Saturday, August 3, 2013

Steve Sheinkin's Workshop: Nonfiction Story Structure

Steve Sheinkin is da bomb.  Well, actually, his book was a big bomb.  Wait.  Okay, let me try that again.

Steve Sheinkin won the Newbery Honor, Sibert Medal and was a National Book Award Finalist for Bomb, his nonfiction book about "The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon."

Steve walks us through the development of his storyboard outline  for "Bomb"

Steve starts his session by telling us his experience with writing movie screenplays and with drawing comics -- and how those yielded tools he uses in his writing today.

He cites both Patricia Highsmith's Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction (she wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley) and Blake Snyder's Save The Cat (a book about writing screenplays) as offering many useful techniques for writing narrative nonfiction.

He shares the step-by-step process he's used for his books The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery and Bomb!, and the room is riveted.

Defining narrative nonfiction as "story-driven nonfiction," Steve explains that you need to look at your nonfiction scenes and how they fit together and ask, how am I going to advance the plot?  (Of course, only using facts.)

"The whole process is like putting together a puzzle."

Using the chapter cards for Bomb, Steve shares the thought process behind creating the book's opening, structure and pacing.

He answers questions that include

figuring out the scope of your project
how you can make a story suspenseful even if people know what's going to happen
working with an editor
trusting your audience, urging us to

"Err on the side of being ambitious."

An excellent workshop!

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