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Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers' Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University
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Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers' Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University

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4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  809 Ratings  ·  77 Reviews
Inspiring stories and practical advice from America's most respected journalists The country's most prominent journalists and nonfiction authors gather each year at Harvard's Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism. Telling True Stories presents their best advice-covering everything from finding a good topic, to structuring narrative stories, to writing and selling your ...more
ebook, 352 pages
Published January 30th 2007 by Plume Books (first published 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Claudia
Feb 22, 2009 Claudia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Serious writers
Recommended to Claudia by: E-Team study book
Shelves: book-club, nonfiction
I read this for my work on National Writing Project's E-Team, a group who reads and responds to others' writing all summer long. We were to read, looking for connections to our work as responders...ways to help other see their work, and to give suggestions for revision. As with every other book we've studied, my first thought was all the ways this book would help my OWN writing...I keep feeling guilty for thinking of that first. Essays by various journalists and editors, the focus here is narrat ...more
Chantel
Apr 10, 2013 Chantel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: craft
I added this book to my collection of writing "how-to" guides. Among them are On Writing Well, Bird by Bird, Plot & Structure, On Writing, Wired for Story, and Save the Cat. This one specifically addresses the unique voice required of the non-fiction writer. Essays written by a number of award-winning journalists include admonitions to pay attention to dialogue, get out of the way of the story, and write the ending first. The book is a compilation of essays, journalists who are essentially s ...more
Ji In
Oct 26, 2007 Ji In rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthologies, writing
I would really give this book 3 1/2 stars, but since I cannot, I'm opting to give it 3 instead of 4. In truth, I did not read this from cover to cover, but skipped around, selecting those sections that were most relevant to my writing. Each piece in this collection is fairly short & sweet -- easy to pick up and read a couple at a time, and pick and choose without having to tackle it front to back.

In this collection, writers from a range of backgrounds share anecdotal insights into their wri
...more
Greg Taylor
Dec 19, 2013 Greg Taylor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a must-read for journalists, particularly those writing long form non-fiction for magazines, non-fiction storytellers. I keep it as a reference and dip back into various chapters again and again. Kramer and Call pull together some bright writers in the field of non-fiction writing.
Tabitha Blankenbiller
I love when I find a craft book I adore. They seem to fall into one of two categories: a long, rambling slog or lively conversations that inspire me. I’m thrilled to report that Telling True Stories falls into the latter category. Reading the book brings me right back to residency, and makes me feel as though I’m sitting along with a great series of craft talks that deal strictly with my genre.
The book is written by journalists and focuses primarily on writing research, interviewing, media ethic
...more
Nikki
Feb 06, 2015 Nikki rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Again, this one was aimed toward journalists and I found some of the commentary from the people they asked to contribute a bit condescending toward their subjects. I wish I could elaborate more on that, but I read this two years ago for a course on professional writing and so my memory is hazy. It was just the way a couple of these journalists discussed the people that they covered for stories and their methods for how they got their story bordered on intruding on these people's privacy after th ...more
Sehar  Moughal
Nov 14, 2015 Sehar Moughal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
...This great guide has made me realized how many writers are really really bad at reporting non-fiction events. This book primarily offers tips on researching/organizing/writing/editing/publishing narrative nonfiction. I can't think of a reason why it won't benefit any aspiring writer.

I had no idea that journalism especially narrative nonfiction can go wrong in so many ways. The good news is that these writers share their knowledge to rectify and prevent mistakes when reporting a news story.

