“Chapter 1: Creative Non-Fiction” from STARTERS

DEFINITION

CREATIVE NON-FICTION is a form of prose writing – that is, written in sentences and paragraphs – in which 1) all the details actually happened, 2) the writer is either a participant, a witness, or an expert of what happened, and 3) the organization of the details, as well as the word choice and tone of voice of the writer, are freer than academic essay form.

Review: The Five-Paragraph Academic Essay, from Structures: The Reluctant Writer’s Guide to College Essays:

First, the arrangement of the ACADEMIC ESSAY is strictly organized: The Introduction paragraph’s first sentence sucks the reader into the essay, the reader spirals down the next two or three connecting sentences, and ends with the Thesis Statement, which is the writer’s opinion of the topic at hand. Note: a TOPIC is always a noun – a person, place, thing, or idea. The Body paragraphs have at least three sub-topics that elaborate on the Thesis Statement, one-subtopic per paragraph, with factual, non-fictional supporting details (in at least four sentences) for each sub-topic. Note: each sub-topic becomes the topic sentence for each Body paragraph. Finally, the Conclusion paragraph restates the Thesis Statement, has two or three connecting sentences (usually reviewing key points), and ends with a strong concluding statement that spits the reader out of the essay.

5para

Second, the main goal of an academic essay is to answer a question. Different questions (also called “the essay’s purpose”) call for different answers, explained in the Body paragraphs, which result in different kinds of academic essays:

Different Question = Different Essay Type (or Mode)

  1. “What happened?” = Narration
  2. “What does it look, sound, smell, feel, taste like?” = Description (NOTE: Description rarely is a standalone essay in academic essays. It usually plays a supporting role in the body paragraphs of other essay types, like Narration and Division.)
  3. “How is that done or made?” = Process
  4. “What are its characteristics?” = Division (or Analysis)
  5. “What are the similarities and/or the differences between these two related persons, places, things, or ideas?” = Comparison and/or Contrast
  6. “What are the different kinds of that category of person, place, thing, or idea?” = Classification with Exemplification (Note: While many freshman composition books teach Classification and Exemplification separately, I don’t because I’ve noticed that Classification and Exemplification model essays in those textbooks were interchangeable.)
  7. “What causes that and/or are the consequences of that?” = Cause and Effect
  8. “Why is this right and that wrong? What proof do I have to defend my belief?” = Argument

Also, the language and word choice of the academic essay writer is formal. That is, the writer avoids the pronoun “you” at all times and rarely uses “I”, unless the topic is from personal experience of the writer AND allowed by the writing occasion (for example, if a professor allows the use of “I”). The academic writer avoids slang, casual word choices, and even contractions (for example, using “cannot” instead of “can’t”), as well as being error-free in grammar and mechanics (like punctuation and manuscript style).

Finally, if the writer included information in the academic essay that he or she researched (such as interviewing people or reading print or web information), then the writer must document those sources in the essay itself (called “in-text citation” in MLA style or a superscript number in Chicago Manual of Style) and have a list of sources after the end of the essay (called “Works Cited” in MLA or “Bibliography” in CMS).

In Contrast: The Creative Non-Fiction Essay

In the CREATIVE NON-FICTION ESSAY, you do have a Thesis (your opinion of the topic at hand), but that Thesis is often implied, that is not obviously stated but hinted in the supporting details. In fact, many creative non-fiction starts “cold” – that is, right into the Body without a formal “Introduction” paragraph or section.

As for the Body paragraphs, there is no strict rule of having stated topic sentences nor having a set number of sentences for the supporting details. However, the Body paragraphs can get long, depending on how many essay types (that is, MODES) you choose to elaborate in the topic. Most, if not all, creative non-fiction is mixed-mode: you may start in one mode (like Narration or Description), then switch to another mode (like Comparison/Contrast or Process), and end in yet another mode (like Cause/Effect or Argument). You switch modes because you decide to answer a different question about the topic at hand, but often that “decision-making” isn’t a conscious decision but where your creative non-fiction piece seems to be going.

