We all have a story we want to share with others. Maybe it's a funny or dramatic moment in your everyday life. Perhaps it's an unforgettable trip overseas or a heartwarming family reunion. Or possibly even the life of a close relative or public figure that has inspired you in some unique way. Regardless of the story or experience, there's no better way to write, record, and share it than through the power of creative nonfiction.
Bringing together the imaginative strategies of fiction storytelling and new ways of narrating true, real-life events, creative nonfiction is the fastest-growing part of the creative writing world—and the fastest-growing part of the market for books as well. It's a cutting-edge genre that's reshaping how we write (and read) everything from biographies and memoirs to blogs and public speaking scripts to personal essays and magazine articles.
But learning the secrets and techniques of creative nonfiction offers you so much more than just insights into this exciting style of writing. Mastering the art and craft of creative nonfiction can
- help you write more effectively in a variety of professional and personal situations,
- provide dynamic new ways for you to preserve life experiences as they truly occurred or as you felt them,
- allow you to share your stories in ways that other people are sure to find compelling, and
- open up new windows on how you think about your own personal history—and the personal history of others.
Whether you're looking to launch into a new professional career as a creative nonfiction writer, dabble in the genre as a pastime, start a personal blog, or simply get inside the mind of a creative nonfiction writer at work, you'll find much to learn from and enjoy in Writing Creative Nonfiction. These 24 lectures by award-winning writing instructor and Professor Tilar J. Mazzeo of Colby College, a New York Times best-selling author, are a chance for you to explore the entire process of writing creative nonfiction, from brainstorming for the perfect idea to getting your final product noticed by literary agents and publishers. Filled with helpful tips and techniques, memorable examples from well-known writers, and engaging exercises, it's a learning experience that proves that—with the right instructor—writing creative nonfiction can be mastered, practiced, and enjoyed by anyone with a desire to share his or her personal story.
Explore All Aspects of the Creative Nonfiction Craft
More dynamic than a simple how-to writing guide you could find in a bookstore, Professor Mazzeo's interactive lectures are a chance for you to learn right alongside a master professor and best-selling writer as she guides you through all aspects of the process.
- Fundamentals of creative nonfiction: Many of the lectures unpack fundamental concepts and principles involved in writing creative nonfiction. These include narrative arcs, captivating beginnings, sentence variation, perspective, characterization, dialogue, and metaphors. You'll uncover ways to decide how to best employ them to fit your particular work as well as to make your writing more engaging—without breaking the nonfiction contract with your reader.
- Writing process: Pulling from her own personal experience as a writer, Professor Mazzeo guides you through each stage of writing creative nonfiction, from researching your topic to revising your first draft. Along the way, she offers tips and advice for everything from working around the problem of missing sources to pushing your way through writer's block to finding a community of writers who can offer you constructive criticism.
- Publishing tips: How do you find the right agent? What goes into a successful book proposal? How can you find out which publications are the right venues for your pieces? In a series of lectures centered on the practical business of marketing and publishing your work, you'll discover the answers to these and other questions about getting your start as a published—and maybe even professional—writer.
Learn Tricks of the Creative Nonfiction Writer's Trade
"I'm an English professor and a writer myself,"notes Professor Mazzeo at the start of her course. "And what I can tell you is that there are tricks of the trade; things that published writers—the people whose books you've read and enjoyed and recommended to friends—learn from doing over and over.”
Every lecture of Writing Creative Nonfiction is filled with these tricks of the trade; nuggets of information, insight, and advice that you can learn from and use whenever you sit down to tell a personal story. Whether you're planning on tackling a memoir, a piece of travel writing, a personal essay, or nearly any project in which effective (and truthful) storytelling is required, these and other tips and tricks revealed in this course will go a long way toward building a powerful toolkit you can use any time you sit down to write.
- Include three things every good story needs: You know you've got a good story to work with when it has a narrative arc, dramatic tension (conflict that works as an obstacle), and interesting characters who experience and try to surmount obstacles.
- Introduce ambiguity: Free indirect discourse doesn't require attribution of speech or thought and invites readers to attribute your thoughts to the thoughts of the character. Whether your readers accept or reject the invitation, you've been truthful about not making claims of fact and have maintained the nonfiction contract.
- Write the "gutter”: Giving your readers two pieces of information and trusting them to use their imaginations to transform them into a single storyline (filling in the "gutter”) is a great way to avoid overnarrating. Engaging their imaginations also makes them a more active participant in the story you're telling.
- Draft a pitch instead of an outline: While pitches are normally written to secure contracts for nonfiction works, they can also be a helpful way for you to avoid getting stuck when you're having difficulty outlining your story.
Practice with Exercises Crafted by a New York Times Best-Selling Author
With Writing Creative Nonfiction, you're not just learning from a dynamic writing instructor. You're learning from a prolific nonfiction writer whose books—including the New York Times bestseller The Widow Cliquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It—are examples of the form at its best: factual and honest while being genuinely engaging reads.
Professor Mazzeo brings the same skill and experience to her course that she's brought to her creative nonfiction work. And to help you practice and hone your newfound skills, she has crafted specific exercises to help you tap into your inner writer. For example, you'll
- take an event in front of you and write a page of detailed description (without actually saying what's happening) to witness the effects of showing, not telling, about specific moments;
- write a couple of paragraphs using both direct and indirect discourse to learn the strengths and weaknesses of either approach to storytelling; and
- write a pitch for an imaginative travel piece (its story, its characters, its arc) in 100 words or less to see how well you can propose a piece of writing to a prospective editor.
Who knows? Perhaps one of these or the other exercises will spark that great idea that sets you on your way to writing creative nonfiction that engages your reader—and even sells.
Throughout the entire course, Professor Mazzeo's passion for her craft and her devotion to sharing her knowledge and instilling confidence in fellow writers are constant. "You need to write what's in you; in your mind and in your imagination,"she says. "And you need to tell a great story.”
And that's exactly what you'll learn how to do in Writing Creative Nonfiction. By the conclusion of these rewarding lectures, you'll have the knowledge, tools, and, most important, inspiration you need to discover your stories and finally start telling them the right way.