Nonfiction Concepts

As a writer who’s published both fiction and nonfiction, I’ve seen firsthand the similarities and differences. While many may believe that nonfiction is not as creative as fiction, I find that a good nonfiction book must, as with a novel, begin with a creative concept.
Writing Tip for Today: You’re in the Concept Stage of planning a nonfiction book proposal. The first thing to remember about any nonfiction book is that it’s not about you. Even if it’s about you. Rather, a good nonfiction book is about your reader, about making meaning for those readers in an engaging and/or creative way. You’ll want to return to that inevitable question every reader wants answered: What’s In It For Me (WIIFM)?

  • Stating. First, state your nonfiction book idea in 25 words or less.
  • Jotting. Start by jotting down every Reader Benefit of your proposed book that you can think of. Even for a memoir, list the “take away” value that a reader will gain by reading your story.
  • Trending. Next, look for trends. In this list, are there some that complement each other, go together or fall into one of several categories? Which topic or concept gets the most attention? Are there topics that feel outside the focus of the major concept? Put these in a separate list or folder.
  • Tweaking. Now compare your original idea with the lists of reader benefits. Does your idea need tweaking in order to provide the reader with sufficient meaning and take away? Be Honest. If you aren’t famous or an expert in your field, readers will be unlikely to want to read your book if it only has personal info (memoir), preaching, or facts and stats. Ask a few friends what they’d want out of a book on your idea.
  • Restate. Restate your book idea in 25 words or less, incorporating the tweaks. You may do this process as many times as you need to in order to focus your nonfiction book proposal.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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