HUGE TIP: Being aware of these available eight modes will help you avoid or break through writer’s block. If you’re blocked writing in one mode, then try writing in another mode.

With the creative non-fiction essay’s Conclusion, you may finally state your Thesisor not. Like with Introductions, the Conclusion section isn’t formal, without a set number of sentences. However, creative non-fiction essays have a clear indicator that we’ve reached “THE END” such as these, which you can pick and choose:

  • restatement of a discovery or important idea recounted in the essay
  • call to action or a piece of advice
  • prediction of the future
  • epilogue of “where are they now”
  • quote or piece of dialogue
  • open-ended or rhetorical question
  • mirroring of the beginning of the essay

Now, while you, as the creative non-fiction writer, should be as error-free in grammar and mechanics as possible (just like the academic essay writer), your language and word choice is as informal and personal as the topic requires you to be. We frequently find the use of “I,” “you,” slang terms, casual word choices, and contractions in creative non-fiction, depending on the topic, the expected audience, and where the audience will find the creative non-fiction work (whether it’s a blog, a magazine, a newspaper, or a book). That’s why, if you’re interested in the creative non-fiction form, you should read the various published creative non-fiction available.

TIP: a quick search for creative non-fiction essays on Amazon.com can yield some suggestions for anthologies. Also, if you search under “memoir,” you’ll get book-length true-life stories of an author, like David Sedaris and Mary Karr.

Finally, if you do some research for your creative non-fiction essay and include your research in your writing, then just give the full name of the person and the name of the website, book, TV show, and so on (if applicable) in your essay as in-text attribution.

THE WRITING PROCESS

Now that we know what creative non-fiction is, here’s how to write a short work of creative non-fiction.

STAGE I: INVENTION & PREWRITING

INVENTION is coming up with your ideas for your writing. In most creative non-fiction essays that are personal, those ideas come out of your own brain. In writing that needs more information than you have in you, then some of those ideas come out of places that aren’t your own brain: interviews, radio, TV, movies, magazines, books, websites, and even music albums, for examples. (Technically, you’re doing research.) Either way, in INVENTION you go to the place or places where ideas come from; those places of ideas are called “sources.”

Remember, YOU are your most important source, even with research, and ANYTHING you’ve experienced, observed, or even just piqued your curiosity can be a topic in creative non-fiction. The most common topics are a person’s life story (either yours or someone you know), places you’ve been, and areas of human actions you’re interested in (like science, technology, jobs, sports, movies, TV, books, music, fashion, religion/spirituality, human-nature interaction, food, home improvement, education, relationships, and so on.)

PREWRITING is grabbing those ideas and slapping them down on a sheet of paper (or typed quickly on a screen). You can slap them down on a sheet of paper in several ways. I’ll mention three forms of Prewriting that you’ve probably heard of before (at least the concepts, if not the names). From least organized to most organized, they are Freewriting, Cluster/Idea Mapping, and Brainstorm.

THREE PREWRITING METHODS

  1. Freewriting: The Natural But Messy Prewriting

Now, I know that some of you write like this: You stare at a sheet of blank paper or a blank screen for an agonizing amount of time, wondering how to begin that damnable first paragraph. Then, in a flurry of fits and starts, you churn out what you believe are sentences and paragraphs until you run out of ideas. If you don’t make the required word count, you stare some more, try to write more, and repeat yourself somewhere. Then you stop, sick of the whole thing, and declare that you wrote a rough draft (or even the ONLY draft) of your essay.

