So, when I started writing, I was no different from most writers. I wanted to write “The Great American Novel,” too. And I wrote my first novel for adults. It’s still in my drawer. It has some good stuff, and one day, I’ll take it out and make it much, much better — now that I’ve been writing for 20 years. I’ve learned so much since then. But another thing I learned is that nonfiction pays the bills.
Seriously. Think about the greater demand for nonfiction. Magazine and ezine editors are always looking for good content, and if you can write clearly and with an interesting angle, you will sell your work
I did sell a short story first for $75 and I thought that was the best thing, well… ever. But then, sales were few and far between. I started writing nonficiton and the checks were much more frequent and continually grew to be much, much bigger.
So, where do you start?
Learn to write a killer query letter.
A query letter is what you send to the editor. It opens with a great hook, then you give a bit of info about the article you’re proposing, and then, you ask the editor if he or she is interested. Most nonfiction happens this way, and to be honest, I never write an article until I know it’s already sold.
So, for the next few days, let’s focus on query letters and how they’re constructed, beginning with the hook.
What’s that mean? Well… All topics have an angle, which means the “what about that?” for your topic.
So, for example, I could say that I want to write an article about cats. Great! I have two cats, but big deal. What about those cats or any other? You can’t just sit down and say you’re going to write about “cats.”
Let’s narrow the topic:
- Of my two cats, Fitz and Blue, let’s say I want to write about Fitz. But what about him?
- Fitz has special health issues.
- Fitz had a stroke.
- What happens when any cat has a stroke?
- What can you do to prevent a stroke in cats?
Bingo… there’s my hook — cat stroke prevention.
OK… not terribly jazzy yet. But here’s how I’d do that… I’d start with Fitz and talk about his issues. He’s blind in one eye, deaf in one ear, and he’s extremely defensive. He won’t go outside, and in fact, can often be found hiding under a bed. We talk about how hard things can be for him, since we have another male cats, and bingo! We have our opening paragraph. We get people interested in Fitz, and then, we go into strokes in cats.
Not so hard when you break it down, and that has to do with focus. Narrow any topic down that you’re considering writing about until you can find a unique bit of information to expound upon. You can’t give editors the whole snowball, just a glittering chunk of ice.