Advice from the Masters: Sam Kean

Feb 22, 2017 | Better Writing

Sam Kean is a science writer, but don’t go thinking frowning concentration, lab coats, and studied seriousness. No, this science writer has been described as having a sense of humor like Bill Bryson. If you don’t know what that means, you’re missing something enjoyable.

So, what does a science writer, even one with a sense of humor, have to teach someone who aspires to write a great business book? In 2015, Kean described the way he works to The Writer magazine. Here’s what I think is a key bit of what he said that can be a model for how the best business books get written.

“First and foremost, I’m looking for stories. Topics with characters, climaxes, happy or sad endings. That’s non-negotiable. After that, I’m looking for topics that, while they include science, reach beyond science into other areas of our lives. Because I don’t see science as isolated, something that only happens within the walls of a lab – a scientific perspective can enrich just about everything. Disappearing Spoon, for instance, my book about the periodic table, has chapters on war, poison, money, art, even bubbles. Similarly with my book on neuroscience, there are chapters about emotion, memory, language – important facets of human existence. So I want topics that, while grounded in science, reach beyond science.”

Want more? Check out the complete list of Advice from the Masters posts

If you want even more writing advice from writers, check out Jon Winokur’s blog, “AdvicetoWriters.”