Well, you didn’t write a draft. What you just did was a form of Prewriting called Freewriting. Freewriting is writing down, as quickly as possible, your ideas, filling up the page. Grammar? Fuggedaboutit. Spelling? Punctuation? Who needs it? It’s not even in English? ¡No problemo! In Freewriting, you’re free from the rules of correct English. Write EXACTLY what’s in your head, as much as you can, as fast as you can. Turn off your mental critic! Be free! Here’s a short example of Freewriting, on the topic of “ice cream” that I’ve come up with:

Ice cream, ice cream, ice cream, yumyumyum. Like ice cream, gives me a brain freeze, though. Probably need a better toothpaste for sensitive teeth. But – what was I trying to say? Right, ice cream. Makes me fat but tastes so good, like on a summer day, melts too fast, wonder if there’s such thing as non-melty ice cream? YUCK! Probably would have all sorts of bleahy chemicals in it so that it wouldn’t melt YUCK YUCK YUCK L Anyways – what was I saying? Right, ice cream. Vanilla’s always a good standby, but kinda boring, ya think? Same with chocolate, though my chocolate addict friends would probably kill me for saying that. Oh well. What I REALLY like is pistachio ice cream with real whole pistachios in them. MMM – good. Hrm… I’m hungry. Think I’ll buy ice cream now….

You’ve probably noticed that my Freewriting has very few spelling and punctuation mistakes, but most folks’ Freewriting likely don’t look this nice. An omigosh-this-is-illegible-messy-only-I-can-understand-it Freewriting is normal and okay. As an English teacher, I’ve internalized a lot of spelling and grammar stuff (after all, it’s part of my job). So I don’t make many grammar mistakes these days, and, actually, this is how I think and talk in real life. As a result, my Freewriting will reflect my current communications skill. Similarly, your Freewriting will reflect your current communications skill.

Freewriting is like talking – you’re free to express what’s on your mind. You do it when you email, text, and comment online. You blurt something out. You ramble. That’s okay because you’re free.

UNFORTUNATELY, since you’re free, you have a lot of work, trying to organize these thoughts into something that looks like a finished work. What you end up is a Freewriting with circles, cross-outs, arrows, added sentences or chunks of paragraphs here and there, which make your Freewriting look as if a football play-book just exploded. Fixing a super-messy Freewriting can get time-consuming, which isn’t good when you have a looming deadline or you are multitasking like crazy and writing feels like the last thing on your To-Do List. So you might want to use a more organized form of Prewriting than Freewriting. Or you might want to use Freewriting in addition to a more organized form of Prewriting.

2. Cluster: More Organized than Freewriting

In Cluster (also known as Idea Mapping), you draw a big circle in the center of your paper and label it with your topic. Then, jot down your ideas that branch out of that big circle. When you run out of ideas on one branch, go back to the big circle, look at the topic again, and make a new branch of ideas. Do this at least one more time (to have at least three branches of ideas), but you can make more branches. Each branch becomes an idea map of where your ideas are going and how they are connected to the Big Picture, that is, the Topic. Here’s an example I’ve come up with, using the “ice cream” topic again.

cluster

With a Cluster, you can prune away parts of the branches (or even whole branches that don’t seem to fit what you want to say) much more easily than Freewriting since there aren’t sentence parts in the way to wade through. You can quickly see when you don’t have enough branches, reminding you to come up with more ideas to slap down. Notice that I used words, phrases, and even little drawings (the happy and sad faces). Whatever you need to get those ideas out is all good; just get them out — fast.

SUPER BIG TIP: You probably realize by now that a “cleaned up” Freewriting, with all those cross-outs, circles, and arrows, is just a Freewriting with a Cluster done to it. Unless you’re in love with Freewriting as a Prewriting tool, why don’t you save yourself some time and just skip to a Cluster?

