To Infinity and Beyond!


Out of the many nonfiction genres, writing science nonfiction is far from the least problematic. At least that’s true when it comes to making millions off it. If you’re a rocket scientist, it might very well be easy as π to put together.

You’d know better than me there.

It’s just that most readers are bound to pick up something else first: a business book. A memoir. Historical fiction.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t write one, however.

By all means, go for it and see where it takes you, which could be as high as The New York Times Best Seller List, as Neil deGrasse Tyson, Matthew Walker and Daniel Kahneman can all attest.

Just make sure you have a right to be writing science nonfiction first.

Science Nonfiction

If you’re writing science nonfiction, you’d better be a rocket scientist. Or a biologist. Or a chemist. Or some other kind of scientist in the particular field you’re writing about. Because writing science nonfiction means focusing entirely on current scientific understandings.

In the mainstream marketable reading world (i.e., pretty much anything other than a textbook), this genre’s goal is to take complex scientific topics and explain them in such a way that the average non-scientist can go, “Oh! I get it! That’s so cool!”

Now, two quick notes about Innovative Editing’s writing Definition before we move on:

  1. We’ll go into further detail about that first paragraph’s last sentence on Friday. That would be the one that says, “Because writing science nonfiction means focusing entirely on current scientific understandings.” In the meantime, just recognize that this genre can deal with scientific theories and possibilities just as legitimately as established rules.

  2. We’ll go into further detail about that second paragraph’s long-winded single sentence on Thursday. That would be the one that starts out with “In the mainstream marketable reading world” and ends with “Oh! I get it! That’s so cool!”

For now, let’s just list off some of the scientific topics you can cover when writing a science nonfiction book – if you know what you’re talking about.

In Neil deGrasse Tyson’s case, his latest published work is called Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. His qualifications for writing it and a whole host of other books include a B.A. in physics from Harvard, a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Columbia and a decades-long high-ranking tenure at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City.

So clearly, he’s studied the subject of astrophysics a bit.

Matthew Walker, meanwhile, author of Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at U.C. Berkeley, as well as founder and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science.

And yes, he has a doctorate too.

Then there’s Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking Fast and Slow, who has his Ph.D. in psychology.

Oh yeah, and there might be a few Nobel prizes among those three science nonfiction writers as well. Which, more than likely, is something you don’t have.

But don’t worry if you’re a little lacking in global recognition right at the moment. While that does make the marketing mountain in front of you a little steeper, it doesn’t mean your unique understanding of your scientific field shouldn’t be shared.

After all, the world could use a little more scientific know-how. Don’t you think?

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