So you want to write nonfiction. Don’t do this!

We'll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down

"The Hulk" -- a movie with a lot of crazy, dramatic action, but not much story. Movies that jump from one action-packed scene to another are like nonfiction books that have a lot of anecdotes but provide little commentary on the action. “The Hulk” — a movie with a lot of crazy, dramatic action, but not much story. Movies that jump from one action-packed scene to another are like nonfiction books that have a lot of anecdotes but provide little commentary on the action.

I’ve had the opportunity to read a lot of nonfiction lately. It’s been a great exercise in what works and what doesn’t work for me, as a reader. And because I’m hard at work on a new project, the reading is also helping to inform my own writing. What I’ve culled so far:

What doesn’t work in nonfiction:

* A long, drawn-out anecdote to start the book, full of tangential information that is obscuring what otherwise would be a fine and intriguing story.

* Lots of telling with no action.

* Lots of action with no telling. There must be a blend! The old “show, don’t tell” adage should be banned…

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