actually observe, their work becomes an example of non-fiction. Thus, it can be said that the non-fiction work is being produced since ages. Perhaps, non-fictional works are being produced much before human society started using written language to express themselves. The cave paintings of pre-historic men that depict hunting trips of pre-historic hunter gatherers can be claimed as the oldest piece of non-fictional work.
Indus valley civilization produced a lot of non-fictional work such as “Caraka Samhita” or ‘Compendium of Caraka’ which was a medical, non fictional Ayurvedic information bank of medicines and their usage. Literature work of ancient China, ancient Persia, ancient Greece, and Rome had a huge collection of non-fictional work that included narratives or accounts of legal systems, economic systems, prevalent social practices, philosophical thoughts, travelogues, and a lot more. Chinese literary work literary work, Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’ can be said as the oldest non-fictional work written about military treatise. Ancient journals, essays, and prose literature about natural science, history, law, philosophy, and economics are all examples of non fictional writing.
Major types of Non Fictional Writing
The world of non-fictional writing includes a huge volume of literature. Some of the major types of non fictional written work include essays, scientific or research papers, histories, autobiographies, biographies, book reports, diaries, dictionaries, encyclopedias, guides and manuals, philosophy, travelogue, natural science papers, self-help articles, and text-books. Let us discuss about these major types of non-fictional writing works one by one.
Writing an essay includes the job of expressing one’s point of view about a certain subject. An essay may include political ideas, literary criticism, observations, logical and philosophical arguments, memoirs, and opinions of the writer of the essay.
In many countries, essay writing has been included as a major part of academic education system. A number of structures essay formats have been developed to make an essay appear more impressive. Essay writing is being considered as special writing skills and many universities select applicants for various courses on account of their ability to write essays.
Scientific or Research Papers:
Scientific or research papers are academic writing works which are often published as science journals, academic journals, thesis, or books. A research paper contains motive or the title of the research, abstract or summary of the whole research work, introduction, method of research, results of the research work, discussion about the research work and its results, conclusion acquired through the research results, and a proper reference lists to mention all literary work that helped the writer in completing the research paper.
Non fictional writings about the historical events, persons, people, civilizations, and so on, based on available written documents, historical monuments and other forms of information is known as non-fictional history. Non-fictional writers working on subjects of history are known as historians. Writing about history includes the job of organizing and presenting the information about the past that has been revealed through discoveries. It can be compared with a research work that includes narrative account of available evidences and information to examine, analysis, and present the probable sequence of incidences and events that happened in past.
An autobiography is a non-fictional work about a person written by their own self. An autobiography is a written record of a person’s view point about his life based on his memories and biases. However, an autobiography is different from a memoir which is also a form of non fictional writing. While an autobiography includes the whole life and time of the writer, a memoir specifically represents the writer’s own feelings, emotions, and point of view about a particular incidence, or a short period of his life.
A biography is different from an autobiography because it is written by someone else other than the subject person of the narrative. A biography includes proper research and detailed description about a person’s life and his view points and may include a logical analysis of his personality based on the point of view of the writer.
A book report is a review of a literary work which includes a logical criticism of the written work. A book report consists of an analysis of the book on account of its content and writing style. A book review can be a summary of the book or it can be a scholarly review. A number of printed and digital newspapers, magazines, and periodicals offer quality book reviews about the recently published books. Just like book reviews or book reports, non fictional writing also include film reviews which include logical criticism of a movie and its analysis based on content, direction, and acting skills of the director and actors.
Writing a diary is like daily record keeping arranged by date. The writer writes about the major incidences, actions, and feelings that they observed during the entire day in a discrete manner. A personal diary is based on personal view point of the writer through which, they offer their opinions about the major happenings of the day. Writing a diary is to keep a record for oneself and it is written with an intention to keep the written work private, or with very limited readers. Nowadays, people prefer to write blog diaries.
A dictionary is a record of words of one or more languages that are listed in alphabetical order that offers information about the usage, etymologies, pronunciations, phonetics, and definitions of the words. The oldest dictionary was written in around 2300 BCE and it included words of Sumerian and Akkadian languages.
An encyclopedia is a collection of reference work that offers brief information about either all divisions of comprehensions, or a specific division of knowledge. A dictionary can be said as an encyclopedia which contains all information about the words of a language or more than one language.
Guides and Manuals:
A guide or a manual is a communication document that offers technical information and help to people or customers who are supposed to use a specific system of machines or processes.
