As children all over the United States prepare for Halloween, I’m reminded of the fact that they expect to receive treats at each home they visit. If they don’t, they supposedly will play tricks on the homeowners. Thus, the saying, “Trick or treat!”
For me, Halloween always means that National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo), also known as the Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) Challenge, is about to begin. So, as I prepare for the event, I started thinking about how trick or treating applies to nonfiction writing.
What Happens When You Hand Out Treats
In much the same way that children expect to get a treat when they knock on a door on Halloween, readers expect treats when they read an author’s work. As a nonfiction author, whether you write essays, articles, op eds, memoirs, self-help books, or white papers, those who choose to read your writing expect to receive some sort of goodies within your prose. These come in the form of benefits; what you write must in some way add value to their lives.
If, you provide treats, you will get some in return. Your readers will reward you with:
- Good reviews on Amazon (and other sites like Goodreads)
- Word-of-mouth advertising
- Shares of your posts and updates on social networks
- Purchases of your books and products
- Subscriptions to your blogs and newsletters
- Engagement on your social networks and blogs
What Happens When You Don’t Hand Out Treats
If, on the other hand, your readers are left wanting when they finish reading what you’ve written—if they have not been given a treat—they likely will play a trick on you in return. Don’t expect it to be something like toilet papering a tree in your yard or throwing eggs at your house. More likely the trick will come in the form of:
- A bad Amazon review
- An unsubscribe to your newsletter or blog
- A nasty comment on some social network
- A complaint
Plan Out Your Treats Before You Write
If you are taking part in NaNonFiWriMo and taking the WNFIN Challenge, you have one last opportunity today to determine the treats you will offer your readers prior to actually starting to write. This is an important part of the planning process for any project at any time not just prior to writing a piece of nonfiction in a month. However, because you are writing in a very concentrated manner—in a short amount of time—it becomes a bit easier to focus on the benefit you want to give your readers the whole time you write.
Here are five tips to ensure your writing is packed full of treats for your specific readers:
- Take time to profile your reader. Be sure you know your readers. Who are they? What do they need or want? How can you best serve them? When you can answer these questions, move on.
- Write down the purpose of your book, article or essay. What do you want it to accomplish? Then create an outline or table of contents that helps you achieve that goal. Flesh this out with subheadings or chapter summaries to ensure you know exactly how section of your article, essay or chapter supports your work’s purpose.
- Make a list of 3-5 benefits your readers will receive. These should relate to Tip #1 and #2. Make sure these benefits are built into the overall content you plan to create.
- If you plan to write a book or article, compare what you have outlined with similar ones already published. Make sure what you plan to write is unique—that your work will treat your readers to something new and necessary.
- Write a pitch or elevator speech for you book, article or essay—50-75 words that describe what you plan to write (including the benefits). A reader who hears this pitch wants to know one thing (and it’s not what your book is about): “Is there something yummy in this for me?” In other words, “What’s the benefit to me of reading your writing?” Can you tell someone this? You need to be clear about the benefit so you can something that adds value to readers’ lives.
Keep your pitch handy as you write so you remember the benefits you plan to provide in your nonfiction piece this month. Apply these five tips to whatever you write and your readers will always feel you offered them a treat—and you’ll rarely get a trick in return.
To learn more about WNFIN/NaNonFiWriMo, click here. To take the WNFIN challenge, click here to register. You’ll be taken to a forum where you can “sign in” and introduce yourself and your project. Don’t wait…we begin tomorrow.
Photo courtesy of debspoons | freedigitalphotos.net