Your Nonfiction Book Should Tell A Story

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tell a story

You have a story to tell, and people are ready to hear it, but whether or not they will relate to it and remember it depends on how well you tell it. In fact, how you tell your story is just as important as the story itself.

Whether your passion is about teaching a simple business practice that can save time and money, sharing your struggles confronting suffering and pain, or experiencing the joy of connecting on a soul-level with your dog, if you have a passionate solution, someone out there needs it. People don’t buy books, they buy solutions, and readers are looking for what’s trapped inside you.

Tell us your story

Each of us has a story, and people are truly interested in hearing it. People are always asking…
What do you do?
What are you passionate about?
Where did you go to school?
Do you have kids?

Even if people aren’t directly asking about your story, these types of questions are indirect ways to try to learn more about you and the story you have to tell. But when it comes to crafting your exceptional story, it can be difficult to know where and how to begin.

Physiologically, humans are wired to enjoy and relate to stories. Stories have been a part of the human fabric since the beginning of time. We like to hear stories, relate to them, and reflect on them. Find your story and give people what they crave!

It’s important to understand the difference between telling your story and presenting your resume. You cannot tell your exceptional story by reciting a list of your accomplishments or delivering an elevator pitch. You need to dig deeper. Your tale must communicate who you are, so you need to figure out exactly who that is and how to showcase that person.

Start with the foundation

Before you start writing your story, you need to answer two questions:

1. What is the purpose of your story?

2. Who is your audience?

Stories can help you cross socio-economic, political, religious, and racial boundaries — they can be that powerful. Personally, I believe there are two key things all people need, hope and help, and your story has the power to offer both. Your story can change lives and have an impact on society, but you need to decide just what kind of impact you want to make. What do you want to communicate? What change do you want to invoke in the reader? How will your story help people?

Know your audience

Your target audience will determine what you tell them and why. So you need to know your audience and position your story to grab their attention so you can deliver your message in a way that can have an impact. Outline the three parts of your story to lay the plan for your nonfiction book. Traditionally, stories have a beginning, middle, and end, but I suggest you reframe it as:

  • What it used to be like
  • What happened
  • What it’s like now

Start with what life was like before the change happened. Were you happy? Overworked? Unfulfilled? Paint a picture of your “before” and set your audience up for the change.

The “what happened” section is the turning point in your story. It’s your pivotal moment, the bridge that connects the before and after. Something happened that caused a change in your life, and that’s what you’ll share with your audience. Some changes are internal, such as an “aha!” moment that directed you to take action or make a change. Others involve a push, an external force that brought on a change, such as the death of a family member, birth of a child, a divorce, loss of a job, or some other life-altering occurrence.

What happened to you? How did it force you to change and why?

Then, tell your readers what it’s like now. Where are you in your life? How are things different?

If you’re struggling with how to wrap up the impact of your life or a specific chapter of your story, consider these six areas of your life and how they have been impacted by the events you shared in your memoir or business book:

  • Spiritual
  • Health
  • Relationships
  • Emotional
  • Professional
  • Financial

How have these areas of your life been affected?

If you take these three acts — what it used to be like, what happened, and what it’s like now — put them together and seal them with a mission statement that clearly communicates the purpose of your story, you will have a solid structure in place.

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Nancy L. Erickson

About Nancy L. Erickson

Nancy L. Erickson has written 35 posts in this blog.

International book marketer, executive book coach, international speaker, and author advocate Nancy L. Erickson is known as The Book Professor because she helps everyday people write high-impact nonfiction books that will save lives, change lives, or transform society. Titles credited to her name include A Life in Parts, for which she received back-cover endorsements from Sir Paul McCartney and Cindy Crawford. Using a methodology she developed, Erickson leads her clients through the writing and publishing process, from initial concept to a draft manuscript, finished manuscript, professionally published product, and internationally marketed product. Erickson is the owner of Stonebrook Publishing, a small press she founded in 2009, and is the creator and owner of Bookarma, a book marketing platform where authors help authors market their books globally through shared social networks. She has presented her innovative ideas at BEA and the Frankfurt Book Fair, where she was a featured speaker.

2 COMMENTS

  1. So is this article about “nonfiction” or “memoir”? Because you’re talking as if the story being written is of the writer, which is only one small corner of “nonfiction.”

    Speaking as a author who’s spent the last three years writing about things that happened before she was born/too young to learn of firsthand.

  2. […] Our readers write in widely varying genres and formats, and although much writing advice can work for most writing, there is some advice that is very specific. Jessi Rita Hoffman shares 7 common memoir mistakes, Lucy V. Hay has 10 quick tips about writing horror, Amy Rogers gives us pitfalls and solutions for writing a science thriller, and Nancy L. Erikson reminds us that . […]

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