Non-Fiction: Novel Ways to Spice It Up

image by OpenClipart-Vectors
image by OpenClipart-Vectors

I’m working on a non-fiction book based on my blog’s writing posts and more. The book’s purpose is to help writers transform their manuscripts into editor-friendly books in 32 steps.

Here’s what I learned about introducing novel ideas into non-fiction books from Debbie Harmsen’s article, “Straight Up Non-fiction With a Twist” (Writer’s Digest March/April 2015).

Framework 

 

image by Deedster
image by Deedster

Harmsen talks about how we present our thoughts, ideas, and information. This involves the title, chapter titles, headings, and running themes. She suggests the that framework add fun, make the content memorable, and provide lightness.

I want my title to communicate the benefits the book provides. But I also want readers to anticipate fun as they work on their manuscript.

 

 

When I brainstormed titles, the first seven revealed my book’s benefits, using lofty but tired words. Then I pictured what my book would help writers do to their manuscripts. With the resulting simile, I wrote a title that sported creative words. I brainstormed other images, similes, and creative titles.

Once I choose a title, I can work the theme of the simile into the chapter titles and headings.

Contrariness

 

image by OpenClipart-Vectors
image by OpenClipart-Vectors

Next, Harmsen mentioned the novelty of exchanging the normal cheerleader approach with helping readers realize whether the work involved is right for them.

In my introduction, perhaps I’ll ask whether performing 32 steps seems too much work to improve their manuscript. Writing a sellable novel is much work, and getting one into shape may not be worth their time. That’s okay. Another choice may be to pursue forms of writing that require less editing.

Scenes and Dialogue

 

In this section, Harmsen discusses using stories to show how a principle works, e.g. characters in business situations.

My book will have plenty of fiction examples to support the principles.

image by eslfuntaiwan
image by eslfuntaiwan

Supplemental Material

 

Here, Harmsen talks about the importance of such things as sidebars and subheadings. She stresses adding novel materials that interactively engage the reader, such as quizzes and fun extras at chapter endings.

So, I’ll include simple, humorous drawings, text boxes, and worksheets to help readers work on their manuscripts.

 

 

“Flashback” 

 

Harmsen suggests a flashback could work well in non-fiction books. She mentions opening with a failure story about a person who hadn’t used the book’s principles and then closing with a success story for a person who had.

My book is for:

  • the unpublished writer, whose manuscript needs work, has been rejected, or received low contest scores;
  • the self-publisher, who knows his manuscript needs work or has received poor sales and reviews; and
  • the published author who wants to improve her manuscript.

Therefore, my targeted audience should identify with my opening failure story, and my ending success story.

Testimonials

 

Testimonials can make information and principles stronger. Dave Ramsey sprinkles in testimonials in his Financial Peace books.

At the end of each chapter, I might add a testimonial about how a writer improved his manuscript by applying a technique or principle.

(If you’re interested in possibly having your testimony in my book, contact me at zoehgwp@gmail.com with “Testimony” in the heading.)

Try these novel ideas in your non-fiction book. Click to tweet.

What technique made a non-fiction book you’ve read enjoyable to read?

 

Will the Opening Line of Your Non-fiction, Fiction, or Presentation Grab Your Audience?

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” —Plato

by Melodi2
by Melodi2

Why should I care about what you have to say? Sounds rude, doesn’t it? But that’s what many people in your audience think when they approach your work.

So, how much time do you spend on the opening of your speech, sermon, non-fiction book, children’s book, play, activity, novel, song, blog, or magazine article?

Study these first lines quoted from various types of writing. Notice how they set the tone, attitude, purpose, or genre of the work.

  Non-Fiction

  • by Andalusia
    by Andalusia

    “The water was so hot, it was almost burning my face—but I could barely feel it.” —Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money by Dave Ramsey

  • “The Kings Gambit, the darling of the romantics, is a swashbuckling opening synonymous with attack, sacrifice, and an exciting open game.” —Modern Chess Openings by Walter Korn

Speeches

  • “Presumption is one grand snare of the devil, in which many of the children of men are taken.” —Sermons of John Wesley – Sermon 86: “A Call to Backsliders”
  • “My fellow Americans, I come before you tonight as a candidate for the vice presidency and as a man whose honesty and integrity has been questioned.”  — United States Senator, Richard Nixon’s “Checkers” speech

Picture Books

  • “The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another his mother called him ‘WILD THING!’ and Max said ‘I’LL EAT YOU UP!’ so he was sent to bed without eating anything.” (3 pages before a period) —Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
    Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    “Chimps don’t wear glasses and zebras don’t cook and you won’t see a kangaroo reading a book.” (3 pages before a period)  —Chimps Don’t Wear Glasses by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Joe Mathieu

 

Children’s Books

  • “There was nothing Otis Spofford liked better than stirring up a little excitement.” —Otis Spofford by Beverly Cleary
  • “A wild, ringing neigh shrilled up from the hold of the Spanish galleon.” —Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry

Young Adult Fiction

  • “There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.” Holes by Louis Sachar
  • “One year ago my mom got traded in for a newer model.” So Not Happening by Jenny B. Jones

Novels

  • “She didn’t know how far she’d driven—all she knew was that it wasn’t far enough.” Abomination by Colleen Coble
  • “He always said if I left he would kill me, but there are far worse fates than death.” Wings of Glass by Gina Holmes

Short Stories 

  • Image courtesy of Pong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
    Image courtesy of Pong / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    “With the many interruptions to her already loaded schedule, when would she find the time to kill Rita?” —“Plotting Murder” by Zoe M. McCarthy

  • “A steady ticking awakened Murdoch.” —“The Ticker” by Dori Renner in Writer’s Digest, July/August 2013

Articles

  • “One day, a funny thing happened: An unknown, frustrated writer named Joe Hill got an envelope in the mail.” —“The Once and Future King” by Zachary Petit in Writer’s Digest, July/August 2013
  • “Here’s an oxymoron for you: Cancer = Renewal.” —“An Unexpected Gift” by Nina Fuller in WHOA Magazine for Women, Spring 2012

Tweetable

  • Study the first lines of these writings and learn how to hook your audience.
    click to tweet

Which, if any, of these first lines made you want to read or hear the work? Why?