3. Brainstorm: Make a List

In a Brainstorm, you make a top-to-bottom sequential list of ideas that come to mind when you think about the topic. Like Freewriting and Cluster, don’t censor yourself; whatever pops into your head, list it as quickly as you can. The longer the list, the more ideas you can work with. Here’s an example, using the “ice cream” topic again:

ICE CREAM!!!!!!!
yummy
sweet
cold, but if too cold, can’t get scoop through
soft-serve invented ‘cause of this?
don’t like soft-serve, prefer REAL ice cream
frozen yogurt – bleah!
feel sorry for lactose-intolerant
soy substitute invented because of it?
is there goat-milk ice cream?
bleah! 😦 😦
think I’ll stop now

TIME OUT: Finding Your Thesis

Whatever you chose as your Prewriting method, you can use Freewriting, Cluster, or Brainstorm to explore your beliefs and opinions as a way of finding your overall opinion, your thesis, if you don’t have one already. Remember: a thesis is simply your topic plus your opinion of the topic. For the purpose of keeping your details focused on your overall opinion, you should be able to make your thesis into a sentence ending with a period. For instance, out of one topic “ice cream,” I can create three different theses:

  • Ice cream is unhealthy.
    Ice cream has a weird history.
    Ice cream has great flavors.

Each of these theses alone would produce a different essay from each other because the details supporting one thesis does not support the thesis of another. HOWEVER: you can join those three theses into one, to create a mixed-mode creative non-fiction essay:

  • Even though too much ice cream is unhealthy, I love it because it has a weird history, with fantastic flavors.

It’s really that simple, which is good since you can’t leave the Invention & Prewriting stage until you have a clearly specific Thesis.

STAGE II: ARRANGEMENT

In Arrangement, you organize your ideas into a plan that you use as a roadmap for your Drafting. This stage is an important bridge between Prewriting and Drafting. The most common method of arrangement is the Outline, and I will provide the Outline of each kind of mode as a building block for a mixed-mode creative non-fiction essay. Just choose the Outline “block” that best fits your Prewriting (or just even parts of an outline block) and put them together like building blocks.

Time-saving Tip: You can use each Outline as an empty but organized form that you fill out, just like a job application form. You slap your ideas down on a sheet of paper (Prewriting) AND organize those ideas (Arrangement), all on one tool, which cuts down on time in the pre-drafting stages of the Writing Process.

NARRATION: explains the story of the topic

  1. Body or Section 1: Exposition = Overview of settings (time and location) and characters (the key people in story); Early Rising Action = the start of conflict between characters, nature, society, or even the self.
  2. Body or Section 2: Increasing Rising Action (conflict getting much worse) that leads to the Climax = where the story “peaks,” either the best or worst thing that happened; usually some sort of discovery, revelation, or decision.
  3. Body or Section 3: Falling Action to Denouement = what happened after the climactic moment, a resolution of everybody involved. Can be a happy, sad, or mixed ending.


PROCESS
: explains how the topic does something or is done

  1. Body or Section 1: Stage 1 – getting ready, gathering materials, beginning steps.
  2. Body or Section 2: Stage 2 – continuing the steps; the hardest, busiest, or most tedious steps.
  3. Body or Section 3: Stage 3 – finishing up and the end result.


DIVISION (ANALYSIS): explains overall opinion of the topic and its key characteristics

  1. Body or Section 1: Characteristic 1 – illustrate with one or more descriptive examples
  2. Body or Section 2: Characteristic 2 – illustrate with one or more descriptive examples
  3. Body or Section 3: Characteristic 3 – illustrate with one or more descriptive examples


COMPARISON/CONTRAST:
explains how the topic (Subject A) is similar or different from another (Subject B)

 Point-By-Point Method

  1. Body or Section 1: Point 1 – compare and/or contrast Subjects A & B on this Point, with detailed, descriptive examples.
  2. Body or Section 2: Point 2 — compare and/or contrast Subjects A & B on this Point, with detailed, descriptive examples.
  3. Body or Section 3: Point 3 — compare and/or contrast Subjects A & B on this Point, with detailed, descriptive examples.

Subject-by-Subject Method

  1. Body or Section 1: Subject A – explain this Subject regarding Points 1, 2 & 3, with detailed examples.
  2. Body or Section 2: Subject B – explain this Subject regarding Points 1, 2 & 3, with detailed examples.


