Writing From My Comfort Zone

Non-fiction, that’s my ticket to writing a first work. My initial reasoning was that a long, academically oriented career should be an asset in a non-fiction project. All writing requires research skills to a greater or lesser degree. A fiction writer uses research to give the story an authentic ring. The non-fiction writer uses research to support ideas and arguments with corroborating evidence whenever possible. I was quite used to using information gathered from my research and observations to do just that.

I also chose to attempt a non-fiction project for another practical reason. When trying something new, it is important to keep the number of new things to think about to an absolute minimum. The greatest challenge I faced was writing grammatically correct non-fiction prose that is interesting and accessible to my future readers. Everything I had written to date was relatively short and consisted of report type documents and records of research written for a very specific audience, with a specific knowledge base. Now I wanted my writing to reach out to a broad range of individuals with varied backgrounds,  a challenge indeed.

All writers need to establish an idea of the general audience for whom to write, be they engaged in the creation of works of fiction or non-fiction. Since I am on the cusp of the baby boom wave, my fellow boomers would be a likely audience, and so I decided to focus on them. To some, this may appear opportunistic, but remember, my goal is to minimize the unfamiliar so I can concentrate on writing clear prose. By writing for my peer group, I eliminate some of additional variables facing the newby writer (me).

Now I needed a subject for my project that had a sense of immediacy for my target audience. Topics that came to mind most readily related to health, sex life, memory, and relationships. I was drawn to topics related to memory and aging since memory loss is a concern to adults as they age. Indeed, there is a certain element of fear associated with the idea of memory loss, since it portends the loss of independence; a scary thought for anyone, the aging population in particular. I also had some background in memory and cognition gained in the course of my career as a special education specialist. Once again, I am sticking with the theme of familiarity so I can concentrate on the skill of writing clearly for a general audience. You might have noticed that I tend to write longish sentences, and that might be a tendency I need to address. I am concerned that my readers might forget the ideas at the beginning of a sentence, by the time they get to the end.

Memory is not exactly a unique subject for a book. Just do a simple search on the online book stores of Amazon or Indigo/Chapters, and you will see what I mean. My next task was to think of memory in a less common way. More on that to come…..

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