#SummerSparks Day 12 – Make Your Non-Fiction Leap Off the Page! by Jennifer Swanson

Summer Sparks Day 12Make Your Nonfiction Leap Off the Page!
by: Jennifer Swanson

Nonfiction manuscripts are a hot commodity these days. Between Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), narrative nonfiction and STEM writing is in high demand. But how do you make your nonfiction piece exciting enough to grab an agent or editor’s attention? Make it leap-off-the- page exciting!

Try these steps to get things going.

1. Pick a topic you want to learn about

Ever wonder how satellites work? Investigate the NASA website for more information. Wonder how the Olympic Committee picks the site of the next Olympics? Do some research and find out. Something that peaks your curiosity is exciting and will motivate you to do research to find out more.

  • Checkthrough publisher catalogs to see what’s new and what’s coming out
  • Look at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and even the Library of Congress to check out new releases
  • Look for holes in publisher lists and target your submission to these holes.

2. Pick a unique angle

Discovering just the right angle can make your nonfiction writing come alive. Say your topic is the desert. What can you say about a desert? It’s hot. It has cactus. The animals sleep at night. Blah, blah.

Not so fast! Did you know that Antarctica is a desert? Well, do some research and find out. Taking a different approach to a topic can grab your reader’s attention and get them to keep reading.

  • Checkout series that publishers are doing and see if you can come up with one of your own
  • Or maybe you have a book idea that will fit one of their existing series.

3. Use active words

Short, active words paint vivid pictures in a reader’s mind are a great way to capture attention. Use words with energy to describe what is happening.

Here’s an example:

Rain is a form of precipitation. It is made when water in the atmosphere comes together in the form of a cloud. When the cloud gets big enough, it rains.  

Is that last piece exciting? Not really. Let’s try re-writing this:

Ever wonder how those fat, fluffy clouds turn into stormy rain clouds? Here’s how. High in the atmosphere, thousands of tiny water droplets condense and stick together to make a cloud. As other water droplets join in, the cloud grows and grows. Eventually, the cloud becomes very heavy–too heavy. It can’t hold all the water any more. Whoosh! The cloud bursts open thousands of water droplets race to the ground as rain. 

Which piece is more fun to read?

4. Have fun with it

Writing is fun! No matter what you write about, challenge yourself to make it exciting. Make your readers feel like they are actually tramping across the cold, barren, snowy Antarctic. Have them feel the icy wind as it slices across their cheeks and worms its way into their gloves. Let them experience the blinding sun as it reflects off the sharp, clear snow crystals. Putting them in the place they are reading about will make the story so interesting, they won’t even realize that they are learning.

  • Add details that include the 5 senses so the readers are drawn into your story
  • Make a list of words that are specific to your topic and sprinkle them throughout. For example, if your book has to do with boats, include lots of nautical language, “Ahoy matey”, “port”, “starboard”, amidships, etc. It spices up your language and also teaches your reader a bit in the process.
  • Explain everything thoroughly. The best way is to compare something to what a child may already know. For example, don’t say that something is 200 yards long, say it’s “as long as two football fields”. If you can put the image in their head, you will go a long way to helping them to understand it immediately.

SPARK  Take a paragraph or two from nonfiction textbook. Using these four steps, try to re-write the information. Use exciting, active words and paint vivid images for your reader. Does your piece sound better? Great! You are making non-fiction fun!



Jennifer Swanson dreams of one day running away to the Museum of Science and Industry-  then maybe she could look at all the exhibits and try out all the gadgets without competing for them with her kids. An author of twenty nonfiction science books for grades 3-6, Jennifer’s goal is to show kids that Science Rocks! She lives in sunny Florida with her husband, three kids and two dogs. When not writing she’s on the hunt for fun science facts. Learn more about Jennifer and her books at www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com.



Let me know, are you participating in this years #SummerSparks writing challenge?
What types of non-fiction are you exploring today?


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2015 Summer Sparks post:

  1. Family Celebration by Tracey M. Cox
  2. Back Where I Come From by Tracey M. Cox
  3. The Benefits of Playdough: Molding your PB Idea Into A Story by Donna L. Martin
  4. Go Jump In a Lake by Tracey M. Cox
  5. Take a Vacay! by Tracey M. Cox
  6. How to Rhyme Right in a Picture Book Manuscript by Nancy Raines Day
  7. Don’t You Know that You Are a Shooting Star? by Tracey M. Cox
  8. Sun Burst by Tracey M. Cox
  9. Writing Tips from the Big Bad Writer by Pat Miller
  10. Get Out! by Tracey M. Cox
  11. Pieces by Tracey M. Cox
  12. Make Your Non-Fiction Leap Off the Page! by Jennifer Swanson
  13. Do the Twist by Tracey M. Cox
  14. Celebrate! by Tracey M. Cox