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To ask advice on writing nonfiction (specifically, biographies)?

(4 Posts)
PamplemousseRouge Mon 28-Nov-16 01:25:34


I really enjoy reading and writing, and would love both of these to be part of my career at some part if possible.

At uni, especially when I was writing a dissertation in final year, I realised how much I enjoyed reading and researching. I enjoyed the process of finding out where to look for relevant information, choosing what information to use and then finally planning out the last stage of the project: the writing.

Since leaving uni, I've read quite a few biographies and nonfiction books that convey a clear viewpoint and narrative in both an academic and engaging style.

Reading the biographies has made me realise not only how much I'd like to make writing a part of my own career but also how much I'd like to write similar books.

For example, for my dissertation, I read a couple of books by Caroline Morehead as part of my secondary reading section. I was really inspired by her in particular - her writing style, the argument and narrative thread of her books.

Also, I was very interested in the way she's found a theme that has allowed her to focus on a specialist subject that she, and many readers, will find fascinating (she's already published a couple of nonfiction books about France's struggle to resist against the Nazi occupation during the Second World War, and I think she's planned a couple of books still to come in this series). Another author of interest is Anne Sebba - I'm really keen to read her book Les Parisiennes.

In Anne Sebba's and Caroline Moorehead's case, for example, I know they both worked as journalists before turning to writing biographies. As did Hunter Davies, for example, who has written a few biographies, including one of the Beatles.

I personally would much prefer to go into journalism route rather than going into academia in order to specialise in writing nonfiction.

In terms of developing my own specialism, currently I'm particularly interested in French culture - more specifically, contemporary music from French-speaking countries and music from chanson française artists in the 20th century.

I hope it doesn't come across as if I'm jumping the gun a bit here. This is just a post out of genuine curiosity more than anything. I would be very grateful if anyone had any ideas (and even better if you've got personal experience!) on how I could get into writing nonfiction please?


PamplemousseRouge Mon 28-Nov-16 01:27:51

Oh whoops - I'm sorry about the missing worse and questionable grammar in my last post! Didn't realise how tired I am...!

RichardBucket Mon 28-Nov-16 03:35:12

I'm a writer/author - both non-fiction and fiction.

The vast, vast majority of authors do not make a living from their books. Walk into Waterstones and 99% of the authors with books on the shelves still have a non-writing day job. You have to write because you enjoy it, because you have the itch, and accept the profits as pocket money.

So if you accept that it will really be a second day job, paying less than minimum wage, how do you get into it? It's ridiculously hard. One in 4,000 manuscripts submitted to agents ends up being represented, and only half of those will be bought by a publisher. Most self-published books sell around a dozen copies.

I don't write biography so can't give you any specifics, but you should definitely seek advice from other biography writers before spending any time on writing.

Sorry to be the voice of doom! Despite all of this, I'm still going, so it isn't all bad wink

PamplemousseRouge Mon 28-Nov-16 13:09:36

Hi Richard - thank you so much for your post, I really appreciate it! Do you mind ne asking what sort of non fiction you write?

If anyone else has any advice or suggestions, I'd be really grateful if you could post them on here please.


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