Can your non-fiction writing still be creative?

Can your non-fiction writing still be creative?

Creative Non-Fiction | Sam Jordison Takeover

For today’s newsletter, we’ve recruited Sam Jordison – author, editor and co-founder of Galley Beggar Press – to explain how non-fiction can be just as creative as other genres and give us some of his expert recommendations. If you’re not sure what makes a good piece of creative non-fiction, or whether to give it a go, read on.    

TUTORED COURSES: Creative Non-Fiction Short Course (10% discount for members)  

Sam takes the lead on this flexible course, perfect for beginners in creative non-fiction or those right at the start of their writing journey. 


This week at Jericho Writers: 

MEMBER EVENTS: Writing Dynamic Scenes with Amita Murray 

TODAY. A scene is the perfect opportunity for the reader to enter your story and live in the world you’ve created. Join this workshop with mystery novel writer Amita Murray, write compelling scenes and see how they fit in a story arc. 


AGENT FEEDBACK: New one-to-ones in January (10% member discount)  

We’re welcoming some brand-new agents to our roster this month, including Alice Williams, Yasmin Kane (Kane Literary) and Deirdre Power (Curtis Brown)! Check out their wish lists and book now for personalised feedback. 


BLOG: A Complete Guide to the Different Genres of Non-Fiction  

If your curiosity is piqued by non-fiction but you’re unsure where you’d fit in as a writer, look no further. In this blog, Sierra Kennedy walks you through the various genres along with non-fiction examples to help you correctly label your book. 


SUCCESS STORY: Just the Beginning: Getting Published by Eleanor Anstruther 

You may have set your sights on publication this year – but sometimes the waiting game can be the hardest part. This blog by Eleanor Anstruther is an honest, emotive perspective on the reality of the process and the importance of staying motivated. 


Creative Non-Fiction with Sam Jordison  

We’ve teamed up with Sam Jordison to bring writers from all backgrounds a simple, accessible introduction to writing creative non-fiction. Here, he’ll bust some myths about the genre as well as offering some guidance and suggestions of his own. 

What is creative non-fiction? 

Okay. Time to come clean. I actually think that all non-fiction writing is creative, in one way or another. The very act of putting a sentence together is creative. But my hope is that the term ‘creative non-fiction’ helps add extra emphasis to the fact that although there must always be a basis in truth and reality to this kind of writing, it’s also a genre in which you can employ a broad range of ideas and techniques. I want to allow you to have fun with the writing and creating vivid scenes, drama, dialogue and whatever it takes to best convey your ideas and stories.  

Who can write creative non-fiction?   

The simple answer here is that anyone can – at the very least – have a go. We all have our own unique perspectives simply by virtue of being human. There are always things you can tell your readers. The more complicated truth is that you won’t know until you’ve tried  – and one of the hopes for this course is that it’s a safe space to test your ideas, to see what kind of skills you might have and to try something new. The other important thing to remember is that writing is a craft. Unless you’re unusually fortunate, you won’t know your level of expertise until you’ve practiced. This is a place – among other things – where you can start that journey. And if you’re wondering if you have stories to tell, or ideas to share, or theories to work out, this is a good place to test all that out. 

How do I know if I have a strong concept? 

Does it matter to you? Does it feel important? Does it feel interesting, or amusing, or urgent, or otherwise worth sharing? If you believe in your idea, there’s always a hope that other people might. There are no guarantees, of course. Publishing is a tough industry. It’s hard to persuade people that your ideas might work. It’s challenging to get those ideas down on the page. But it’s certainly worth trying.  

What familiar narrative techniques from fiction writing are also used in creative non-fiction? 

All of them – and perhaps a few more as well. The type of book you want to write will determine which techniques are most relevant and useful to you, but plenty of non-fiction books employ familiar techniques relating to plotting, scene-painting, description, dialogue and dramatization. There are also all kinds of extra things you can do with fact boxes, footnotes, statistics, research, quotation… As the course title suggests, it’s a place where you can get very creative. 

What are some examples of the more creative end of non-fiction? 

Virginia Woolf – Three Guineas.  

Bill Bryson – A Walk In The Woods 

Toby Litt – Wrestliana 

Geoff Dyer – Out Of Sheer Rage 

George Orwell – Down And Out In Paris and London 

The final thing to say is that this course is made all the better by the people who take part in it.  I always look forward to teaching it and I’m always impressed by the range of ideas and techniques that people bring to the table. The conversations can be just as fascinating when they’re about formative and tentative explorations of what may and may not work as they are about well-developed and clearly marketable concepts. Everyone adds something unique – and so everyone is most welcome. 

Sam Jordison  

Sam Jordison is the author of several bestselling works of non-fiction, co-director of award-winning indie press Galley Beggar, and co-presenter of the Across the Pond podcast with Lori Feathers. Sam also writes for The Guardian and looks after their reading group. He is a Jericho Writers editor and tutors our Creative Non-Fiction short course.

Plus, don’t miss: 

Full Manuscript Assessment (10% member discount) 

Give your manuscript the best chance of succeeding with detailed editorial feedback from a professional book editor. 

Self-Edit Your Novel Course Bursary

In case you missed it, we’ve opened a new window for underrepresented writers to apply for a free place on our self-editing course with Debi Alper and Emma Darwin. This course has been known to change lives – apply by 28 February.  

Success Stories – Call for Interviews 

One of the best parts of helping writers is seeing them thrive and their projects come to fruition. If you’ve hit your goals – getting an agent, a book deal, effectively self-publishing – with a bit of help from us, we’d love to hear from you as part of our success stories blog series. Please contact our marketing assistant Esther at for more details. 

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