Creating Compelling Non-Fiction
Open to all
Limited to 12 participants
Creative non-fiction has been breaking out of its niche to become an increasingly central component of the literary scene. For those wishing to enter this vibrant and thriving field, having one’s work read and constructively critiqued by an established writer and a group of one’s peers is an invaluable experience. Creating Compelling Non-Fiction is precisely such an opportunity.
Our workshopping will be done from the ground up. Analysis will be rigorous, readings will be close, group feedback will be thorough, supportive, and respectful. As workshop leader I will provide advice and critique that is both pertinent to the type of non-fiction being addressed and applicable to the genre as a whole. I’ll strive to provide practical and creative tips drawn from my extensive experience with short- and long-form journalism and book-length non-fiction.
Along the way, numerous questions will be confronted and addressed:
- What are the qualities and writing options unique to this form?
- What are the lines between non-fiction, creative non-fiction, and fiction?
- Are some subjects and narrative strategies better suited to a non-fiction treatment than others?
- What distinguishes memoir from autobiography?
- What is the writer’s responsibility to factual rigour in non-fiction?
- How much research is too much research?
- What are some of the ways to invest non-fiction writing with the narrative pull of good fiction?
- Precisely what story does the writer wish to tell?
- What are the choices—sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page by page—that will best serve that story, and lead to effective and engaging non-fiction?
- Finally, how do writers know when their piece is done?
Throughout the workshop I will stress the mutual, collective nature of our undertaking. Offering one’s work to the eyes of others is an essential step in the journey of all writers, and attaining a degree of comfort with that process is its own reward.
To complement and underpin our workshopping, a short list of works by some of the contemporary masters of the form will be read and discussed. I will emphasize the general importance of reading as deeply as possible, especially in the area in which one wishes to write; where useful, I will provide personally tailored suggestions-for-further-reading lists for participants. A guest appearance by a prominent Montreal-based writer and journalist will be incorporated.
Ian McGillis has been writing about books and visual arts for the Montreal Gazette for more than twenty years. His critically acclaimed novel A Tourist’s Guide to Glengarry was shortlisted for the QWF’s Hugh MacLennan Prize For Fiction and McAuslan First Book Prize, and was a finalist for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour.