Writing Non-fiction – Organising Content


Writing Non-fiction – Organising Content

Letters of the alphabet are the building blocks of words. Words are the building blocks of sentences. Sentences are the building blocks of paragraphs. Paragraphs are the building blocks of chapters. Chapters are the building blocks of books.

Writing is a puzzle but unlike a jigsaw puzzle that has its pieces already created for you and which you have to put in the right place to complete a pre-designed image, writing that is your own is created by you, word by word, with the final product often a blurry vision - at least initially.

In this tutorial, we will examine the building blocks of the chapters in your book – the words, the sentences and the paragraphs and how you manipulate them to communicate your idea. You will learn to use these to write your book.

Writing non-fiction – choice of words

As a writer, your job is to use words to create images of your subject matter in your reader’s mind to help them to understand and appreciate the work that you create. Try to use “loaded” words to communicate your idea. These words are strong verbs and adjectives. Use adverbs sparingly. "Strong" verbs are great substitutes. To find the right word to communicate your idea, use a thesaurus.

Writing non-fiction – Sentences

A sentence is a complete thought that ends with either a full-stop, question mark or exclamation mark. For example:

I am writing a book.

Am I writing a book?

I am writing a book!

The above are simple sentences. You will write a few complex sentences as you write your book. A basic grammar book such as First Aid in English should help you, and you probably have one lying around the house somewhere.

Writing non-fiction – paragraphs

Each chapter of your book will be based on a theme. This theme is divided into parts. Each part is explained in a paragraph or several paragraphs.

A paragraph is a number of sentences, usually five or more, about an element of the subject of the chapter. It has a topic sentence, which is one sentence that tells the reader what the paragraph is about. You develop this idea with the subsequent sentences in the paragraph. Here is a template for such a paragraph.

First sentence – topic sentence

Second sentence – explains the topic sentence

Third sentence – an example to illustrate the point made

Fourth sentence – explain the example

Fifth sentence – wrap up the paragraph, either by summarising the point you made in the paragraph and/or transitioning to the next point.

Your sentences may be long or short, simple or complex, but aim to keep them as simple as possible.

Here is an example of a fleshed out chapter based on the potential book about short story writing that we discussed in Writing non-fiction – Book writing 2.

One chapter of that potential book is about plot, so let’s organise this chapter.

1. Definition

The definition of plot may be arranged as follows:

Sentence 1 – a general statement that captures the essence of plot or a rhetorical question about plot

Sentence 2 – an explanation of the statement in sentence one or an answer to the question posed.

Sentence 3 – an example based on sentences 1 and 2 above

Sentence 4 – explain the example

Sentence 5 – summarise your point and transition to the next point.

Get a copy of your favourite non-fiction book and see the extent to which the author/authors followed this sequence in writing paragraphs.

After your extensive or brief definition of plot, move on to explain the elements of plot.

2. Elements of Plot

2.a. Exposition or Introduction

2.b. Conflict which involves rising action (suspense)

2.c. Climax

2.d. Falling action

2.e. Resolution

Each of these elements may need more than one paragraph to capture their essence. With examples, this would be a substantial chapter.

Writing non-fiction - Assignment

You wrote an outline for your potential book in the last tutorial. Arrange each point into sub-points as done above. Write one paragraph about one of your sub-points. You may share your paragraph in the comments section below.


In this tutorial, Writing Non-fiction – Organising Content, you learnt how to write your story. As I said in the first tutorial, do not stress about grammar. Just write. You know what you want to say. Say it to the best of your ability. Writing is often a collaborative process. A good editor will help you get it right. Don't be embarrassed at the idea of sharing your work with an editor. The best-selling authors whose work you read and enjoy have their dedicated editors who shape their work into the final product that you enjoy. An editor is a major tool in the writer's toolkit. So, start to write your story, your way. 

If this is your first tutorial, read Book writing 1 and Book writing 2 to get a sense of where we are going.

If you need additional help, leave a comment below or send us an email. Remember to click the subscribe button to get posts as soon as they are published.

Before you go, spend a few minutes to browse the blog and suggest topics that you would like us to explore. 

See you in Book Writing 4.

About the Author

Janette B. Fuller is a ghost writer and author of four books. 

When you are ready to write your story and/or after you have written your story, make contact with her at writingwisdomtree@gmail.com. She'll help you write your best story by helping you arrange your thoughts and/or edit your work. Check out her books here


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