Friday 20 November 2020

Dancing Non-Fiction by Joan Lennon

Happy National Non-Fiction Month! (See Penny Dolan's ABBA post on Writing Fiction; Reading Non-fiction: Two ways of celebrating November.)

Pieter Brueghel the Elder The Wedding Dance (1565) 

(wiki commons)

I'm new to writing non-fiction* and the curve up which I have been learning has been a steep one.  It's been fascinating to find the parts that are the same as writing fiction - things like bringing a character/person to life through the telling detail; whittling away the unnecessary; telling a story that has a strong pulse.  But there have been plenty of differences, and the biggest has been the number of people involved in the process right from the beginning.  It's been quite a crowd!   

Who have been the partners in the dance?

The author - in this case, the authors

The editor - and in this case, as staff shuffles about, another editor to come on board for the final push

The senior editor - who offers another other round of comments and changes and suggestions

The designer - who works on layouts and provides scamps** for the authors and, with the editor, briefs the illustrator.

The illustrator - who, um, illustrates

But a simple list of the dancers didn't prepare me for just how intricate the steps were going to be.  Back and forth; point that toe; tap that heel; slide gracefully round there because until we've heard from X we can't go on with Y; no point adjusting that step sequence until the dance is basically over; proof; proof; proof and hop; let the text lead; let the pictures lead ...

A wise woman told me 'Remember - it's a conversation' and that advice has really helped.  I'm adding to that, especially now as we swirl towards the end, 'Remember - it's a dance'.  Keep moving, mind where you're plonking your feet, and listen to the music.  And when the evening's over, with luck, we'll have ourselves a book we can all be proud of!

* Coming out July 2021 Talking History: 150 Years of Speeches and Speakers by Joan Haig and Joan Lennon, Templar Press, aimed at 8-12 year olds

** It's not just new ways of working - it's new vocabulary as well!  I had no idea that a scamp was not a scallywag, but a sketch.***

*** Don't ask me why.  But if you know, please tell me!

Joan Lennon Instagram  


Susan Price said...

Lovely blog -- and good luck with your non-fiction. I've never heard the term 'scamp' either but your experience sounds rather like mine, when I worked on Super Scientists with Game Changer. I like your comparison to a dance -- with the changes in editor and the several different advisors and commentators, it was a bit like a dizzying reel!

Joan Lennon said...

Thanks Susan - and of course there are editors and all sorts involved in the final production of a fiction book as well. It's just that the first part of writing fiction is a much quieter, solitary affair!

Penny Dolan said...

So good to read that your new book is on its way!

Sue Purkiss said...

I like the comparison to a dance too - very nicely done!

Joan Lennon said...

Thanks Penny and Sue - it's been fascinating learning new stuff!