5.22.2018

True to Your Purposes

A nonfiction author can encounter a stumbling block when trying to prove that the book’s methods work. This is the lack of real-life examples. When you consider the different components that make up a single method, the reason why quickly becomes apparent. If you are writing a job-hunt book, for example, you may find that you don’t know any mothers personally who have reentered the work force by starting their own company. You don’t like the idea of making up such a person, even though you know they exist. So what do you do?

There are two possible solutions. The first one is obvious to anyone who has journalistic training. You go up on the web or read source material in a publication in order to find such an example. You most likely are using quoted excerpts from other authors, anyway, and this becomes a longer block of quoted text. Just make sure the material is less than 500 words (the maximum under the fair-usage law) and you cite the bibliographical material. 

If you have written the type of book that uses quotations informally, and you don’t want footnotes, there is a variety of ways around them. One accepted method is placing all of the citations in a section in the back of the book called Endnotes. If you give the page number on which the quote appears, as well as a few words from the material to identify it, you then list the bibliographical information there. 

The second solution is directly addressing the reader. The key word in such an example is “you.” Let’s say an author has a seven-step process for mothers starting their own business. The author starts with the statement: “Let’s say you want to do this.” The reader is taken through the steps, with possible obstacles raised and requirements, such as permits, pointed out. By using the reader as the subject of the example, you involve her even more than if you used the example of another person.

Exercise: Read through the manuscript, looking for passages in which an example would help anchor the point you’re trying to make. In order to pick an example that fits, read the passage carefully and write out in one sentence what point you’re trying to make. You can then enter that sentence in the search window of a browser to find an appropriate example.

“If we steal thoughts from the moderns, it will be cried down as plagiarism; if from the ancients, it will be cried up as erudition.” 
—Charles Caleb Colton

Copyright @ 2018, John Paine

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