The question, what is prescriptive non-fiction, isn’t the only question I received at a recent workshop I taught called Is It Time to Write Your Book. However, it’s one I have also asked so I thought it was an excellent topic to cover.
When I first started planning my book I thought there were two choices: fiction or non-fiction. But deciding on non-fiction is just the first step.
I outlined this a bit when I explained how word count changes based on book genre. Here is the TL;DR version.
- Narrative Non-Fiction
And yes, there are more genres within non-fiction (personal development, practical non-fiction, general non-fiction). But that’s another topic for another day.
What is Prescriptive Non-Fiction?
Prescriptive non-fiction books are known as being strong topical guides or instructional how-to books. They help readers accomplish something or acquire a new skill.
Here are a few examples.
- How to Walk in High Heels
- How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically
- Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First-Draft Novel in Thirty Days
From these titles you know what you’re getting. First you’ll learn how to walk in high heels, then how to get great book reviews and finally how to write a first draft in 30 days.
What does it take to write prescriptive non-fiction?
In order to write a prescriptive non-fiction book the author has to know and understand the topic at a deep level. Deeper than the people who are learning the topic. An expert, if you will. Another option, if the author is not an expert, is to curate interviews with experts and compile the information into a book.
Writing prescriptive non-fiction is a good option if you’re looking to write something but you don’t have an idea yet. Because chances are you’re an expert about something. Think about what you know a lot about, what you have interest in and what you think you could spend a lot of time talking about without getting bored. The more specific you can get, the better.
If you’re looking for a challenge, read Nina Amir’s How to Blog a Prescriptive Nonfiction Book in 30 Days. Of course you’ll need a tight writing schedule to accomplish that but I know you’re up for it.