Posts Tagged ‘non-fiction’

Whether Contracted or Expanded

March 18, 2012 Leave a comment


All people have routines of some kind, and writers are no different. Routines can be elaborate, superstitious, or just plain odd. That’s allowable.

Contracted reading preferences can become as much a routine as the genres that keep a writer comfortable. During my teen years I concentrated on literary genre and classics. When I hit twenty, I moved on to—dare I say it?—romance novels. Okay, I was a normal young woman.

For decades after I left young adulthood, I read science fiction/fantasy almost exclusively. I had an entire library, floor to ceiling, filled with the genre. During the last several years most of that library was donated to larger lending libraries in my area.

Expanded reading can have a profound effect. On a whim, before getting rid of my personal library, I went to the local library and borrowed several books from the mystery genre and a few in non-fiction science. That whim led to a feeding frenzy of reading. A new world had opened up before me, showing authors, writing possibilities, etc. that I’d not anticipated.

I tried to read everything. Non-fiction came in so many forms that I almost glutted myself trying to sample all the entrees. I revisited ancient history—pre-Biblical–and philosophy, along with world history from 500A.D. to 1700A.D. History became a friend that could keep me fascinated for hours with its tales of intrigue.

“Salt” held me in thrall for days as I discovered its particular journey through civilization and the part it played in developing the world. “The Tao of Physics” left me speechless and questioning about the very nature of reality. Volumes on theology piled up beside the bed.

There was something wondrous and invigorating about expanding one’s book bag.

My personal expansion had come and I’d reveled in it. The groaning board of literature presented itself to my every desire. That’s when writing took over and contraction began.

Writing has its own form of contraction. For me, it was children’s literature. I studied it, wrote it, and enjoyed its delights. I still do.

After a couple of years my enthusiasm faltered. When I used my own style, stories didn’t work well. I couldn’t find the groove that would send me into the genre full-time. I’d never had problems writing fiction for children, until I started studying it and working with it constantly.

Ideas surfaced from everywhere. Short or long, stories moved inside my head. Fiction or non-fiction, it didn’t seem to matter. I was told that I expected children to read at level higher than standard. It was true. I expected kids now to be like kids when I was in school, and they’re not. The standardized language levels used now seem more elementary than those used in the 50’s and 60’s.

Once again, expansion would come to my rescue. I couldn’t connect with editors seeking stories for younger children, but I could connect with older children. I could write for the YA market, but that dealt mostly in novels. I wasn’t sure I was willing to invest that much time for a novel at that moment.

What I did was begin a book of poetry for the YA/Adult market. I’d experimented with several forms of poetry for years, when I stumbled onto a form known as “sestina.” It fit the bill perfectly for what I wanted to do.

I wrote the entire book in sestina form about the journey the moon makes in orbit and what it would see on its journey each night. I grafted visual verse onto social studies and geography and took it for a spin around the world. With satellite photos to illustrate the locations referenced by the verse, the journey broadens into an educational opportunity for the reader. This marriage of verse with both concrete and abstract reality breaks no new ground. It merely expands on what is available for the learning.

Soon “The Moon Sees All” will go to a publisher for evaluation. It may be rejected. It may not. Time will decide that issue.

In the meantime, I continue to expand my options. I do well in literary. I have fun with fantasy. I thoroughly delight in non-fiction. I can choose now to contract and focus in one area at a time, or expand to embrace several areas of focus. There is no longer a conflict.

My active routine now is to embrace whatever crawls onto my plate that day. Ask any bushman. You never know what’s palatable unless you try it.


Whether You Already Have an Angle or Not

March 8, 2012 8 comments


Starting any project can be daunting or exhilarating. If you’re interested in a topic, go for it. Do an article or a story.

Research must be done for either direction. If a story is in the offing, the research might be as simple as researching the type of setting planned for your character’s use. Locale is important and you want to get it right the first time around.

Before you put away that interest in locale, look at the broader picture of that real-world setting. Does the town have unique properties to boast? Are there any gripping crimes in its past. How about outlaws? What about famous people from the locale? Hundreds of questions could be asked about the place, each of which could give answers that could spark more new projects for your delight.

How so? Let me give you some examples pulled from the news. Remember, the audience defines the angle as much as the subject’s facts.

