Follow the Story

James B. Stewart Defines Writers’ Curiosity Thinking

by Kalinda Rose Stevenson

Essence of Thinking

The essence of thinking like a writer is
the recognition that what’s most interesting is
what’s unknown, not what is known
Thinking like a writer prizes the question
more than the answer.
It celebrates paradox, mystery, and uncertainty,
recognizing that all of them
contain the seeds of a potential story.

James B. Stewart
James B. Stewart focuses on the importance of writers' curiosity thinking.
James B. Stewart Thinking Like a Writer

Following the Story

The first chapter of Stewart’s book, Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction, begins with three profound statements about becoming a writer.

Knowledge:

We seem to be living in an age of know-it-alls: talk show hosts and guests, expert witnesses, pundits, gurus on every conceivable subject. The information age is exhausting. It is also dull, like dinner party guest who never stops talking. In my view, this climate is anathema to good writing, which is rooted not in knowledge but in curiosity.

Curiosity:

The essence of thinking like a writer is the recognition that what’s most interesting is what’s unknown, not what is known. Thinking like a writer prizes the question more than the answer. It celebrates paradox, mystery, and uncertainty, recognizing that all of them contain the seeds of a potential story.

Certainty:

At first encounter, it is probably hard to recognize how radical a notion this is. But consider: in ways large and mall, subtle and unsubtle, overt, and hidden, we are rewarded from childhood on for providing answers to questions posed by others. We are taught to process information by memorizing and retaining it, not by questioning it. Confronted daily by a mass of new information, we rarely stop to consider what is missing.

Writer's curiosity thinking is the essential idea of the book. If you’re curious, you want to know something. Stewart’s first paragraph sets the tone for the whole book. You don’t start off with all the answers. Rather you start with questions about what you don’t know by following the story.

Description of Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction

An indispensable guide to nonfiction writing from the Columbia Journalism School professor and Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist behind the bestsellers Blind EyeBlood Sport, and Den of Thieves.

In Follow the Story, bestselling author and journalist James B. Stewart teaches you the techniques of compelling narrative writing, from nonfiction books to articles, feature stories, or memoirs. Stewart provides concrete directions for conceiving, reporting, structuring, and writing nonfiction—techniques that he has used in his own successful books and stories. By using examples from his own work, Stewart illustrates systematically a way of thinking about and executing stories, a method that has helped numerous reporters and Columbia students become better writers...Read more on Amazon
[Original Post October 18, 2014]
What are your thoughts about thinking like a writer? Leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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