Non-Fiction Is Not Boring

We are excited to welcome our newest contributor, Wendy Jessen!

When most of us hear “non-fiction” we probably think “booo-rrriinngg!!”

OK, maybe it’s just me. I think I gave it that stigma because throughout school non-fiction was largely textbooks or biographies we had to read for a book report.

Fast forward too many years to count (mostly because we’re writers, not mathematicians!), and I find myself writing non-fiction. Lots of it. And, the worst part is….I like it! Maybe even love it.

You remember those five-paragraph essays we had to write for English and history classes? It turns out, that skill really does come in handy. Most of my current writing happens to be 500-1000 word articles for a family-oriented website. Just like we learned in school, I basically have an intro, some main points, and then a concluding paragraph. It seems too easy, and it almost is.

The trick is to write something that people, who aren’t necessarily scholars, will actually want to read. Here are a few of my ideas to make the “booo-rrriinngg” into something interesting and fun to read, while still teaching or inspiring others.

  • Make it interesting by using personal stories or finding other ways to illustrate your point creatively.
  • Write about topics that appeal to a wide-range of people. In my articles, for instance, topics on marriage seem to do really well.
  • Find your own voice. Just because it’s non-fiction doesn’t mean it has to be dryly written. Make it funny. Add in some snark and sarcasm. Use beautiful and poetic sentence structure. Draw your readers in with the way you write.
  • Use bullet points, numbers, or bold headings to break up the information into easy-to-glance-at “take-aways.” So often, people are more likely to scan an article before they commit to actually reading the whole thing. It’s the same with a table of contents for a book.
  • Write what you know something about, or something you really want to know about. It helps if YOU are interested in what you write.
  • When it applies, find quotes, research, or other sources to support or back-up the point you are trying to make. Sometimes, the quote or research can also be the jumping off point for your writing. 

The biggest advantage to writing non-fiction is that when you tell people you do, they’ll look at you like you’re super smart. We don’t have to tell them otherwise. 😉

Sometimes, as a non-fiction writer, it feels like you’re on an island by yourself while all the fiction writers are enjoying a beach party with loud music, food, and laughter. But, there’s a lot we can learn from each other, I’m realizing. And, the two really aren’t all that different. Unless you write boring stuff. 😉

___________________________

Wendy Jessen is the author of more than 300 articles—book reviews as well as family-oriented articles on familyshare.com . She somehow manages to do that with 6 spirited children ranging in age from 4 to 13 under toe. In the throes of writing her first book, she finds ways to procrastinate which usually involves scrolling through social media. Wendy often stays up way past her bedtime reading YA or other fiction. She loves kid-free date night with her husband, family vacations, and kids’ bedtime, aka, the human version of whack-a-mole.

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