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I am going to be writing a non-fiction self help book.  I want to tell the story of my son's life and how his learning disabilities lead to his self-medicating and ending up in prison.  
I have never written a book but have been writing poetry for many years and was an english major in school.  
In writing a non ficiton self help book where can I find a format to begin the story?
Can you suggest any material that I can use to provide me with the best layout of the book?


Hello Judith:

What you are actually contemplating is a long essay. Go to http://www.rscc.cc.tn.us/owl&writingcenter/OWL/Types.html (You will have to cut and paste as this site does not support hyperlinks), and study the samples found there. Out of all those types of essays, there is one that will fit your material.

You will also need a premise, such as: "My son's learning disabilities led to self medication (alcoholism?) which led to his ending up in prison." That would seem to cover it. However, this is in the manner of a medical diagnosis and would call for (1) you being a medical practitioner capable of making this diagnosis or (2) knowing one who is capable, and willing to make such a diagnosis, in order to be convincing.

There is no hard and fast "formula" for beginning the story but a popular framework is to take one dramatic incident (life or death) in your son's life and describe it right up to the resolution, then go back to the beginning, saving the resolution until much later.

I hope this helps. If it does, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 600 questions.

And good luck with your writing!

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at http://pygmypress.com, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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