Ten essential resources for nonfiction writers

A creative nonfiction instructor opens up her truthteller's toolbox and shares the aids she relies on most.

Essential resources for nonfiction

Success: examples to follow

6. This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff 

Every book makes an implicit promise to the reader, and those that disappoint fail to keep it. In the first five paragraphs, This Boy’s Life outlines that promise more adroitly than any other memoir, and at the end of its 288 pages you will be more than satisfied. Other works of creative nonfiction may come and go, but in a hundred years we’ll still be reading this literary masterpiece.

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7. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls 

Want to write memoir? Take this book as your model. An antidote to the overwrought personal story, the narrative is clean, straightforward, and never places blame, even though the events described make it clear: Walls grew up in a disturbingly dysfunctional family. The Glass Castle is accessible and dispels the myth that writing needs to be “fancy” to succeed.

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8. Wild by Cheryl Strayed 

The story of Strayed’s collapse and recovery from the loss of her mother is one of the best examples of framing, a structural device every writer can benefit from. The author uses her hike along the Pacific Crest Trail as the basis of her tale and peppers it with flashbacks to childhood, her mother’s illness and death, and the disintegration of her marriage. Wild is a journey on many levels, and we’re happy to tag along.

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