draft : d.”) Like much of McPhee’s work, it sits at some thrilling intersection of short story, essay, documentary, field research and epic poem." By Sam Anderson, www.nytimes.com September 30th, 2017

The Nonfiction Storyteller

September 13, 2017

Tags: writing, nonfiction, creative nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, feature stories, storyteller, journalism

The organizing and shaping of "facts into readable, interesting prose requires all of the skills of a storyteller." That advice is from the late Jim Giblin (1933 - 2016), who was the author of over 30 nonfiction books and an influential editor and publisher of the Clarion, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin (now Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Clarion published several of my early books and Jim was always quite generous with advice. Here is a bit of what he had to say about nonfiction.

The idea for a nonfiction book needs "an element of story, of mystery" that compels the writer to invest the time and energy necessary to develop it.

Always be "on the lookout for dramatic or amusing anecdotes that will help to bring the subject to life ...."

As your research begins to take shape, look for "an overall narrative line in the material and build the structure of the book around it."

A well-organized nonfiction book has "a sense of inner-connectedness and thematic progression ... as crucial to the success of a nonfiction book as a strong plot is to a novel."

Jim's book, The Giblin Guide to Writing Children's Books, is available new at the Institute for Writers, instituteforwriters.com/the-writers-bookstore/books-for-writers/. Used copies are available through Amazon, Abe Books, and other book sellers.


  1. September 13, 2017 5:30 PM EDT
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