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Reviews: Books about Writing
Book Reviews:
   Conventional Book Reviews   (standard commentary/review of book) 
  Knothole Book Reviews   (a "knothole review" is "not whole"-- 
       the concept is to give insights into an author's style, craft, and knowledge through selected excerpts.) 
 The Everything Guide to Writing Nonfiction 
Richard D. Bank
Avon, MA: Adams Media/F+W Media, Inc. 2010
The title of this guide for writers promises a lot—and delivers on that promise in an easy-to-read conversational tone. Aspiring nonfiction writers are introduced to the many interest-areas available for treatment, with the admonition to analyze the various categories along with the many possible subjects in those categories one might write about. The writer is urged to know how publishers work, such as the fact that nonfiction books are rarely completely written before a contract is signed; they are first sent to the publisher as a book proposal which outlines the book’s intended subject, it’s intended treatment, and the author’s background in the subject. 

The fact that many nonfiction books are sold on the basis of the writer’s previously published shorter nonfiction on the subject is explained. This might take the form of a general article, literary essay, opinion piece, or memoir. With the success of the smaller pieces, the writer’s familiarity with the subject has been established. 

Bank cautions the writer to choose his or her nonfiction book subject carefully. From very popular to obscure focuses,  there are opportunities. He examines  the main categories:  general nonfiction; books for scholars, students, and professionals; Self-Help and How-To Books; Religion and Spirituality; books about Health, Mind, and Body; Parenting/Family/Relationships; and Biographies, all of which he discusses. In addition the reader is reminded that there are also many  possibilities in genre books, such as Horticulture/gardening, Art/architecture, Business/economics, Cookbooks/dining, Government/ politics/world affairs, History, Nature/environment, Music/dance,  Hobbies, and Military/war. Many of these genres have additional subcategories. 

The qualities publishers look for in both short nonfiction [and the longer nonfiction book] which the writer must satisfy in one or more categories are outlined. 

 [list below is a direct quote.] 
   ¤ You must be an “acknowledged expert” in the field. 
   ¤ You have the requisite credentials such as a PhD or professional /occupational background. 
   ¤ An authority in the subject serves as a co-author with you. 
   ¤ Interviews with experts are included in your article. 
   ¤ You have “life experiences” that qualify you to write the article, such as being a cancer survivor 
       and writing about surviving cancer. 

The book gives helpful tips on understanding the various techniques one might use in writing nonfiction, such as lists, anecdotes, excerpts, and how to break up text. He also discusses style, from the scholarly to the more casual. 

A number of interviews with published nonfiction book writers. give insights into how they approached their works. In addition, there are many suggested writing exercises which the writer will find useful in understanding how different treatments affect the final communication to the reader. 

Of additional interest is the emphasis put on knowing and understanding rights and ethics. Today’s copyright law protects the writer from the time of publication to fifty years from the writer’s death. Not many such books remind the wanna-be writer of the ethics involved. For instance, in discussing writing reviews, whether that be restaurants, music, theater, movies, and of course, books, the reviewer must be knowledgeable on the subject and fair in critique. Also, ethics require that a reviewer acknowledge any personal connection—and in that regard, this reviewer acknowledges that she is a friend of the author’s and fellow board  member of PWC. 

Even the appendixes are extremely helpful. Appendix A includes several examples of short nonfiction, by others as well as the author. Appendix B gives an example of a Permissions Agreement with another writer whose work one might want legally to include in one’s own. Appendix C is a full and useful Glossary of words and applications associated with the writing profession, from blurb and clips to work-shopped. 

Finally, Bank talks about the three secrets to being a successful writer. One learns about writing from courses, from reading, and from other writers, but primarily one writes. One reads—not only in the field of one’s own writing, but also in other broad fields.  In addition to the first two “. . . if being a successful writer means finding your work fulfilling, setting personal goals and attaining them, having others appreciate your work even if it is only a handful of readers,  taking pride in the finished product, and walking away from your writer’s desk feeling good, then you’ll know when you have become a successful writer.” 

—reviewed by Gloria T. Delamar 

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