3 Types of Nonfiction That Can Improve Your Novel

Bharat Krishnan, Author

We’ve all had to do it at some point in our academic and professional careers: the Dreaded Personal Statement™. Why do you want to join this university? Why do you think this job is right for you? And going beyond personal statements, some of you might have even written an online dating profile. I know I did, and it led me to my wife. Finally, every day we write emails to colleagues, friends, family, and even strangers.

What if I were to tell you that by mastering the art of the personal statement, the art of the online dating profile, and the art of email, you could become a first-rate author? You’ve probably had plenty of practice doing these things anyway, so why not tell yourself that spending time doing this stuff counts towards your daily word goal so that you don’t feel so guilty spending time on Tinder or Gmail?

Here’s how it’s worked for me, and how it could work for you, too.

Personal Statements 

Writing about yourself is hard, and many authors want to compartmentalize their writing as just one aspect of their multi-faceted lives. But the thing about writing is that it begs to burst from your soul. You write (or at least I do) because you just cannot keep the words inside of you for a moment longer or you’ll explode. Writing is intensely personal, then, and there’s no need to be embarrassed about that. The first short story I had published was about my alcoholism. Anybody can sit at a computer and type on a word document, so what makes your writing stand out is that it is YOU writing it. You are telling a story that only YOU can tell, and you owe your readers the answer as to why that is. Why can only YOU share this tale about two brothers searching for revenge in a desert? Why can only YOU pen this tale about a girl who just wants to go home?

The thing about writing is that it begs to burst from your soul. You write because you just cannot keep the words inside of you for a moment longer... Click To Tweet

My first book was essentially a 150-page personal statement. In 2016, I wrote an autobiography based on 10 years of working as a professional political campaign manager; being able to tell my personal story in that medium turned out to be a massive help over the next several years of my life. In 2017, I had to write a personal statement to get into an MBA program and, thanks to months spent refining my “less is more” style of weaving a personal narrative in a few words that still manages to captivate, I got a full scholarship to my top choice. It turns out that when you learn how to write about yourself in an interesting way, writing about other things in ways that captivate the soul becomes much easier.

Online Dating Profiles

Growing up in that awkward period — when the internet wasn’t quite yet a thing in grade school but everyone had an AIM screen name by 6th grade — I became well-acquainted with just about every dating app available by the time I hit my 20s. OkCupid, Tinder, Hinge, and – what finally worked for me – Coffee Meets Bagel. Just as in writing a personal statement, when writing a dating profile you’ve got to explain things succinctly.

Unlike personal statements, though, online dating profiles require HUMOR. Just think about that – why do you swipe right on someone’s profile? How much can you really learn about someone given a few words and a couple of pictures? Enough to make you feel safe and happy enough to want to spend an evening with them? Perhaps our inhibitions drop and we’re convinced of a person’s authenticity when we know they can crack a joke: humor is a cheat code. 

What I mean is that when you can make someone laugh, they start to think less logically and more emotionally. All your favorite stories – from Harry Potter to Star Wars to the Avengers – have inconsistencies in them. Why don’t Deatheaters weaponize polyjuice potion? How can Leia remember her birth mother in Return of the Jedi? Why doesn’t Thanos just double the universe’s resources? We don’t mind these inconsistencies because, by the time they’re introduced, we’re thinking emotionally. And one surefire way to make sure people react emotionally about your writing is to make them laugh.

Perhaps our inhibitions drop and we’re convinced of a person’s authenticity when we know they can crack a joke: humor is a cheat code. Click To Tweet

There’s Always E-mail 

I never knew there was an actual term for what I often do: “ping-ponging.” I frequently will respond to a just-sent email with a few words, and then follow up with a few more words, and then follow up with a few more words. You’ve now received 3 emails from me in the span of five minutes, and it’s all because I couldn’t just chill and read your entire email in one go. 

You’ve now received 3 emails from me in the span of five minutes, and it’s all because I couldn’t just chill and read your entire email in one go. Click To Tweet

When writing anything, you want to gather all your thoughts in one go and then succinctly do the thing. This way, you can make sure your writing is compelling and to the point. You need to write something that fully addresses all the questions your reader might have, but isn’t needlessly long. As authors, we might have less than 500 words to convince a reader to buy our book instead of just reading the free preview on Amazon. 

Improving your email etiquette could make you a better author by ensuring that each word in your novel is justified.