W
...more
Nancy Davidson
May 03, 2013 Nancy Davidson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want to skip four years of paying for college you can buy this book instead. It's a buffet of all types of nonfiction writers. Essays, humorists, journalism, travel, profile writing- you name it. Top authors reflect on how to accomplish your writing goals whether it is to be lyrical or hard boiled.
I've given this book as a gift to about five of my friends. It's a book of short nonfiction stories or reflections from writers on writing. Outstanding! For anyone who appreciate writing well an
...more
Atila Iamarino
Oct 20, 2015 Atila Iamarino rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Longo e cheio de exemplos e experiências. Excelente por isso, mas foi bem cansativo. Gostei mais da parte sobre estrutura de texto e storytelling. Ficou bem datado, com muito conteúdo que se aplica quase que exclusivamente às mídias tradicionais. O A Field Guide for Science Writers: The Official Guide of the National Association of Science Writers é bem menos datado nesse sentido.
Robin Meadows
Jun 12, 2015 Robin Meadows rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Uneven -- many of the essays are not helpful but a few are outstanding. I especially liked the section on editing.
Belle Beth Cooper
There were some good takeaways and interesting stories about the writers' experiences, but it felt like a slog at times, and I had to take a break at the halfway point to read something else for a while. Worth reading if you're interested in this kind of writing.
Maggie Hendricks Gaines
My boss assigned me this book and I'm so glad he did. Really smart essays about writing and reporting that I can return to often.
Amanda Rosso
Feb 18, 2017 Amanda Rosso rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved bits of this.
Allegra
This is a mix of instructive and inspirational advice for non-fiction (literary, essayists, and creative journalists). The authors are established, and their advice is, for the most part, concrete, pen-to-paper guidance for writers, rather than theory or workshop stuff. It sounds perfect, and it did generate a lot of ideas for me as a writer, but I did not finish this book thinking "now I am capable of anything," I way I wanted to. It is pretty scatter-shot, so you have to take notes or do some ...more
Beth Milligan
Jun 07, 2007 Beth Milligan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
Clear, inspiring instruction for writers from those already in the trenches.

Favorite quote:

"Thank God for stories--for those who have them, for those who tell them, for those who devour them as the soul sustenance that they are. Stories give shape to experience and allow us to go through life unblind. Without them, everything that happens would float around, undifferentiated. None if it would mean anything. Once you have a version of what happened, all the other good stuff about being human come
...more
Kim Olson
Apr 24, 2008 Kim Olson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Writers and aspiring writers
Recommended to Kim by: Liza Boyd
Offering advice from 51 writers of narrative nonfiction, reading this little volume is like taking a master class from the greats. Writers like Gay Talese, Malcolm Gladwell, and Susan Orlean share what they've learned over the course of their careers, providing sharp insights and specific examples. It covers everything from artful interviewing, to story structure, to working with editors, to ethics.

Having said that, many of the writers advocated for (or simply assumed) months-long immersion in r
...more
Yaaresse
This book was found (left?) in a medical waiting room. I picked it up as a more entertianing alternative to the ancient Sports Ullustrated and Taste of Home available. The first essay hooked me, so much so that I was a little miffed when it got cut short. Soon as I got home, I ordered the book.

It's an interesting groups of essays by nonfiction writers (mostly reporters) about their experiences with significant stories of their careers or about important steps they made while learning to be good
...more
Tomoaki
Dec 11, 2012 Tomoaki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a guidebook for nonfiction writers as subtitle says and anthology of essays by journalists, non-fiction writers, and editors how to write narrative stories. Many famous writers contributed to this book and various tips for writing narrative stories are told in the book.

What interested me most was that I was able to know what were behind journalists' mind when they were writing their stories. To know what they think and what they act in certain occasions and what are the foundation a
...more
Roewoof
May 15, 2013 Roewoof rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whether you write non fiction or fiction, this book is quite useful in pointing out things about the industry, as well as giving helpful lessons in writing. It's a bit dry in some parts, which is to be expected. The best thing about this book is how the information is relayed to the reader. Creative non fiction is really what makes up the foundation of the lessons. Journalists writing about their experiences and adventures in a creative fashion, makes for good reading.

