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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

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,186 ratings  ·  99 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
Paperback, 336 pages
Published January 30th 2007 by Plume (first published 2007)
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Apr 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 sayin ...more
Feb 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Ji In
Oct 26, 2007 rated it liked it
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 writing
Greg Taylor
Dec 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Cindy Coloma
Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Excellent guide for writers, especially those writing memoir and narrative nonfiction.
Tabitha Blankenbiller
Mar 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 06, 2015 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this.

I read non-fiction for the most part. Recently, I’ve been thinking about the possibility of writing some non-fiction essays on topics that I enjoy researching, and this book appeared on a few different lists.

It is a collection of categorically sorted essays on writing, and they were enlightening. Every doubt I had was touched on, and every pitfall imaginable was explained by a variety of accomplished writers in their own words, from experiences they’ve had.

Other reviewers m
Sehar Moughal
Nov 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
...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.

Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing, journalism
Great introduction into what "narrative journalism" is about and how it is done. The book looks into this form of writing and story-telling from various angles – a lot of experienced journalists contributed to the edition. For me, that is someone who is not writing narratives, it serves the purpose of giving me tools with which to decompose and evaluate texts I'm reading. Strucutre and other parts of the craft should be invisible to the reader, says John McPhee. But still, I've read his Draft No ...more
Jul 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Nancy Davidson
May 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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. ...more
Robin Meadows
Jun 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: writing
Uneven -- many of the essays are not helpful but a few are outstanding. I especially liked the section on editing.
Sharon Orlopp
May 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Kramer and Call do a phenomenal job of creating a go-to book for narrative nonfiction. They describe the book as a "bouillon of experience and explanation." It's all that and SO much more. Many acclaimed authors poignantly share their journey of creating narrative arcs, ensuring accuracy, evaluating ethics as an observer in other's lives, defining scenes, enhancing character development, and the ruthless act of many rewrites.

I took a ton of notes in the margins and on any empty white space throu
Becky Wade
May 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Telling True Stories is full of insightful and practical bits of advice from an impressive lineup of authors, journalists, writers, editors, and a few literary agents. I took something away from each subsection, and many times more than that. I especially appreciated the specific examples some of the contributors gave (first versus published drafts, powerful intros, good use of dialogue, etc.). If you’re interested in becoming a better communicator, storyteller, or writer, several sections of TT ...more
Jul 29, 2020 is currently reading it
I am still reading it. Since I consider myself "a would-be serious NonFiction writer", I must leave some comments. Its a good introduction to serious NF writing bec the essays were a peep into how a good journalist would approach her story. Thats helpful to me. The essays and the language used reflect serious journalistic writing compared to another book I bought on a similar NonFiction subject of telling true stories. However I wished the essays were longer and more thorough. But I guess the in ...more
Pearse Anderson
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Of course this was an amazing read. It took my months, because it's dense and detailed and always gives you something to learn. Dozens of authors, editors, and photographers deal with the terrifying realities and challenges of their job—and conquer them. I read how Pulitzer Prize winners think, and how they found their subjects, and what the role of journalism has been in the last few decades. It was a pure and exquisite ride. Thank you Nieman Foundation. ...more
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a nonfiction writer, I find that most writing guides are geared to people creating fiction. With Telling True Stories, I finally have a reference guide that speaks to my own field. Inspired by a conference formerly held annually at Harvard on narrative journalism, the book is a collection of essays by pros including Tom Wolfe, Tracy Kidder, and dozens of others who are less well-known. Topics are practical: structure, editing, ethics, building a career. There's no wasted page anywhere. ...more
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, writing
This book is a treasure trove of answers to all the questions a nonfiction writer has ever asked. Four stars because at some point, near the end, it felt like the essays were becoming redundant- but still SO good. I was forced to write intense blog entries about each section, so I refuse to go in depth about the volume for another sentence. Would recommend.
Kamil Goungor
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you are a writer, and if narrative and telling stories is something that interest you, then you will love this book! Almost 10 years ago, a professor in my university recommended it as a great read for aspiring journalists. I immediately bought it, but it took me some years to decide to read it. Now I can that tell that I was late. A really great book on how to tell true stories.
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Many short chapters with great tips about how to tell true stories, from linguistic details to broader questions of theme and structure. Mostly useful for narrative journalists but I learnt a lot from it for my academic writing.
Dec 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Whether a refresher or insights into one of many top nonfiction writers' process, this book is an excellent guide to read. Keep it on your shelf and refer to it often, it will make you a better writer. ...more
Maggie Hendricks Gaines
Mar 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for journalists & non-fiction writers.
Jiahui Zheng
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book for almost one month. The stories of journalists inspired me a lot.
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent reference, essays from writers as to how they write, research, interview etc. for nonfiction. Easy to dip in and out of, lots of food for thought, as well as concrete advice.
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
The short, contributed chapters contained many nuggets of useful information and wisdom for authors of nonfiction narratives.
Torie Cooper
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great book for non-fiction writers. Discusses a variety of Journalistic techniques.
Karl Ocampo
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Practical — and honestly that’s the only thing you want from a book like this.
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