3 Mistakes Nonfiction Writers Make and How to Fix Them

nonfiction writing fixesYou know your subject. You have the experience and knowledge to write about it, and you should do just that. By all means share what you know with the world in the form of blog posts, articles and books, but don’t let your ego get in the way of producing the best work possible. Be sure you don’t make the three most common nonfiction writing mistakes.

Nonfiction-Writing Problem #1: You tell instead of show.

There is a tendency for nonfiction writers to focus primarily on the information they want to provide. As a nonfiction writer, you may feel much more comfortable producing content based on facts rather than something more descriptive. Or you may feel all you need—and all your readers want—is the information. Down and dirty. No fooling around. As a result, you may choose not to provide examples, anecdotes or vignettes as support of your information, even though these are excellent ways to illustrate your points.

Quick Fix: Paint a picture! Allow your stories or those provided by or about others to help your readers connect emotionally with your subject. Dig deep within and write about your experiences, and find others who can help make your points. For example, use HARO to request people contact you who have had experiences related to your article or book. Then interview them and include their anecdotes in your manuscript to demonstrate your points.

Nonfiction-Writing Problem #2: You assume your reader has some knowledge of the subject.

It’s easy to write an article or a nonfiction book and forget that your reader may have no knowledge or experience related to your topic. They might all be “newbies.” If you use terms or jargon you don’t define—because you assume readers know what they mean—or don’t explain concepts in basic terminology, you lose readers. They won’t understand what you write and will put the book down—or never take it to the register.

Quick Fix: Write for the newcomer to your topic. Define every term, explain every concept, provide data and research, and go overboard to ensure every reader will “get it.” This does not mean you have to “dumb down” your writing. It does mean you need to write for all your readers, including those who buy your book to begin rather than continue their learning. Also, reread your manuscript as if you know nothing about the topic—or have a developmental editor do this for you. Notice where you have questions—and answer them.

Nonfiction-Writing Problem #3: You think you are the only expert—or the best expert.

Most nonfiction benefits from additional resources. If you only rely on your knowledge and experience and don’t back it up with data, studies or quotes from other experts, your readers might doubt that you know what you’re writing about. Don’t assume all they need is you and what you know.

Quick Fix: Generously include other experts in your work. Interview thought leaders or include relevant quotes you find online, in publications or books (with proper permission and attribution). Find research to back up your story. Ask them to provide blurbs or forewords for your books as well. In this way, prove that you are the leading expert on the topic.

When you focus on these three solutions described above, your nonfiction writing will never suffer from the three problems. Not only that, you will emotionally engage your readers and provide proven information they can trust, which will make them trust you. When these things happen, you will have the kind of impact you desire with your words.

Photo courtesy of iqoncept.


  1. Hi Nina, your haro.com link leads to a German Parquet manufacturer; probably not where you had in mind(!)

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