Creative process: Writing your book with authority

By Dennis Mellersh

Whether you are writing a book of fiction or non-fiction, one of the skills you will need to develop is the ability to write with authority. It’s the quality that makes any writing believable and is essential to learning how to write a book effectively.

If your writing does not have an authoritative tone, your readers will quickly realize it, and your book will thereby lose much of its original appeal.

Once you learn to write well, you will gain confidence in communicating your ideas and the concepts you want to explore in your writing. In turn, your confidence in your ability allows you to write authoritatively.

But probably the most critical factor that will give your writing authority is the process of thoroughly researching the factual information you will need for your book.

In your own reading experiences, you have probably encountered how-to books that did not offer convincing information. In other words, the writing in those books lacked authority.

And, make no mistake; you will need factual information for your book, whether fiction or non-fiction. You cannot write books based only on vague generalizations and personal impressions.

You cannot, for example, write a believable “western” novel with a theme involving the early days of the American West if you don’t have a good amount of background knowledge on that historical period. You gain that knowledge through your research.

And obviously, writing a non-fiction book will require detailed factual information on the subject you are writing about. Even if you have first-hand knowledge of a non-fiction topic, you should still do additional research to gather new material to make sure you are up to date.

When doing your research, you will need to take notes. Following are a couple of approaches.

M.L. Stein, in his book, Write Clearly…Speak Effectively advises, “The notebook is the writer’s good companion. Have one handy at all times, and write down the facts you find. Always take down more information than you will need. It’s much better to have too much data than too little.”

As an alternative, ruled 4×6-inch index cards are also an excellent way to keep your research notes. And once you have begun writing your first draft, index cards are easy to sort into the subject categories you have established in your book’s outline.

About Dennis Mellersh

Dennis Mellersh is an independent writer, journalist, editor, and editorial consultant.
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