Writer's Guide to Nonfiction [NOOK Book]


A WRITER’S COMPASSDirection for your writing career

Don’t get lost on the publishing path. Just forge ahead with the Writer’s Compass. Drawing on decades of professional experience as an author, editor, writing instructor, mentor, and marketing consultant, Elizabeth Lyon helps you navigate the art and craft of writing—with clear, easy-to-follow directions:



Getting Your Bearings

Understand your ...

See more details below
Writer's Guide to Nonfiction

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
BN.com price


A WRITER’S COMPASSDirection for your writing career

Don’t get lost on the publishing path. Just forge ahead with the Writer’s Compass. Drawing on decades of professional experience as an author, editor, writing instructor, mentor, and marketing consultant, Elizabeth Lyon helps you navigate the art and craft of writing—with clear, easy-to-follow directions:



Getting Your Bearings

Understand your purpose and your audience; learn to refine your ideas, select effective titles, and find the best method of organization for any piece




Use checklists and guidelines to spot weaknesses and problems in leads, organization, conclusions, and style—and find out how to correct them



Learning to Market

Map a successful cover letter, query letter, or proposal, and discover a four-step process to facilitate publication and sales



Refining Your Vision

Brainstorm to gain perspective on your writing—and how it fits with your values, goals, and dreams


Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"You know something others don't know and need," insists Lyon (Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write), and in her confident, optimistic writing primer, the first in the Writer's Compass series, she shows would-be authors how to find their area of expertise and turn it into an article, essay or even a book. Walking her readers through the writing process, from "What to I want to Say?" to "Writing About Ideas" and from "Troubleshooting and Problem Solving" to "Learning How to Market," Lyon crafts a detailed and practical course for the nonfiction novice. Those with a partially formed idea can turn to her section on different types of nonfiction pieces and the subjects to which they're suited, or her chapter on slants to determine the tone of a future piece. (A proponent of the look-before-you-leap school of creative endeavor, Lyon advocates a lot of planning before beginning a writing project.) Writers with a slightly clearer idea can ponder different leads, such as the one-line hook or the direct address, and methods of organization such as comparison and contrast. Almost all the chapters include multiple "maps," which might list "outstanding" memoirs and "choices for ending well," or guide readers through researching travel pieces and writing a query letter. Her troubleshooting section offers checklists for success, and, like all the other chapters, includes a sidebar on recommended reading. This detailed and practical guide may not guarantee writing hopefuls a book deal, but it distinguishes itself from other writing how-tos by its concrete and economical advice. (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Lyon, who wrote Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write and The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit, has written a direct, fairly easy-to-follow guide to writing nonfiction. The first book in the Writer's Compass series, A Writer's Guide to Nonfiction is arranged in a manner that might seem a bit clichéd at first: North, South, East, and West. A closer look, however, shows that this method of arrangement makes sense. For example, the sub-heading for "North" is "Getting Your Bearings," which includes topics such as "What Do I want to Say?" and "How Do I Begin?" "South" is devoted to troubleshooting your writing; "East" is devoted to marketing your nonfiction piece; and "West" is devoted to "Exploring New Horizons." What separates this book from other books in the "How To Write" genre? The "maps," which are not really maps per se, but a list of guidelines to help writers get organized—even before they write a single word of a book or article. These maps help writers organize their ideas, determine who their audience is, and figure out how to do research for particular types of nonfiction pieces. Some other maps include books written by other authors as examples of suggested reading. Map 8-1, for example, is "A Reading List of Outstanding Memoirs," and it lists these memoirs in sub-categories, such as "On Bad Childhoods," "On Happy Childhoods," and "Going To Schools." I also appreciate that many different types of nonfiction are explored, such as travel writing, technical writing, self-help writing, and inspirational writing. This is a nice change from books that assume that all "nonfiction" writing is, say, newspaper article writing. I'm sometimes confused by how the categories are arranged; forexample, I don't understand how inspirational writing can be considered a "how-to" article. A Writer's Guide... is strong when it comes to describing how to structure, organize, and research your nonfiction piece, and how to tailor and market your piece to a target audience. The book's weakness is the lack of examples of other authors' work—I personally find it useful to look at a few paragraphs from pieces by other authors, to get the gist of how a writing technique can actually be put into action. This book would be extremely helpful for a writing teacher to help convey to his or her students the importance of organization in the process of writing. KLIATT Codes: A—Recommended for advanced students and adults. 2003, Penguin Putnam, 225p. index.,
— Janice Bees
Library Journal
Lyon (Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write) here has an ambitious agenda, aiming to cover what nonfiction is and how to write it, the various types of nonfiction (from essays and memoirs to travel writing and family histories), audience analysis, motivation, and finding a rhetorical organizational strategy. There are also sections on how to market yourself and get your writing published. Unfortunately, the ambitiousness of the task, coupled with the vastness of the subject, makes for a sometimes superficial treatment. As a result, this little book might best be titled "Nonfiction for Dummies" because of its very elementary, sometimes even simplistic approach. Though readers interested in the practicalities of publishing and marketing their work will find the section "Learning How To Market" useful, those looking for guidance on the craft of writing may be disappointed.-Herbert E. Shapiro, Empire State Coll. of SUNY at Rochester Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101153505
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/4/2003
  • Series: Writer's Compass Series
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 10,000
  • File size: 455 KB

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Lyon, a regular speaker at writing conferences and retreats nationwide, has been a contributor to Writer’s Digest and is a mentor, editor, and teacher for many writers. The author of Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write and The Sell Your Novel Toolkit, she lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

North: Getting Your Bearings
1 What Do I Want to Say? 3
2 Who Are My Readers? 18
3 What Form Can My Writing Take? 24
4 How Can I Refine My Idea? 38
5 How Do I Begin? 47
6 How Do I Develop the Middle? 67
7 How Can I End Well? 80
8 Writing About People 88
9 Writing About Ideas 112
10 Writing About Things 126
11 Writing About Places 141
South: Troubleshooting and Problem Solving
12 Troubleshooting and Problem Solving 159
East: Your Rising Star
13 Learning How to Market 185
West: Refining Your Vision
14 Exploring New Horizons 211
Index 220
About the Author 226
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2003

    The only book you need

    Elizabeth Lyon's books are must buys for any wanna be writers. I owe the sale of my first book to Elizabeth and her books - they helped me create a polished, professional looking proposal which sold quickly. Elizabeth is a very practical, down to earth writer, and her easy to understand instructions are much better than most other how to write books. With the help of her books I was able to write the perfect proposal, and I'll be using my copy of A Writer's Guide to Nonfiction when I write my next book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2003

    A Must for Nonfiction Writers

    Besides providing a well-organized overview of all aspects of nonfiction writing, A Writer's Guide to Nonfiction covers specific techniques for particular types of writing--such as memoir, self-help, travel--then breaks these categories into subcategories, and suggests the most likely organizing scheme for each. In another section, the book discusses the most important aspects of marketing, such as writing query letters, and provides examples. There are practical tips on every page of this straighforward guide. Every struggling writer needs a copy. For a teacher of nonfiction writing, this is the perfect textbook.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)