Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Brilliant, Not Boring, Nonfiction

Brilliant, Not Boring, Nonfiction
Presented by Louise Bergmann DuMont
At the NJCWG – 6/13/05

I am often asked where a person can get a handle on the up-and-coming trends. Here are a few ideas.
1. Attend the professional level sessions held at writers' conferences - sometimes called roundtable discussions. Here editors, publishers and agents discuss reader opinions, contracts, hot topics, new styles of writing, and convergence formats.
2. Read "Letters to the Editor" and find out what people are outraged about. They usually react to a development or new trend that they are uncomfortable with. Find out what it is and follow up on it.
3. Read specialty periodicals from time to time. The tighter the focus, the more alert the publication may be to moves and changes in their specific area.
4. Pick the brains of experts. If you go to the doctor or dentist or your family attorney, ask them about new developments in their field, radical changes, breakthrough products or recent seminars they've attended. (Sometimes they will overlap. A surgeon can tell you about the increase in plastic surgeries, and a lawyer can tell you about the increase in lawsuits against surgeons when promises of rejuvenation don't happened.)

5. Again, roundtable discussions may alert you to new styles of writing and convergence formats.
6. Watch TV & Read the Headlines - if your agent won't look at another story about a young girl who wants an abortion against her parent's wishes, why not pick up on a story in the headlines to give the abortion issue a new slant. What about the peri-menopausal woman who gets an abortion against the wishes of her three grown children?

7. In what areas do you feel you have some expertise? People always want to read details not generalities. If you are an expert in something, there will be a depth and flavor to your writing that is not there for someone else.
8. "But I'm not an expert on anything!" If that is your lament, don't fret. You can become an expert your favorite subject by simply putting in a few study hours. Choose a topic that you love (note that coffee & chocolate are already taken). Purchase a few file folders and begin collecting articles, internet sites, and anything else connected with your topic. Join yahoo & google groups that share information about your topic. Speak up! Let others know that YOU know your stuff. Soon, individuals will be emailing you for more info about the topic and you can start a column, a blog or a website that will tout your expertise. Now you have a platform on which to speak, teach and write. Easy as sucking on a chocolate Popsicle!

9. I can't say this enough times… learn to write tight. Today's readers don't have the time to weed through long paragraphs. Get to the action or the point quickly.
10. Don't belittle your reader. It is true that repeating something helps the reader to remember it, but repetition does not have to be boring. When you must repeat your point, say it using different words, a new tone or a fresh anecdote.

11. Use anecdotes and personal experiences to lead into an idea or to solidify your point. There is enough dry information in the world to fill the Grand Canyon ten times over. Make your manuscript different - make it interesting!

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