My cousin is an inspirational little girl whose overcoming physical handicaps to help others. She was just featured on NBC Nightly News a couple of weeks ago.

It just occurred to me that a book about her would probably be a best seller, but needs to be written quickly while the news segment is still recent.

I have written non-fiction before, but never a book length story about someone's life. I was wondering how to get started and how to structure the book.

Advice, please?

2 Answers 2


There are many types of non-fiction, but for a book like this, you probably want to structure it something like a novel. Even though you'll be recounting events from real life, you still need the same elements of storytelling as in fiction to keep people interested.

You might, however, want to intersperse the narrative chapters with more informational chapters giving background information on your cousin's specific ailment, others who suffer the same condition, etc.

Just as a side note: Unless you're an incredibly quick and polished writer with stellar publishing connections and/or prior experience self-publishing, it's highly unlikely that you'll be able to publish a book in time to capitalize on a news segment that already aired. Also, I assume it goes without saying that you'll want to make sure your cousin and her immediate family are fully on board with this project before proceeding.


There is no golden rule to structure a non-fiction book. It totally depends on the topic and the focus you will give the book.

I would suggest going into a bookshop or a library and to analyze a number of non-fiction books for their structure. I would focus on books from the life-writing section, either autobiography and biography, or on books from the self-help section.

You can structure life-writing topics chronological, but this isn't the only way of doing it. Interweaving narrative chapters and informational chapters is a good idea. You'll find this kind of structure more often in books published over the last years.

Keep in mind that in the non-fiction segment the publishing house most of the time will have a say how the book is structured. So be open for changes.

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