CLASSIFICATION:
explains the diversity of the topic by its different types

  1. Body or Section 1: Type 1 – illustrate with one or more descriptive examples
  2. Body or Section 2: Type 2 – illustrate with one or more descriptive examples
  3. Body or Section 3: Type 3 – illustrate with one or more descriptive examples

 

CAUSE/EFFECT: four methods, depending on what part of the topic’s timeline you are analyzing.

 Classification Method of Causes: Different Kinds of Causes

  1. Body or Section 1: Past Cause 1 – with detailed examples
  2. Body or Section 2: Past Cause 2 – with detailed examples
  3. Body or Section 3: Past Cause 3 – with detailed examples

Classification Method of Effects: Different Kinds of Effects

  1. Body or Section 2: Current/Future Effect 1 – with detailed examples
  2. Body or Section 3: Current/Future Effect 2 – with detailed examples
  3. Body or Section 4: Current/Future Effect 3 – with detailed examples

Causal Chain Method (The Domino Effect Method)

  1. Body or Section 1: Root Cause A causes Effect B – with detailed examples
  2. Body or Section 2: Effect B causes Effect C – with detailed examples
  3. Body or Section 3: Effect C causes Final Effect D, which is the event being analyzed – with detailed examples

Backwards Causal Chain Method (The Detective Method)

  1. Body or Section 1: Event or Phenomenon caused by Immediate Cause C – with detailed examples
  2. Body or Section 2: Immediate Cause C caused by Cause B – with detailed examples
  3. Body or Section 3: Cause B caused by Root Cause A — with detailed examples


ARGUMENT: why your opinion of a debatable topic is correct and other opinions are incorrect – two methods

CLASSIC (DEFINITION) METHOD

INTRODUCTION: Introduce and give background of the issue; state your CLAIM (your opinion of a debatable topic)

  1. Body or Section 1: Your REASON: Explain why you believe your Claim is true, using common-sense opinion/reasoning, based on a definition that you have
  2. Body or Section 2: Your EVIDENCE: Give concrete, specific examples (that is, EVIDENCE) to prove your Reason exists in the real world
  3. Body or Section 3: Your OPPOSITION: Summarize the opposition’s viewpoint and respond to it

ROGERIAN (COMPROMISE) METHOD

INTRODUCTION: Give the background of the problem to the present-day, pointing out how both you and the opposition are negatively affected (COMMON GROUND); state your CLAIM.

  1. Body or Section 1: Opposition’s COUNTERCLAIMS — State your opposition’s positions and calmly explain the contexts (circumstances and conditions) in which they may be valid; provide EVIDENCE and/or logical reasoning.
  2. Body or Section 2: Your CLAIM — State your position and calmly explain the context (circumstances and conditions) in which it is valid and works better than other positions; provide EVIDENCE and/or logical reasoning.
  3. Body or Section 3: BENEFITS — Explain how your position benefits the opposition – provide EVIDENCE and/or logical reasoning. Offer possible compromises (CONCESSIONS) that benefit both you and the opposition – provide EVIDENCE and/or logical reasoning.

STAGE III: DRAFTING

Now that you have your ideas roughly organized into your chosen Arrangement, use it as a checklist to write your Rough Draft, which is the end-product of the Drafting stage of the Writing Process. In the Drafting stage, you turn your Arrangement into sentences and paragraphs. IMPORANT NOTE: At this stage, don’t worry about grammar yet; that’s a later step.

Still — “How the heck do I start my draft?” you ask.

