Finding Non-Fiction Ideas

Since it’s almost October and next week I’ll be discussing novel planning and writing at great length, I thought today I’d focus on non-fiction. While it’s not my greatest love, I do enjoy writing non-fiction and I’m hoping it will help me pay the bills–and to an extent, it already has. The great thing about non-fiction is there are literally thousands of topics to write about and there’s a market for every topic. But often real life seems mundane and it seems impossible to find ideas, which is crazy if you think about the plethora of topics available to you. Today I’d like to share some strategies for finding non-fiction article ideas.

1. What are you really good at? Odds are, somebody will pay you for articles teaching them to fix their own computer, create their own Youtube videos or even identify edible plants in the wilderness. You’re probably really good at something related to your day job–say, fixing photocopiers or negotiating with high profile clients. No matter what it is, there’s probably a market that would like a step-by-step tutorial on how to do that thing well.

2. What are your favourite spots and activities in your city? Pitch these to local lifestyle markets or to travel magazines anywhere in the world. You’d be surprised how many people want–and are willing to pay for–information on the prime spots in your city.

3. What are small businesses in your area doing? Think local. Odds are there are at least three or four unique businesses at the forefront of their fields in your city or county. Find out who they are, talk to the people who run them, get a couple pictures of their storefront and BOOM, you have a newsworthy story–which is also a great way to enter business and entrepreneurship magazines.

4. Be at the forefront of change. Go out and experience life. When you hear about the “first annual” something, go check it out. Find a new and unique company to work with, either in a day job or a writing capacity. There’s nothing as inspiring as being part of something unique, and watching something happen that isn’t–and probably can’t–happening in any other place in the world. I’ve had the opportunity to go to a completely unique school this year, where we build skateboards and create our own brands, and it’s been incredibly inspiring–and helped me come up with ideas for all of the things mentioned above.

Non-fiction ideas are everywhere–you just have to know how to look. The more interesting ways you find to spend your time, the more easily you’ll find article ideas. And remember, each of those ideas in turn can be turned into several articles with slightly different spins and also into interviews.

So don’t despair when you run out of non-fiction ideas: go out and live life, and you’re bound to find more.