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Writing Books/Examples in Nonfiction



Do you know how NonFiction writers support their writings with examples?

I am writing a motivational book and at times, I can talk about people that I know, but it would make things clearer, in some instances, if I could create an example that would be applicable to the information provided.

Do you know or have you heard what others have done in similar circumstances?  Can you direct me to any information on this subject?

Thank you

I have edited many a nonfiction book filled with examples, plus many books Ive read have included examples. Open almost any motivational or self-help book, and  you'll see examples and scenarios that illustrate a point.

Anecdotes and examples keep nonfiction books interesting while driving home points. People like to read about people, and stories make people relate to the material they are reading. To make a point in nonfiction, state a fact and then back it up with human beings in a real or imagined scenario, an anecdote that illustrates the point, or an example of what might happen.

For example, lets say this is the point you want to make: Add humanizing factors to your manuscripts, and readers will stay interested in the material.

To illustrate the point, you might add this: Gloria wrote a self-help manuscript on the subject of how to get a manuscript published. She submitted it to thirty-four agents, but only one responded favorably. The agent said he would be interested in the manuscript only if it gave examples to prove specific points. When Gloria added real-life anecdotes, all gleaned from fellow writers, the agent snapped up the manuscript, sold it to Tripleday for $2.5 million, and Gloria retired to the Bahamas.

Okay, this is obviously a fabricated anecdote, but it illustrates my point, yes? If the writer has real-life stories to draw from, he or she may want to change the names of the people in the stories but still use them as examples. Its even better if you can include some real quotations from real people, even if the names have been changed. For example, it might go like this:

While about half of marriages end in divorce, the couples that stay together are often those with the best communication skills. When Barbara and Leon met, neither had a good history with long-term relationships, so when their relationship grew serious, they agreed to go to classes in communication skills. Barbara reports that after two years of classes and ten years of marriage, they are happier than ever. In our classes, I learned not to have unrealistic expectations. I learned to voice my wishes, rather than expecting Leon to read my mind.

Leon added, She leaves me little love notes sometimes in my briefcase or lunchbox, and those notes always make me feel loved. As for his part, he relates, Ive learned not to make demands, but to make requests, instead, and I learned I dont have to fix her emotions. She voices her feelings, and I know to listen and empathize, rather than to tell her how to take care of it, or worse, tell her shes being overly emotional. Wow, did I ever learn that lesson!  

Im glad you want to add examples and stories to your nonfiction manuscript, because readers appreciate scenarios, anecdotes, and examples that involve human beings in situations that prove each point a nonfiction book makes.  

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Bobbie Christmas


Book Doctor Bobbie Christmas owns Zebra Communications, a book-editing firm in metro Atlanta. She not only edits books, she also helps writers power up their prose to increase their chances of success. She is the author of Write In Style (Union Square Publishing), a creative-writing guide that won three awards.


Bobbie has spent more than 40 years in the publishing and communications industry and has run Zebra Communications, a book-editing company, since 1992. The editor of many publications and periodicals, she has worked with book publishers and trade magazine publishers as well as working in marketing communications and corporate communications.

Past president, Georgia Writers Association; past vice president, South Carolina Writers Workshop; charter/lifelong member, Florida Writers Association; Southeastern Writers Association; Atlanta Writers Club; Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature (SPELL); International Guild of Professional Consultants

Write in Style (Union Square Publishing), A Cup of Comfort (Adams Media Corporation), A Cup of Comfort for Friends (Adams Media), A Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Sons (Adams Media), Haunted Engounters (Atriad Press), Remembering Woolworth's (St. Martin's Press), First-Time Home Buyer magazine, HomeBusiness Journal, Apparel Industry Magazine, Edge Magazine, Atlanta Jewish Times, Time Travel Australia, American Writers Review, Points North, That's Entertainment, Atlanta Parent, Agnes Scott Alumnae Magazine, etc.

Journalism: University of South Carolina plus four decades of working in publishing, marketing, communications, advertising, newspaper and magazine production, book publishing, etc.

Awards and Honors
First Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers Annual Contest, 2005; First Place, education, Royal Palm Literary Award, 2004; Best in Division, Georgia Author of the Year Awards, 2005; Finalist, Best Books 2005, USA BookNews Third Place, nonfiction, Georgia Writers, 1999; Nominated for Georgia Author of the Year, 1998; plus many other awards

Past/Present Clients
Capital Books, Sourcebooks, Olin Frederick, The Writer's Machine, Russell Dean & Company, Outskirts Press, and hundreds of writers.

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