Each of the following headlines was found on Yahoo! News this morning. Each has the potential to provide several articles/stories for the writer who has learned to change angles when presented with a small bit of information. Addition research might be necessary, but it doesn’t have to arduous. Few common articles require in-depth digging.

     1.  “Biggest solar storm in years hits, so far so good”–This headline could lead a writer into many directions.

Article for children—how solar activity affects weather and communications on Earth.

Science Article for adults/children (depending on language and depth of information)—Explanation of how the balance of Earth’s magnetic field is affected by solar flares and storms.

Article for communications mag—what is the exact culprit within a solar storm that disrupts communication satellites?

Article for electronics mag—what steps can be taken with today’s technology to safeguard sensitive electronic equipment?

Article for news mag—how vulnerable is military electronics systems and communications to extreme solar activity and what is the likelihood of future disaster?

Science Fiction Urban Fantasy/other world stories using the scientific data about how solar flares work and what they can mean to a planet/population.

     2.  Johnny Depp’s Cool New Tonto in ‘The Lone Ranger”—this is one to have fun with.

Article for entertainment mag about Depp’s past forays into character development.

Article for teens/adults about Tonto as an icon and how it’s remembered by an entire generation of Americans

Article about the constant revising, retelling, refilming of old movies and TV shows rather than developing unique, fresh material/stories.

Use the premise of the Lone Ranger story to create a new story for children/adults. Star Wars did very well, if you’ll remember. Luke was the Lone Ranger, after all.

     3. “Can I Afford a Baby?”—This is an important consideration in today’s world, with lots of angles.

Article for parenting mag—How-to research a couple’s ability to financially survive an additional baby.

Article for pregnancy mag—How-to use current resources to ensure that planned baby gets all that it deserves after entering the world.

Article/story for children—How-to get excited about having a new baby in the house.

Article/story for children—Why family dynamics change with a new baby in the family.

YA article—the complete cost for the teen parents of a new baby.


Once the writer has basic information, she decides which market to try for. The angle of approach used for information delivery depends on the market of interest.

Finding Markets

Several lists of potential markets exist and are free most of the time online.

These are just a sampling of resources available to get a writer started in the hunt of a lifetime.

Whether the writer chooses to move outside her comfort zone depends on how much interest she has in a subject and how willing she is to take a risk. If she likes learning new things, the risk factor becomes less important. As a consequence of learning, the comfort zone begins to expand.

By shifting a subject’s emphasis, writers create angle or perspective. By deciding which aspect of a topic would make for an interesting challenge, writers build new niches for themselves in the writing world. Writing niches have always existed. Today, the niche is the writer’s safe haven.

Writing Havens

When the writer finds a special interest, regardless of subject, she has begun to form a niche. Interest requires learning, which requires more research. Research creates an expertise. Expertise creates the writer’s niche. And the niche is a place where writing can always be done in short form or book length.

Whether you start with a specific angle or not, you can learn to spread a subject over a large bit of territory. Non-fiction can become the fun place to be and one of the most lucrative in today’s publishing world. If a writer’s passion is fiction, she still needs facts to back up her story.

Do you have a niche? Do you have specific interests that can help create a niche for you? What are you waiting for?

Let the hunt begin!

Topic Doesn’t Matter

March 24, 2011 2 comments

Have you run out of fresh ideas for stories or articles? Are you hanging from the last knot at the end of your rope? What are you going to do?

There’s an easy answer to that last question. Sometimes it’s not the lack of material out there for a writer to use. It is everywhere. Resetting your mental perspective on ideas could sweep a multitude of viable avenues onto your storyboard.

Hunting for Stories

Find a newspaper or tackle Yahoo! News feeds and see what you can find. Here are ten possible idea sparkers found in less than fifteen minutes.

1.      Elizabeth Taylor

2.      Japan’s earthquakes

3.      Earth’s axis

4.      Housing slump

5.      Pennies saved

6.      Control tower scare

 7.      Volcano in Africa

8.      Skin care for guys

9.      Another oil slick hits LA coast

10.   Sports themes–Michael Jordan 

Have News, Now What?

On the surface these all seem uninteresting. How could any of them spark ideas that haven’t been done to death?

Let’s see what could come of them with a bit of thought expansion.