Here are possible first sentences that could begin a creative non-fiction essay (in this case, about ice cream)

  1. Historical Background: Give a brief history of the topic. Example: According to some historians, ice cream was once only eaten by the very rich in eighteenth century France.
  2. Anecdote/Personal Story: Give a brief personal story. Ex: I was four years old when I had my first taste of ice cream.
  3. Question: Ask a question. Ex: Why is ice cream so popular?
  4. Quotation: Quote somebody. Ex: My mother always said, “Ice cream will make you fat.”
  5.  Definition: Define an important word. Ex: Ice cream is just frozen cream, milk, and sugar.
  6.  Contradiction: State the opposite of your thesis. Ex: Some people think ice cream is bad for you.
  7.  Fact/Statistic: Give an important fact about the topic. Ex: Some ice cream prices range from $2.00 to $8.00 a pint.
  8. Surprising Trivia: Give a piece of trivia. Ex: Ice cream can be any flavor, like jalapeño pepper and yam.

Now, follow your Arrangement’s outline blocks and supply your SUPPORTING DETAILS:

For Narration, you need to “flesh out” the story’s events, characters, and setting. That’s where Description comes in. Relying on your five senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste), explain the physical characteristics of the people, places, and things in your story. (Most people rely on sight and hearing the most in description.)

While a journalist or scientist uses Objective Description to describe these things as logically (that is, objectively) as possible, a personal creative non-fiction essayist uses Subjective Description to describe those same things as emotionally (that is, subjectively) as possible. In a personal essay, those descriptions with emotional pull connect the reader to you, show the movie that is in your head, and therefore create a rich and specific story that stays even when the reader has finished your essay.

For Process, each detail is a chronological stage of the process, with each stage having several steps. In a Process, always remember to keep your readers’ needs in mind. What do you know that a newbie most likely don’t know? Don’t leave ANYTHING out. 

For Division, Comparison/Contrast, and Classification, your descriptive examples can be personal experiences, facts, statistics, or quotes from participants, witnesses, and experts. Whatever your examples are, make sure that they are 1) specific, 2) concrete, and 3) relevant.

For Cause and Effect: since it is always based on Narration, you can’t answer why something happened unless you clearly know what happened. In analyzing an event’s narrative timeline, you accurately identify causes that may be remote in time but are also main (or root) causes of the event or phenomenon. While immediate (that is, recent) causes are easy to identify, they are often only contributory (secondary) causes. So it is best for you to analyze all causes before settling for the top three or more causes.

Also, don’t confuse chronology (A happened before B) with causality (A caused B). Just because A preceded B doesn’t necessarily mean A caused B. It may just be coincidence unless there is plenty of evidence to link the two by causality. Mistaking chronology for causality is called a “post hoc fallacy,” a common error in reasoning.

Finally, your descriptive examples can be personal experiences, facts, statistics, or quotes from participants, witnesses, and experts. Whatever your examples are, make sure that they are 1) specific, 2) concrete, and 3) relevant.

For Argument, in addition to evidence and logical chains of reasoning, if you researched outside sources and include them in your Argument section, here’s a quick explanation of how to embed (that is, incorporate) outside sources into your Argument section:

        1. Your Topic Sentence.
        2. Your explanation of what that topic sentence means (optional)
        3. Beginning identifying label of person’s name and/or title of the source + the example pulled from a source, either “Quoted,” paraphrased, or summarized.
        4. If you have more than one example, have transitions between examples – Also, In addition, Next, Or, However, On the other hand

Note: This method also applies to the non-Argument blocks in your creative non-fiction essay if you did research in those areas.

Regarding Dialogue

If your topic includes people talking, then you’ll need to have dialogue. If you’re not sure about the punctuation of dialogue, then here’s a quick review from Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab web page, “Quotation Marks with Fiction, Poetry, and Titles”:

Write each person’s spoken words, however brief, as a separate paragraph. Use commas to set off dialogue tags such as “she said” or “he explained.” If one person’s speech goes on for more than one paragraph, use quotation marks to open the dialogue at the beginning of each paragraph. However, do not use closing quotation marks until the end of the final paragraph where that character is speaking.

