Writing non-fiction can be a challenge. Not only do you need to make your information interesting, but it must contain knowledge that the reader doesn’t already know to keep them engaged. The structure of your content is very much like the story a fiction writer would create, except you’re basing your story on facts. Staying engaged from start to finish can be extremely difficult.
For that reason, these non-fiction writing exercises have been developed to help keep your content on point. This way you can take your reader along an engaging journey that will have them feeling like they had fun learning something new when they’ve finished reading.
#1. Compare and Contrast
Think about the life of your best friend. Now imagine what their life happened to be before they met you. Using the facts you know about your best friend from knowing them, extrapolate what they were like. You can even research this information by going through old photographs, news stories, and other points of historical reference. Write down your observations. Now compare your best friend to who they are today and note the contrasts. How are they different today? Are they different?
#2. A Personal Interaction
Every family has a story about a time they met someone famous. One of my favorite stories like this is a friend’s mother talking about the time she met Pat Boone. She was at a concert and all of her friends told her to turn around because he was behind her. So she turns around, scoots her chair backward, and promptly jams the chair leg into the poor guy’s foot. Write down your own experiences with someone famous and these personal interactions can fuel your non-fiction writing.
— Joanna Penn (@thecreativepenn) April 17, 2016
#3. Memory Lane
One of the biggest issues with non-fiction writing is that it doesn’t always make an emotional connection with the reader. This happens because we get so focused on relating fact after fact to increase knowledge about the subject we’re writing without personalizing those facts. To stop this bad habit, take a walk down memory lane. Picture your favorite space as a child. Write down every detail you can picture in your mind. Use emotional adjectives to describe the items in your mind’s eye. With these structures in place, it will translate over into your other writing.
#4. The Neighborhood Newsletter
There’s a kid in our neighborhood who comes around to a few houses every week asking for an interview. He asks simple questions: “What did you eat for dinner?” “What are your plans for summer?” Then he puts all of those interviews together into a neighborhood newsletter that he passes out a couple of times each month. You can do the same thing, but take a historical perspective instead. Write about the history of your neighborhood. When was it developed? Why did people move to your community? Assembling these facts is a great non-fiction writing exercise because it puts you into the research frame of mind you’ll need for other work.Facts are important, but they aren't always memorable. #amwriting #nonfiction #writetip Click To Tweet
#5. Find the Edge
Facts are important, but they aren’t always memorable. Sure – you can use bullet points or bold text to highlight something, but that doesn’t guarantee a reader will remember it. You’ve got to sharpen the edge on those facts. Go beyond the standard story to find the hidden facts. Take a different angle. A great exercise to do this is to rewrite the front-page story on your local newspaper to see if you can pull out a different perspective.
— Katie (@KatieSkow) April 14, 2016
#6. Be Yourself
If you’re really stuck, then just be yourself. Write about yourself. How do you feel right now? Choose a topic and start writing to see what comes out. If you experience writer’s block, then switch subjects. Instead of writing about your opinion of modern politics, talk about why you love mint chocolate chip ice cream. Discuss a conversation you had with your kids.
#7. Talk to God
Do you have a religious preference? Is there a spiritual side to your life? Think about the time you knew for certain that what you believed was right for you. Describe what happened in that moment. Make this be a present-tense exercise as if you were re-living it, and then make it a past-tense experience as if you’re reflecting back on it. Compare the two to see what has changed and then write about those changes for a uniquely powerful non-fiction writing exercise.
The best non-fiction writing exercises will have you examining facts, adding adjectives, and exploring opinions on a regular basis. These are the foundational components of this type of writing. Immerse yourself every day if you can with these exercises and you will notice your writing skills will quickly sharpen into something fantastic.