1.      Elizabeth Taylor—everyone talks about her beauty, her film career, etc. On the non-fiction side, experts will comb through everything in her life for their fodder. On the fiction side there is much to think about. Here was a young girl who was beautiful, with violet eyes, who loved to act. She was given that chance and excelled.

But, what could have happened to her without that chance? What could a beautiful young girl, without such talent, experience during her teen years? What if she really preferred a career behind the spotlight—say, as a set designer? Her talent could be in art. Such scenarios abound.

2.      Japan’s earthquakes—tons of ideas come from this news. Of course, there’s one aspect that many wouldn’t use. This goes along with #3 in our list. (Underlying info revealed that when the big quake hit Japan, three things happened which explain the destruction. One: the area of the quake dropped the landmass approximately two feet in altitude, two: Japan’s landmass was drawn 6.5 inches closer to the United States, and three: the quake caused an axial shift of the Earth.

Those facts hold significant ideas in their grip. Non-fiction possibilities: what impact may these geological realities warn us about, interviews with relatives of survivors of the quake, how does the Earth’s axis work and why a change is significant, etc. On the fiction side, apocalyptic scenarios flash through the brain along with character driven survivor stories, etc. Lots of ground could be covered from one event.

3.      Earth’s axis has been covered above


4.      Housing slump—some experts on the economic recovery are now advocating that people not buy homes for a while. Non-fiction—what happens to towns with large amounts of homes for sale? What about Florida, which has a 20% vacancy rate right now? How long is too long for a home to be on the market? And the list goes on. Fiction—anything having to do with someone affected by buying, selling, losing a home and the people involved.


5.      Pennies saved­—any one save pennies in your household? Have you ever tried to pay a bill with them? One man did and had to go to several branches of his bank to do it because he couldn’t find one with a vault big enough to hold his payment and they wouldn’t accept it.

Did you know that if people cashed in their saved pennies the result would be somewhere over $1 billion back in circulation? Slants on this subject are too numerous to mention.

6.      Control tower scare—Washington D.C. Reagan airport had two planes land without instructions or assistance yesterday because no one answered from the FAA investigation ensued. What could have happened rather than safe landings? What about those in the planes, did they know? Here, too, the resulting questions, ideas and scenarios are many for both fiction and non-fiction.


7.      Volcano photos—scientists descend into a live, lava-producing Nyiragongo volcano in the Republic of Congo. This should spark the imagination of any writer. The photos of their mission into liquid fire evoke many questions for both fiction and non-fiction. How well do their special suits protect them from both heat and deadly gases? Do they now understand that little known volcano any better? What dangers did they face that weren’t expected? Interviews with the families of the researchers would be marvelous ideas. Fictional accounts of harrowing events inside such a volcano could create stories for older children and adults.


8.      Skin care for guys—Plastic surgery comes into this category, as well. Non-fiction ideas: social stigma of the subject, testimonials from guys (pro and con), doctors take on the subject with recommendations for boys, etc. Fiction­ could come in children’s stories about a child who has to use special creams for acne, allergies, or what have you and what he must endure in the locker room. It could go SF and be about a world of the future where men are outcast if they don’t have facial treatments and surgery. It takes all kinds of writing to make up magazines.


9.      Another oil slick along LA’s Gulf shoreline—sparks ignite the drilling and pollution control debate again after this new slick can to light. There are human interest stories, animal rights issues, ecological issues and questions yet to be answered about oil company responsibilities, etc. Both fiction and non-fiction could go wild again on this topic.


10.  Sports themes are always good­-­­-So many news items are in this week’s news feeds that a writer can take their pick of odd subjects and run with it. Fictionalize any one of them and have a good story for the young. Or, do an in-depth look at any of the questions that leap out after reading one of the longer articles. Take your pick.


As you can see, there are many avenues to be explored. Science articles always find a home, whether they are for children or adults. Speculation pieces do well on the open market because they force the reader to ask questions. A sports piece is always a winner for most markets, especially when it can be tied to something else.

Angles make the difference in the benefits reaped from anything. It doesn’t matter if you concentrate on fiction or non-fiction as a rule. They are both sides of the same idea, information, or event. The questions asked by the writer dictate the direction taken in words. All the writer must do is use eyes, ears, and mind to find more material than ever thought possible.

I’ll leave you with those thoughts as you slide on over to your favorite news feed to peruse the latest and greatest idea generators. Have a great end to the week.

A bientot,