Philosophical writings are forms of non-fictional writing that are written for the discussing certain fundamental problems such as what is life, reason, reality, illusion, existence, values, morality, ethics, knowledge, language, and so on. Philosophy is considered as non-fictional work because it is based on a systematic process of logical arguments.
Travelogues are description of experiences of a traveler that he observed while touring a place. It is also known as itinerary work. Travelogues are often used to enhance tourism.
Natural Science Papers:
Natural science papers are specific types of scientific research papers that are intended to narrate the study and observations about living organisms including plants, animals, and insects. However, natural life papers can be non-scientific too.
Self help articles are specific written work by experts to help people in improving their personal, economical, intellectual, and emotional situations.
Text books are manual of instructions or course to help students in learning and mastering a subject. Text books are often written as per the demands of schools and other educational institutes.
What a Non Fictional Writer Must Avoid while writing a Piece of Work
- Any writer should avoid plagiarism. For non-fictional writing, plagiarism is a perfect sin.
- It is important for a non-fictional writer to remain to the point and as simple as it is possible. The main objective of a non-fiction writer is to offer factual information about the topic to readers in such a way that they may grasp it easily. Using complicated writing styles will reduce the quality of work.
- Writing without proper research should be strictly avoided by a non-fictional writer. The main objective is to offer exact and truthful information.
- Do not mix your imaginations with your logical opinions while writing a non-fictional work.
- It is necessary to adhere with available historical evidences and scientific researches while writing history. Ignoring proper logical conclusions derivable from available evidences will reduce the quality of work.
- A non fictional writer should never include any degree of fabrication while writing the work. Truthfulness is essential.
- Even if a writer wants to express their bias towards an event, they should never add something that never happened in their observations to change the view point of their readers. While a writer may decide to not to inform their readers about something factual, they must never suggest something or some event as factual which never existed or happened.
- While writing a non-fictional work, writers should avoid mixing up characters and they should not use fake names of characters involved in a non fictional work. Even if revealing the true identity of a person is not appropriate for any reason, they should not use fake names.
- Non fictional writers should not try to increase or decrease time or space for their supposed easiness in writing. For example, If they are narrating a tumultuous situation of a natural disaster, they should provide proper information about the exact time period of suffering.
- A writer must never try to use invented dialogues. If the writer doesn’t have any valid proof while mentioning the dialogue of a particular person and all their information is based on their remembrance, then, they should properly mention it while writing.
- Non fictional writing is about expressing the real life and in reality, there cannot be any higher truth. Non fictional writers must avoid contradictions in their work.
- A non fictional work cannot always depend on scientific methods for its veracity. However, a writer must provide enough sources of references while writing a non fictional write-up so that anyone trying to check facts may attain proper information.
- Non fictional works are not to express aesthetic qualities of the writer. It is necessary for the writer to remember that they are not story-telling, rather; they are narrating a documentary.
Tips to Encourage the Hidden Non-Fictional Writer
- The more a writer will observe and research, the more factual content they will have to offer.
- For a non fictional blogger, getting feedbacks from readers will prove to be highly encouraging.
- Writing a non fictional work includes direct conversations and interviews with a lot of people. Before interviewing a person, a writer should prepare the proper questions that will help them to attain correct information about their subject.
- Any writer looking forward to write a biography or any other type of fictional work will find huge encouragement and learning by reading non fictional works from other writers.
- Anyone looking forward to write a self-help book or guide should try to observe difficult situations through all possible angles. The more a person will invest time in analyzing their subject of writing, the better factual content they will be able to provide.
- After writing a part of their non fictional work, a writer should take rest and contemplate about what they have already written. It will help them to remove any mistakes or misinformation through editing the work before they may write other parts of the work. It will also increase the objectivity of their work.
- The most important aspect of becoming a successful non-fictional writer is to develop the habit and enthusiasm for writing. Practicing to write about something or some incidences everyday or maintaining a daily blog or diary will help in encouraging the hidden non fictional writer in a person.
People often prefer reading fictional works because they want to get rid of the real life problems. However, non fictional writing proves to be a real challenge for the writer and the reader both. Non fictional writing is not about telling anything that a person feels, rather; it is expressing the truth about a subject that a person knows in exact manner. In order to be a successful non fictional writer, it is necessary for a person to try to be objective in their day to day life as that will help them in thinking objectively which is necessary for factual writing. Maintaining a regular diary or blog will help a person to improve their skills of non fictional writing. One can also improve their ability to write non fictional write-ups by posting their opinions about consumer reviews sites for those products or services that they are using. Gradual building up a habit of factual writing is the first step towards becoming a successful non-fictional writer.
Image Credits – Field Notes by Nick Olejniczak