Writing Nonfiction

Hi, I’m Betsy Miller.

I write both nonfiction and fiction. I recently wrote a nonfiction piece for the International Hip Dysplasia Institute (IHDI). You can read it at the following link:
http://www.hipdysplasia.org/Patient-Stories/Infant-and-Child/Isabelle/default.aspx

Some parents wanted to share their experiences with their young daughter Isabelle’s hip dysplasia treatments. This sort of content can be tremendously helpful to other parents, but it can be confusing, especially in this case since several surgeries were involved.

To make this piece easier to navigate and less confusing, this is what I did.

  1. Wrote a hopeful title for the piece.
  2. Edited the parents’ comments for length, conciseness, and sequence being careful to maintain their meaning and focus.
  3. Recommended where to put images to support the text.
  4. Put in headings for the different treatments.
  5. Wrote text explaining what the surgeries entailed, revising content from the surgeon into everyday language as much as possible. I asked that this content be formatted differently from the personal experience text. The IHDI decided to set off the explanatory text with a different color background.

I’m really pleased with how it turned out. This is a work for hire piece. That is a common arrangement for website content. The finished piece belongs to the IHDI, which paid me when the work was done. There’s no byline, which is also common in work for hire arrangements with businesses or organizations.

Equilibrium is now available in ebook format

I just got the news that my short story Equilibrium is available at the Untreed Reads store, and also in a number of other ebook venues.

I can get my author’s copy in an ebook format of my choice. I don’t actually have an ebook reader, but if anyone in the group wants a freebie, let me know and I can request your preferred format. The first person who asks me will get the freebie.

 

Crafting a Story Description

My writing assignment was to come up with a brief description of my short story Equilibrium, which falls into the literary romance category. Though I have experience writing descriptions for nonfiction, I had never done this for a short story. I looked around a bit online and wrote this description:
After her divorce from a difficult husband, Emily Walker’s life contracts into a steady routine of work and solitude. Wanting more, she takes her first steps out of her comfort zone to connect with someone new.
My first attempt didn’t fly because although it was technically accurate, it didn’t capture the feeling of the piece. Here is what the publisher said in response:
The description is ok, but it doesn’t really address the magic of what happens in the restaurant, and that’s really the key to the story. So I think what you have is a good start, but how about going a little deeper into the story? Show off the angles that make this stand out from other romance stories of similar storyline.
I pondered that. I went online and searched for advice about writing pitches for romances. After a fair amount of thought and effort, I came up with two possible approaches. I decided to send both:
Option 1
Worn out at the end of an ordinary day, Emily stops at a roadside diner, where she meets Jim, a sensitive man who intuitively understands her. Can she move beyond the pain of her broken marriage and rediscover the simple pleasures in life over a bowl of soup?
Option 2
At the end of a long day at work, Emily stops for a quick bite to eat. Instead, she finds a respite from the stress of everyday life, and a surprising connection with a kind, unassuming man, who really understands her.
I also included this note: Am I getting closer? I’m willing to keep at it until you’re happy with the result.
This time, the publisher was happy with my efforts. Here is what the editor said:
I’m loving Option 1, so I’ll be going with that. We should be sending you an “it’s live” announcement very soon!
My final response to the editor:
Yay! That’s ahead of schedule, and very exciting.
What I took from this experience, is that just because something is short, doesn’t mean that it is simple to write. I would say that it took me about 2-1/2 hours in total to come up with the final two sentences that the publisher is using. Also, until you start writing professionally, you might not realize how much publishers rely on writers to craft chunks of their own promotional copy. The publisher might revise what the author comes up with, but they know we can write, so they’ll ask the author to provide at least a starting point.
As a writer it is worth spending some time on a description like this because it helps your work sell. It can also help you figure out what the real essence of your story or novel is about, and how it is most likely to connect with readers.