Bharat Krishnan is currently working on his third book in four years, and during that time he decided he wasn’t quite busy enough so he also got married and graduated with honors from LSU’s Flores MBA program. He lives in Columbus, Ohio as a philanthropic consultant, and loves to cook when he’s not writing or working out.




pink neon sign says, "discover, embrace, be you."

Hashtag WritingCommunity: Emma Lombard on Building an Author Platform


Photo of writer Emma Lombard in her post on social media and followers

When I ventured into the Twitterverse, I was terrified. Having witnessed how quickly situations could turn toxic on social media, I didn’t want to involve myself in this world. But a huge part about being an author is putting yourself out there and social media plays a big role in that these days.

I resurrected my Twitter account in 2018 (dormant since 2010) and I most fortuitously tripped across the #WritingCommunity.

Tentatively Venturing into Social Media

I spent months fumbling my way around Twitter, feeling insecure and unsure about what to do – or more importantly, what not to do. I didn’t want to step on any Twitter toes. I started posting Twitter Tip threads that garnered a lot of thanks and praise from those still learning themselves. I ended up with so many Twitter Tips threads that I decided to put them together as my first blog, TWITTER TIPS FOR NEWBIES. It has turned out to be a big hit with folks, as have my follow-up blogs in the series.

I’m no expert in social media, in human relations or in the publishing industry – I have a little more knowledge than some folks and a whole lot less knowledge than others. I share my own experiences. Sometimes, all folks need is to know they are not alone on their journey and that others are experiencing similar challenges.

Sometimes, all folks need is to know they are not alone on their journey. Click To Tweet


Figuring Out How Social Media Ticks

I research blogs and online marketing sites for advice. Social media is an evolving platform, so I figure that reading the most up-to-date news about its functions from those in-the-know is the way to go.

Interestingly, I found some marketing websites better and easier to understand than Twitter or Facebook’s help sites. The best sites for me are the ones with pictures or videos. Bless all those guys and gals who know how to record this info and upload it!

One thing I like to do on Twitter is to boost those who have fewer than 1,000 followers. I don’t do this to encourage folks to play the numbers game. I do it because Twitter analytics don’t seem to give any traction to the posts of those with fewer than 1,000 followers. This came from my personal experience – I found that once I tipped over the 1,000 mark, I popped up on people’s feeds and they interacted with me more.

One thing I like to do on Twitter is to boost those who have fewer than 1,000 followers. Click To Tweet


Taking Care Not to Be Overwhelmed by Social Media

pink neon sign says, "discover, embrace, be you."

One huge job for me is screening new followers on Twitter to decide if we’re compatible. I don’t blind follow (I made that rookie mistake in the beginning). As part of my daily Twitter housekeeping, I do a quick screen for bots – they’re easy to spot – and I block them instantly. For everyone else who’s a real person, if they interact with me on my feed and I see that they are following me, I screen them for compatibility and if we’re a good fit, I follow back.

This process keeps me supporting and following new folks while not being overwhelmed by a large number of followers. I realise I’m in a fortunate position and I can only thank the lovely peeps in Twitter’s #WritingCommunity for making this happen.

I’ve taken my time about building my author platform, only extending myself into new areas once I was comfortable with a certain niche. I began with Twitter, then branched out to blogging and my most recent endeavour is my Facebook author page.


Should Writers Have a Large Social Media Following?

Hoo boy! This is a loaded question with so many varying opinions, including from editors, agents and publishers! From my understanding, it is essential to have a decent social media following if you are planning to self-publish or if you are going down the traditional publishing route with non-fiction. The jury is still out in my court whether a large following is essential if you’re planning to be a traditionally published fiction author – some agents say you do, some say you don’t.

From my understanding, it is essential to have a decent social media following if you are planning to self-publish. Click To Tweet

I think folks need to do what they are happy and comfortable with. Not everyone is comfortable with having thousands of followers because they don’t feel they can connect with that many people, while others feel it’s important to have that broader base to work with when it comes to their marketing strategies.

barefoot person sitting on a big pile of books readingHowever, I will add that I’ve not yet seen a hard-sell marketing campaign on Twitter succeed in any sales; but I have seen dozens and dozens of books bought by folks who have a relationship with authors. The key factor, whether you have 100 followers or 100,000 followers, is positive engagement and interaction, which is integral for building those relationships.


