You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction—from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between

From rags-to-riches-to-rags tell-alls to personal health sagas to literary journalism everyone seems to want to try their hand at creative nonfiction. Now, Lee Gutkind, the go-to expert for all things creative nonfiction, taps into one of the fastest-growing genres with this new writing guide. Frank and to-the-point, with depth and clarity, Gutkind describes and illustrates each and every aspect of the genre, from defining a concept and establishing a writing process to the final product. Offering new ways of understanding genre and invaluable tools for writers to learn and experiment with, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up allows writers of all skill levels to thoroughly expand and stylize their work.


“Reminiscent of Stephen King’s fiction handbook On Writing, the book will be useful to both new writers and seasoned chroniclers seeking a professional refresher course on the basics of content and continuity and on how to expand audience attention for typically esoteric material…An accessible, indispensable nonfiction guidebook from an authority who knows his subject from cover to cover.

—Kirkus Reviews, 7/15/12

“Gutkind, at once methodical and anecdotal in his instruction, offers clear and practical guidance on artistic concerns and matters technical, ethical, legal, and moral.…With expertise equaled by enthusiasm, the founder and editor of the magazine Creative Nonfiction advocates for the genre in which writers ‘can be poetic and journalistic simultaneously.’ An enlightening call for the highest of literary standards.”

—Booklist, August 2012

“You will be inspired and encouraged to write your way toward the inherent power of your story—becoming a better writer in the process.”

—New York Journal of Books, 8/14/12

“Anyone seeking to write creative nonfiction will benefit from Gutkind’s clear and instructive voice…The many examples of great creative nonfiction he offers (and carefully analyzes in order to explain their magic) are alone worth the price of the book.”

—The Writer, October 2012

“Mr. Gutkind’s latest work…is the kind of book about mastering the writing life we’ve come to expect from him: brash, clearly written, opinion-heavy, personal anecdote-driven, and chock full of practical exercises.”

—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/30/12

“This is a grand tour of creative nonfiction, providing challenging writing exercises, analytical reflections on the techniques the best writers use, tips and getting published, and much more. I have been a nonfiction writer my whole life and I can confirm this book will turn you into one as well.”

—Bookviews blog, October 2012

“A useful workbook for a specific writing niche, and people wanting to break into the field—especially those parts involving Gutkind himself or influenced by him—would do well to go through the exercises and recommendations in some detail.”

—, 10/4/12

“Most writers interested in the [creative nonfiction] genre will want this on their shelves.”

—Library Journal, October 2012

“This book belongs in a writer’s library.”

—Internet Review of Books, 10/3/12

“From ethical questions on turning nonfiction into creative writing to handling the fine line between fact and fiction, this covers common pitfalls and provides concrete approaches to success.”

—Midwest Book Review, October 2012

“Students and teachers of writing will find You Can’t Make This Stuff Up instructive and inspiring…Those leery of yet another writer’s manual will likely find they enjoy reading this engaging book for the way the author weaves together true stories well told.”

—Milwaukee Shepherd Express, 11/19/12

“Memoirists and journalists looking for a fresh approach or a change of pace would do well with You Can’t Make This Stuff Up. Everyone else can enjoy a quick and enjoyable trot through an often maligned but compelling and growing literary genre.”

—Curled Up with a Good Book, 11/16/12

“An informative book that should be on the bookshelf of every writer.”

—The Worlds of R.A. Hortz, 12/10/12

“Invaluable as a learning tool…An excellent choice.”

—East Central Illinois News-Gazette, 4/7/13