“How in the world do you write so much and such diverse topics?
How did you learn both fiction and non-fiction writing?”
How did I learn to write non-fiction? Long story.
First, I learned the fundamentals in high school. I took a journalism class from a very competent teacher, who taught me the three basics of non-fiction writing: 1.) Avoid passive verbs, 2.) Answer the questions “who, why, where, when, and how”, 3.) You can write an article on any topic by sticking to the basic structure of Introduction/Thesis, Point A, Point B, Point C, and Conclusion, with additional Points added as necessary.
This was to serve me in excellent stead later in life.
Jumping ahead to 2005, DEMONSOULED was published, and author blogs were all the rage back then. Since I wanted DEMONSOULED to sell lots of copies (it didn’t) so the publisher would buy the sequel (they didn’t), I started an author blog, and promptly ran into a problem.
Namely, I didn’t have anything to blog about. The trouble about writing non-fiction is that you need something to write about.
So I tried blogging about various observations and witticisms, but nobody read them, and I gradually started to lose interest until I accidentally did something clever.
Namely, I complained about a Ubuntu Linux problem.
My day job is in IT, and Ubuntu Linux is the most popular version of Linux, and it turns up in a lot of server rooms. Back in early 2008, I upgraded a machine from Ubuntu 7.10 to Ubuntu 8.04, and in the process the upgrade broke the file sharing functionality. I happened to complain about it on my blog, and the next day I noticed that the blog post had gotten over 60 hits from Google searches. Apparently a lot of people were having that problem, and turn to Google in search of solutions, and so came to my blog.
That suggested possibilities.
I started writing more about Ubuntu Linux and the various things you could do with it – SSH, Samba, web servers, WordPress, and so forth – and my blog traffic climbed steadily, spiking up a bit with every new release of Ubuntu. Soon the site was getting hundreds of hits a day, and then thousands. I started experimenting with Google Adsense ads on the site, and at its peak in 2011 and 2012 it was getting five thousand hits a day and bringing in a few hundred dollars in ad revenue every month.
In fact, it was going so well, and I was so disgusted with the traditional publishing industry, that after I wrote CHILD OF THE GHOSTS in 2010, I decided to stop writing novels and focus entirely on the Linux website. Maybe I would do a short story from time to time if I saw a call for submissions that looked promising, but that would be it.
Then in 2011 I found the Kindle, and discovered self-publishing ebooks. After I got the rights back to DEMONSOULED, I self-published that, and then I realized my various posts on Ubuntu could make a book. So in April of 2011 I combined them, rewrote them, and self-published THE $0.99 UBUNTU BEGINNER’S GUIDE, later renamed to simply THE UBUNTU BEGINNER’S GUIDE. It sold really well – it was my first book to reach 10,000 copies, as it happens.
However, I also decided to write one more novel to finish off DEMONSOULED, so I wrote SOUL OF SERPENTS, and after I made DEMONSOULED free, the novels started to sell more copies than the nonfiction books, so I’ve been focusing on that ever since.
So that’s how I learned to write nonfiction – real-time feedback from blogging! I don’t do as much nonfiction these days, since all my attention goes into novels. That said, if I lose my day job, I’ll add in non-fiction, since it’s easy to do 500 words here or there as you work on a novel.