Lift Others Up

Genuinely engaging with folks online (aka, your potential readers) takes time and energy but if you are planning on building a supportive following, you need to put the work in – it’s like anything in life really. If you are only in it for the numbers, most people will spot you from a mile away. I believe you earn your true followers through engagement. Having thousands of empty followers isn’t going to make people buy your books, read your poetry or sign up to your blog.

Genuinely engaging with folks online (aka, your potential readers) takes time and energy but if you are planning on building a supportive following, you need to put the work in. Click To Tweet

I’m not on social media to compete with other writers, I’m here to share in their journey and share mine with them. By lifting other writers up in Twitter’s #WritingCommunity, I have been lifted, supported and loved tenfold by so many wonderful folks.


What the Pros Have to Say

That’s my rookie two cents’ worth. Here’s what the publishing pros have to say about building your social media platform as a writer:

  1. A great Twitter thread from Megan Manzano (@Megan_Manzano), YA Editor & Book Blogger – Agent Apprentice @CorvisieroLit – 1/5 of @WriteCraftQuest and #Pitchwars Mentor: tips and tricks to help build your social media platform
  2. A one-hour-long vlog from @WriteCraftQuest – A collective of #editors supporting writers on their publishing adventure @Maria_Tureaud @SouffleLumiere @Megan_Manzano @Justine_Manzano: Social Media Dos and Don’ts for Writers


Emma Lombard was born in Pontefract in the UK. She grew up in Africa – calling Zimbabwe and South Africa home for a few years – before settling in Brisbane, Australia nearly 20 years ago. She writes historical fiction and keeps platform-building authors on their toes as the #WritingCommunityMum


Meet Author Laurie Robertson – an AiA Interview

Amelia Indie Authors (AiA) is pleased to present an interview with Alaska-based author Laurie Robertson. Visiting Amelia Island in February to see family and attend the 2019 Amelia Island Book Festival. Laurie also attended the February 14th “we love indie authors” celebration we co-sponsored with the Book Loft. There she won one of several drawing prizes: a personal interview published on our blog. The benefit is ours, however, in that we get to learn more about this lovely woman.

Author Laurie Robertson leaning on a bike trail sign in winter

 AiA: Welcome to our screen, Laurie! To start, please tell us a little about your background, and what brought you from Alaska to Amelia Island?

LR: Detroit, Michigan was my hometown, and in the mid-1970s—because of economics and the lure of adventure—I settled in Alaska during the oil pipeline era. I received my teaching degree in secondary science and master’s degree from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and Anchorage.

I’ve just retired from 35 years of teaching in Alaska. It was a great career that covered a range from teaching in the rural Athabaskan villages of Rampart and Nikolai to the urban setting of Fairbanks. I have spent most of my career in alternative education working with students at risk for dropping out of high school.

Some of my family lives in Yulee, Florida. My sister and brother-in-law own two stores on Centre Street, in downtown Amelia Island, so I’m fortunate to be able to visit. People around the island are friendly, and I love strolling along the beautiful ocean beaches — especially in the morning fog.

AiA: What was your impression of the Amelia Island Book Festival. Do you attend other similar festivals? Any recommendations here for other indies?

LR: Amelia Island was my first experience at a book festival, and I enjoyed it very much. I would recommend the events I attended

Amelia Island was my first experience at a book festival, and I enjoyed it very much. I would recommend the events I attended. Click To Tweet

LR: The Book Loft indie reception was a great way to meet several authors and publishers from the area. The writers’ workshop provided a wealth of information. It had two tracks to mix and match, so participants could individualize the program according to their needs and interests. I also would highly recommend the manuscript critique that was available there. Steve McCondichie was very helpful with his recommendations from a publisher’s perspective, and his commentary was valuable. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. 

AiA: Did you always write, or is writing a new interest for you? How did you come to it?

LR: I’ve been a poet since I learned how to write but never thought about writing a novel until an idea came to my head. I was about 30 at that time and did not realize I would publish a book. I wrote the first draft in longhand. I spent part of three summers traveling around the west gathering information about the Oregon trail and the Native American culture. It was fascinating, and with that, along with my handwritten version, my novel was born. 

AiA: Where do you find your inspiration?

LR: Storylines appear in my head seeming from out of nowhere. I used to be an avid reader, but presently, it seems I’m always choosing between reading or writing. Writing, predominately, wins out. Sometimes, to develop characters, I refer back to parts of my favorite movies or a TV series. I study certain actors to see how their facial tics or body movements portray a specific personality type or motivation. I love concentrating on writing deep characters, so I’m a people watcher in real life situations.

