Monday, October 25, 2010

Logical Nonfiction

Anastasia Suen answers the question, "What Do Editors Want to See?" in Chapter Three of Picture Writing: A New Approach to Writing for Kids and Teens. On page 72 she says:

When it comes to nonfiction, editors want to see logic. For a nonfiction book to work, it needs to be well organized. Simply gathering lots of information is not enough. To share information with your readers, you must organize your thoughts.

Writing a book is like building a house. If you have a blueprint, then you know how to build the book. Having a blueprint helps you decide what to place where so everything makes sense. Logic dictates where the pipes and wires go so that when you need them, the lights turn on and the water flows. The reader doesn't need to know how you built the house; they just want to live there and enjoy it. They don't see the blueprint; they see the results.

Now, that's logical. And, you would think, obvious. But I've found myself concentrating on other facets and overlooking this point: "Nonfiction should be logical."

I sometimes try desperately to make my nonfiction manuscripts "unique" to the loss of logic.

Or I try really hard to make them clever or witty or soul-searching at the expense of logic--laying out the information according to a logical pattern and plan.

No matter how creatively I present the material if the reader can't sense the logical movement through the material he or she won't be able to use and/or enjoy the book.

I can layout the book logically in alphabetical order, or chronologically. By concepts from simple to complex. Or from concrete to abstract. I can lay it out in my mind numerically or by categories. By events. Or make it move from one person to the next logically and seamlessly. As in the plot of fiction the fascinating material in my nonfiction must MOVE the reader through the pages and information. Each page turn needs to beckon the reader to continue through the material I'm presenting.

Logic and creativity and genius, are not mutually exclusive, you know. Together they can make a pretty promising manscript, I've heard.


Linda A. said...


Thanks for the great summary about writing nonfiction. Anastasia Suen makes it sound so easy and I know it isn't. I'm glad you're finding Picture Writing to be helpful. Thanks for sharing what you're learning.

Linda A.

Mitzi said...

I am currently working on a nonfiction picture book--these thoughts were great help--thanks!

Jean said...

Hi, Mitzi and Linda,

Thanks for stopping by to say hello!