What is Creative Nonfiction?

We get lots of questions about this category so here are some top tips to guide your submission:

Creative Nonfiction is all about true stories, well told. The way to tell the story? That part is up to you!

Your entries could come in the form of well-researched articles, memoir, funny pieces, traditional narrative pieces, biographical pieces, something that skirts between these forms or creates another one entirely.

The word ‘Creative’ refers to the range of techniques and unorthodox forms that you might choose to use. ‘Nonfiction’ refers to the subject matter—accounts of people, events and experiences that are steeped in truth. Don’t let the creative part fool you; it isn’t an invitation to exaggerate or make up facts. It is not a license to lie. It is however, an invitation to make your nonfiction stories read in the most compelling and enthralling way possible. If creative nonfiction could speak for itself it would be saying, ‘Wow, you can’t make this stuff up!’

What we’re looking for are pieces that are curious and have some sort of insight, whether that be a unique experience or opinion, expert knowledge on a topic or a keen interest in researching something—more than just reportage or rhetorical questions. I.e. Don’t just send us your school essays! The key question to ask yourself with your piece is: am I bringing something new to the conversation?

Some good advice: if you’re thinking, say, ‘I want to write about soccer’ but don’t know what to do beyond that, ask yourself, ‘why do I want to write about soccer?’ Chances are you have a personal investment or genuine interest in the topic, which is perfect, but you need to harness that. Successful pieces narrow their focus rather than attempt to tackle a broad topic. The more specific you can be, the better. As with any article or persuasive piece of writing, it is very important to back up your arguments with research.

Be honest with yourself as to why you want to write about your topic, what your relationship with it is, and then write towards that—not what you think you should be writing about. This honesty comes through in the best pieces, not necessarily by adding personal reflection, but in the writer figuring out and honing in on a very specific thing that they’re interested in, then really getting stuck into what they’re writing about.

Things to ask yourself along the way:

  • What is my key point or argument?
  • Have I recognised factors that complicate my perspective or argument?
  • What is the particular angle I am going to take?
  • What is the logical and structural progression of my piece?
  • Why am I the right person to write this particular piece? Personal experience, willingness to research, etc.
  • If I need evidence, where am I going to get it from? What research have I conducted? Who can I speak to gain more insight into this topic?

Your job is to communicate story, information, argument and honesty in your own brilliant and creative way. We can’t wait to see how you tackle the task!