There are many parts that
...more
Cathy
Jul 10, 2008 Cathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There should really be a catagory for partially read books. I will probably never read this whole book, but I have read parts of it. It is a collection of articles by noted non-fiction writers about the art and craft of writing non-fiction (imagine that!). It's really the very best book on this topic available. I'm just not reading the whole thing, because it doesn't all apply to what I am writing right now (historical non-fiction) or what I have written for publication in the past (personal ess ...more
Jack Oughton
There are some golden nuggets for writers in here, but there's also a pretty bad signal to noise ratio, I felt that I had to wade through a lot of text to get to the insights.

I didn't learn much from this book. That said, the stature and calibre of the contributors provides a lot of inspiration - so I'd say this book is more inspirational than educational. These people have done some amazing feats of investigative journalism and wordsmithing...

Michael
I was disappointed. This is not "a nonfiction writers' guide", its about narrative journalism as if journalism were the only form of nonfiction. I guess Nieman Foundation should have been a clue but the cover has many messages so I ordered it anyway. In fairness there are some fine pieces by the likes of Wolfe, Gladwell etc and useful advice on reporting and newspaper writing from a score of top class journalists.
Demisty Bellinger
Dec 04, 2008 Demisty Bellinger rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fresh writers embarking on nonfiction
Recommended to Demisty by: Creative nonfiction prof
Better for the beginning writer of nonfiction, both literary and newsy. There are some good points, though, and it's filled with essays from folks like Nora Ephron, Tom Wolfe, Phillip Lopate, and Susan Orlean. I like the divisions of the sections, so the seasoned writer can easily skip "Part II: Finding, Researching, and Reporting Topics," and go to, I don't know, something like "Part VII: Editing."

Probably great for teaching.
Titus Hjelm
Dec 30, 2016 Titus Hjelm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would have given this five stars had the subtitle not been slightly misleading. The 'nonfiction writers' guide' is really a guide to narrative journalism which, I think, is much narrower than 'nonfiction'. The short pieces are useful for all kinds of nonfiction writers, however, and even if you're writing more literary nonfiction, it might not be a bad idea to learn some of the habits of narrative journalists.
Jonathan Giles
At first I was befuddled as to what this was. A lot of short essays on narrative journalism but the major "academics" and elite newspaper-writers and practitioners. It took awhile in getting through the rudimentary passages but by the middle found a font of material useful to the non-fiction writer. I would recommend it for writers coming out of the journalism mindset, but less so for writers from other backgrounds.
Rachel
Jan 24, 2013 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lot of good, interesting information for people just starting out in the non-fiction/journalism world -- and probably some good reminders for people who've been at it for awhile. It covers a little bit of everything, from interviewing/profiling to ethics, to drafting a story and thinking about a book.
Susan Nusser
Feb 12, 2012 Susan Nusser rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great collection of journalistic wisdom. The essays in here range from how to conduct research, ethical considerations when using interviews, to how to structure a finished work. I ordered it thinking that it might be useful for my students, and found it so helpful that I'm keeping it for myself.
E Mcleod
Jul 07, 2012 E Mcleod rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be an excellent resource in an area where excellent resources are lacking. I highlighted many passages. I'd give it a five but its scope is too narrowly focused. I'd suggest future editions expand to include more varieties of non-fiction, particularly since there is a lot of growth in this genre.
Carlina
Apr 27, 2009 Carlina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the absolute most helpful reference writing manual I have ever picked up. I read it slowly over the last three months to savour every morsel of expertise and empathy. Countless times, I read lines, thinking, "Yes, that's my experience exactly; finally, someone was able to articulate it."

Read this. It will re-inspire your love for telling true stories.
Susabelle Kelmer
Bit by bit I'm getting through this wonderful collection of essays by real-world writers. I am a storyteller, which means I embellish. It would be nice to know how to tell my stories without embellishment, because some of them are funny enough all by themselves.
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“Is an ending really another beginning?” 1 likes
“Taking an idea, a central point, and pursuing it, turning it into a story that tells something about the way we live today, is the essence of narrative journalism.” 0 likes
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