Review: Writing Your Non-Fiction Book by Alex Gazzola

Review: Writing Your Non-Fiction Book by Alex Gazzola

Writing Your Non-Fiction Book is a new, low-cost Kindle e-book by my colleague Alex Gazzola. Alex is a UK-based author and writing teacher who runs the popular Mistakes Writers Make.blog

Alex was kind enough to send me a review copy of Writing Your Non-Fiction Book, so here’s what I found…

Writing Your Non-Fiction Book is a guide to writing a non-fiction book and getting it published by a traditional (print) publisher. With all the attention devoted to self-publishing on Kindle, CreateSpace, and so on, this approach can almost seem old-fashioned nowadays. Nonetheless, there is still a strong argument for seeking a conventional print publisher, not least for the support with the publishing process and the potentially better financial returns. Most of my own books have been traditionally published non-fiction.

Those who have read Alex’s other books such as 50 Mistakes Beginner Writers Make and 50 More Mistakes Beginner Writers Make won’t be surprised to hear that Writing Your Non-Fiction Book is exceptionally well written and presented. It takes you step by step through planning, writing and promoting your book.

Alex starts by discussing why you might want to write a non-fiction book and what to write about. There is good, sensible advice about building your reputation as an ‘expert’ in your chosen field first, e.g. by writing articles and getting them published in magazines.

Alex doesn’t recommend writing a book and then casting around for a publisher. Rather, he advocates sending out a proposal first, and only going ahead with the writing once you have a contract from a publisher. This approach is discussed in detail, and I agree it is definitely the way to go with non-fiction books.

He goes on to discuss researching and writing your book, and the subsequent proofreading and editing process. The final part then covers promoting your book (working with your publisher’s publicist) and ways you can boost sales and generate additional income (e.g. by registering with the PLR Office and ALCS in the case of UK authors).

Writing Your Non-Fiction Book is quite concise, but it provides a great introduction to writing a non-fiction book and getting it published. At the low asking price (just $1.26 in the US Amazon store and 99p at Amazon UK) it would be a valuable addition to any aspiring author’s library.

  • If you are interested in writing a non-fiction book, you might also like to consider Write Any Book in Under 28 Days, my own top-selling course on non-fiction book writing. My course is obviously more expensive than Alex’s e-book, but it does go into a bit more detail about the writing and editing process.

If you have any comments or questions about Writing Your Non-Fiction Book, as ever, please feel free to post them below.

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How to Punctuate Thoughts in Fiction

How to Punctuate Thoughts in Fiction

It’s a question that arises regularly among new fiction writers – what is the best way to represent a character’s thoughts in print?

In reply, the first point I would make is that this is a stylistic matter, not one of grammar. There is no single “correct” way to punctuate or otherwise represent a character’s thoughts. Some authors put them in quotation marks, others use italics. I’ve even seen thoughts put in parentheses or ALL CAPS, although I certainly don’t recommend that!

In fact, though, the most common approach nowadays is to avoid using any special punctuation or formatting to represent thoughts, and that is the style I would strongly recommend.

A crucial point here is that most stories today are written in scenes portrayed through the eyes of a single viewpoint character, whether first person (I) or third person (he/she). In such cases there is no need for any extra punctuation to signify a character’s thoughts. The whole scene is, in effect, the thoughts and perceptions of the ‘viewpoint’ character. The example below – written in a third-person limited viewpoint – may illustrate why extra punctuation for thoughts is usually unnecessary.

“What time is it?” Sarah asked.
That’s the third time you’ve asked me in the last twenty minutes, James thought. Still, he checked his watch. “Five to eight,” he said.
“Why aren’t they here?” Sarah asked. She stared at him. “Do you think they’ve been in an accident?”
“I doubt it,” James replied. “Probably they just got held up in the traffic.” Unless Phil’s car has broken down again, he thought to himself.

If you tried putting quotation marks around the thoughts in this passage, you would end up with almost everything in quotes, and total confusion over whether the character was speaking or thinking. 

In general, the problem with using quotation marks around a character’s thoughts is (a) it makes the text look cluttered, and (b) it invites confusion with speech.

So what about the alternative of using italics for thoughts? Yes, you can do this, but as mentioned above, when a scene is written from a limited viewpoint anyway (as is usually the case in modern fiction), there is no need to represent thoughts any differently from the rest of the text. And if it’s unnecessary, why do it?

Using italics to represent thoughts also has a number of drawbacks:

  • You are likely to waste a lot of time agonizing over whether a particular line is a thought or a description.
  • You will end up with much of your text in italics, which looks ugly and distracting.
  • And finally, you will lose the option of using italics when, for some dramatic reason, extra emphasis is required.

If you want further evidence for my case, browse through any popular novel published today. You will be hard pressed to find ANY examples of quotation marks or italics used specifically to represent thoughts. In the vast majority of cases, thoughts are presented in plain text without any other punctuation or adornment.

So my advice is clear. NEVER use quotation marks for thoughts. If it’s absolutely necessary to indicate thoughts in a special way, use italics (but mostly this shouldn’t be required). And keep italics for their proper purpose, which is providing extra emphasis.

Don’t forget – there’s much more advice on grammar, punctuation and spelling in my downloadable course Essential English for Authors.

Note: This is a revised and updated version of an article originally published on my old blog at Mywritingblog.com.

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