AiA: How long did it take you to complete your first book? What were the speed bumps or stumbling blocks along the way?

LR: I’m embarrassed to admit this because it took almost twenty years to publish my novel, Crossing at Sweet Grass. Not only was I was raising a family and working full time as a high school teacher, but I had another journey beside traveling the Oregon Trail. That journey was learning my writing style. At first, I had no idea about the skills it took to author a good novel. I had to learn about writing several drafts, point of view, and cutting out pages and pages of flashbacks and campfire stories. My biggest speedbump was myself. Some years I put away my manuscript and didn’t work on it, but now I encourage authors to write daily.

silhouette of a woman smelling a flower on the book cover for Crossing at Sweet Grass

AiA: What is your writing process like?

LR: I have a grown family, so I have more time to write. I usually go to Jazzercise first thing in the morning, then come back home and sit at my desk or kitchen table to write. If I’m doing first draft writing, it’s pretty much a stream of keyboarding for about four hours a day. If it’s the second draft, then I spend the time to fill in plot and characters. I like to grammar check on the second draft. While I’m contemplating what the characters would do and say, I get up and move, watch the birds at the feeder or take a walk. There are ski and hiking trails right outside my door. I move to the next chapter if I get stuck. Sometimes I write scenes that have nothing to do with the particular section I’m working on. They get filed in a separate folder on my desktop, and I’ll usually cut and paste them into other chapters. Early on I realized writer’s block inhibits me only when I worry what other people will think about my writing. If I don’t dwell on that, my characters come alive on their terms, and I keep writing. 

AiA: How did you find your editor, and what did you think of the editing process?

LR: I love the editing process as it demands a spectrum of emotions; it makes you cry, it makes you quit, and it makes you begin again. My strength is in the rewrite, so I have surrendered to that process as a positive aspect of writing. A dear friend is a content editor, and she patiently reads my material and has wonderful insights. I have a few beta readers; one reads across several genres, one is a retired psychologist, and another has a great sense of humor. These avid book lovers give me needed feedback and insight. For my first two books, I used a line editor with an indie publishing firm and found it immensely beneficial. Now for my zombie action series, I’m looking online for content and line editors since I plan to direct publish.

AiA: What drew you to Alaska, and does the location influence your writing content, style or process in any way? 

LR: Even as a child, I wanted to go to Alaska. I love the wilderness adventure lifestyle. It’s hard to believe, but I don’t mind the cold weather. I love snow skiing and the arctic colors during twilight. While my stories don’t originate in an Alaskan setting, the Native American characters in Crossing at Sweet Grass were inspired by my time teaching in the rural communities and travels.  They are lovely people rich in cultural traditions and ways of knowing the natural world.

Alaska has a wealth of artists and authors. A fun writers conference to check out if you’re interested in coming to Alaska during the summer would be the Kachemak Bay Writers Conference June 14 – 18.

AiA: Your first book is historical romance, and your second is poetry. How did you choose these genres?

LR: I love historical fiction because I’m a researcher; that’s why I like science. Crossing at Sweet Grass is a historical action western with a romantic theme.

I love historical fiction because I’m a researcher. Crossing at Sweet Grass is a historical action western with a romantic theme. Click To Tweet

My challenge as a writer is to describe my books since my writing style naturally crosses genres. The Ascension Circus Comes to Town is like a poetic novella with seven chapters. It took a long time to gently combine my poems into a circus theme that makes personal growth seem like fun and adventure.

Colorful circus scene on the blue cover of The Ascension Circus Comes to Town

AiA: What are you working on now? Do you have a new book underway? Please tell us about it.

LR: My newest writing venture is a zombie series with a main character named Savannah. It’s been very satisfying to write, but again, it’s more complicated than straight zombie genre; it’s women’s fiction that a man also would like. What makes this series so invigorating is the human psychology behind survival, connection, and healing. Zombies are a metaphor for human fears and losses. They are the backdrop amid stories of social psychology. How do we as a people go beyond the darkness and despair to live together and make a better life? I don’t have a title yet, but I do have my 26 words that describe it:

Imagine you’re young, beautiful and alone in a world of zombies. What would be your journey? Join Savannah’s self-discovery through survival challenges, heartache, and love.

Thank you so much for having me here.

AiA: Thank you for sharing your story with us, Laurie! We wish you great success with all of your writing endeavors. Please visit us again!