For example:
“Did you read all these, Pa?” I asked as I marveled at his collection.
“Yes,” he replied, “at least twice. Sometimes more.”
“Really?” I couldn’t help sounding surprised. “Why?”

 Use a Word Processor

You can draft with pen and paper or with keyboard and word processing software. But for those who compose with pen and paper, type your completed draft into a word processor as soon as possible. Revision & Editing will be easier with an electronic version of your Rough Draft as opposed to a handwritten version. Trust me on this.

Also, don’t forget to save your file often and to make a print-out of your word-processed Rough Draft just in case your word processor file gets lost, corrupted, or infected with an electronic virus. You wouldn’t want to start your Rough Draft from scratch if something goes wrong with your file. Therein lie insanity and much anger. Trust me on this.

A brief word about file formats: Microsoft Word automatically saves its files as .docx files. Microsoft Works automatically saves its files as .wps files. Apple Pages saves its files as .pages files. Google Docs and Open Office save their files as .odt or .xml files. Many schools and libraries still run older versions of Microsoft Word, which CANNOT read .wps, .pages, .odt, or .xml files. So if you don’t use MS Word, then make sure you “Save As” your Rough Draft as a .docx, .rtf, or .pdf file.

Also, save your file with an easily identifiable name and in an easy-to-find place so that you don’t accidentally misplace your draft.

STAGE IV: Revision & Editing

 With a completed, typed Rough Draft, you move to the fourth and last stage of the Writing Process: REVISION & EDITING.

In REVISION, check for three big things:

Look again to your Arrangement and then back to your Rough Draft, making sure that you followed the organization of your Arrangement and aren’t missing any important parts.

  1. If your paper is too short, add any additional details to the body paragraph or body paragraphs. You might even add whole, new body paragraphs, but be careful not to repeat yourself. Write down any new sub-topics to your Arrangement to remind yourself not to repeat sub-topics you’ve already gone over.
  2. If you find details that digress, that is, get off the point of your thesis, then delete those details and replace them with details that do relate to your thesis.
  3. If you find details that digress, that is, get off the point of your thesis, then delete those details and replace them with details that do relate to your thesis.

In EDITING, do these three steps:
1. Correct any stylistic and grammatical errors, like confused words, misspelled words, bad punctuation, sentence errors (like fragments and run-ons), and deficient transition words. Consult your personal grammar source, whether it’s a book or a grammar website like The Purdue Online Writing Lab as needed: (http://owl.english.purdue.edu). Also, run the spell-checker and grammar-checker of your word processor, but don’t do this blindly. YOU need to check the electronic checkers to make sure that you agree with their suggestions or not. After all, anyone who has ever dealt with really bad autocorrect while texting can see that these electronic checkers are not perfect.

  • Correct any errors in the manuscript style per your instructor’s or editor’s requirements. For instance, in MLA style, make sure you have
  • a centered essay title,
  • proper paragraph breaks (0.5” first line indenting the first sentence of each paragraph, with no additional spaces between the paragraphs),
  • one-inch margins all around,
  • a book-type font style like Times New Roman, Cambria, or Calibri,
  • font size no larger than 12, and
  • a name header or cover page, according to your instructor’s or editor’s requirement
  • EVERYTHING double-spaced.

2. Have another person (a classmate, tutor, or knowledgeable friend) read your EDITED Rough Draft so that he or she can spot errors or problems that you may have overlooked. This “second opinion” is called Peer Review, and all experienced writers do this. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.

3. Save your file again, in the correct file format and in more than one place. It is now a polished draft. If you submit it to your teacher or editor (either by print-out or electronically), then this draft is called the Final Draft. The Final Draft is the end product of the Writing Process. You’re done with your creative non-fiction essay!

LET’S START

Read “Chapter 2: Creative Non-Fiction Examples” to serve as models for you. Then write two creative non-fiction essays based on your personal experiences over any topic, using AT LEAST the Narration mode and one other mode: 700-1000 words and then 1000-1300 words.

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