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Revisiting CRAC for Non-Fiction Works

Use CRAC for your non-fiction writing. The writing method, that is.


While my MS for The Light in Darkness is slated for edits, I need another focus outside of writing fiction (working, housekeeping, and handling toddlers) to keep me busy.


I needed an idea first. It came. And thus Project X was born. Project X is a non-fiction project like my self-published manual, Break the Line, that amounts to a strategic analysis of game rules and principals. Project X is probably way over my head in terms of content - but it’s cool and I’m thrilled about it. More details later.


But how to write it? I needed to switch from fiction writing style to non-fiction.


Using the CRAC method, of course!


All legal writing is non-fiction writing (it’s supposed to be, anyway). And by that measure, as an appellate attorney who writes mostly legal briefs to courts of review, I’ve been a published non-fiction writer for over ten years. And before that, I dragged myself through three years of law school only to emerge as a spectre at graduation, bereft of color and health. But I’ve regained both my color and constitution over time and retained a skill I call “writing dexterity” that can only be equated with either patience or numbness to the existential pain of writing. I write a lot because I must.


Anyway, my advanced legal writing course guided my writing career and it applies a certain method to all legal writing, your paragraphs, sections, and entire manuscripts (or briefs). To save you some money in tuition fees I have reprinted the approach here:


C – Conclusion: There must be a conclusion that you want the reader to draw, and you must tell them what it is up front. Just tell them already! They need to know so that you can begin to persuade them. If they don’t know, their mind is wondering why you’re dragging them through paragraphs of other writing that may not be useful. If you tell them right away, you make a promise to them that you will explain your thoughts throughout your writing.


R – Rule: A “rule” of law is easy to define – court rulings or statutes provide those. But in other non-fiction writing, your rule can be something else like a “source.” A source can be a statistic, an accepted fact, a study, an observation. These things should underpin the analysis you’re about to get to. If they are convincing, they support your analysis, and you’re good. If not…get some better sources or yourself to the next section!


A – Analysis: The analysis is your take on the rules and why they support the conclusion you made. You get to make your argument here. Be convincing. Easy!


C – Conclusion: Finally, restate your conclusion. An argument is a loop. You’ve got to “tell them, and then tell them again.” In legal strategy this follows the two principals of primacy and repetition. Tell them immediately what you think. Be first to do it. It should ring true. Then tell them why. Then close with the conclusion to emphasize your point.


This method tends to build a sense of inevitability with the reader, like good character development might in a fiction work. The reader wants to believe you like they want to believe in your character. In fact they are reading because they are willing to find out what will happen next. If the writing is sharp and the sources seem solid, they will assume it is all leading to your conclusion. That is the goal, and ultimately the effect of properly employing the CRAC method.


So, when you take your reader on a non-fiction journey with you, try following the CRAC method. It will take you where you need to go, and make for organized, clear, argument in your non-fiction piece.


Let’s hope I can do it with Project X!


**PS: Looking at the CRAC method, does it apply to fiction writing too? I think it does. Thoughts on that in the next blog post.

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