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Book Review: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Nonfiction by Christina Boufis

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If you’re writing nonfiction, or want to break in, you’ll be energized by the possibilities suggested for you in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Nonfiction.

The book encompasses the whole of nonfiction – not just essay, memoir, or journalism. Author Christina Boufis expands your horizons by opening a path throughout the entire genre. She is director of the San Francisco Art Institute’s writing program, has been teaching nonfiction writing at Stanford University since 1999, and her essays and articles are widely published.

Boufis presents a thorough explanation of various categories of nonfiction, and she emphasizes the importance of telling a good story, with a narrative arc in an essay, news report, or a book-length work. “While structure is important, nothing matters more than story.”

Writing for a reader requires we deliver on these five ingredients to ensure you leave no holes in a story: character, conflict, setting, plot, and resolution. And yes, if you read nonfiction carefully, you’ll see it is indeed an element of every piece of good writing in magazines, newspapers, and books.

The chapter on finding ideas covers much of the same material we writers usually see, but here you’ll learn how your point-of-view can make ideas unique. Other chapters do such a good job of teaching craft, such as “Scene Setting,” that they are of use to writers of both fiction and nonfiction.

Finding good markets for narrative nonfiction for writers today is aided by the proliferation of online markets as adjunct to print magazines, and Boufis covers the basics of getting started.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Nonfiction includes a huge section on research and interviewing, and a thorough discussion of immersion journalism. Chapters on long-form journalism, market analysis, and self-publishing round out this truly complete guide.

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