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Creative Nonfiction

Myrna Kostash: Outline!

During the month of January we will be running creative nonfiction writing tips from members of the Creative Nonfiction Collective to give you inspiration for our current creative nonfiction competition

Outline! It fits on one page and you can stick it at eye-level across from your keyboard. Your outline is made up of your notes, but with the beginning of an organization or structure. The simplest and obvious organization of the outline is: beginning, middle, end. You can fool around with the sequence later. With the first draft I have found it enormously helpful to be able to see the material I have and how it begins to sort itself out in a narrative arc—how the different elements relate to each other. It is very tempting with personal or memoiristic material to just “go with the flow” but you will find that you are repeating yourself or having to stop everything to explain something that you already know but that the reader needs to know. Or you end up including all of your notes just because you went to all the trouble of writing them down; but, really, what do they have to do with the story you are trying to tell? So: go through your notes and start to organize them according to where they will fit: beginning/set-up of the story; middle/the story; end/so what? For all the information you include, ask yourself, why am I telling the reader this? 

Life-long Edmontonian, Myrna Kostash is a fulltime writer, author of the classic All of Baba’s Children, and of the award-winning Bloodlines: A Journey Into Eastern Europe and Prodigal Daughter: A Journey to Byzantium. Besides writing for diverse magazines, Kostash has written radio drama, television documentary and theatre plays. Her essays, articles, and creative nonfiction have been widely anthologized. She has been a frequent lecturer and instructor of creative writing as well as writer-in-residence in Canada and the US. 

Myrna Kostash is the President of the Creative Nonfiction Collective (CNFC). To learn more or become a member, click here.

Read our Q&A with Myrna Kostash.

Find out more about our creative nonfiction competition.

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