The use of creative prompts for writing has been a fiction staple for a long time. With the help of a search engine you can find literally thousands of writing prompts in a matter of seconds to get your creative juices flowing.
But when it comes to nonfiction, the type of creative prompts you’ll find on the Internet won’t be very useful to you – even if they’re labeled as such. Why? Because these nonfiction writing prompts tend to be centered on you and your point of view (e.g. “Write about how you form healthy habits”), whereas successful nonfiction writing requires you to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience.
What Are Nonfiction Writing Prompt Ideas?
What you really need to stimulate your nonfiction creative juices is to figure out a way to spark writing ideas that will address a specific need or desire in your audience – the most specific the better.
But first you need to nail down who you want your target audience to be, and this process must align with the skills that you bring to the table.
Say that you’re a nutritionist and you want to help people improve their health by eating in a more balanced way. You clearly know that your skills and subject matter expertise can benefit virtually anyone. But if you choose an idea that’s too broad, like helping women develop better eating habits, you’ll find it hard to make a dent in the market.
The reason is that there are tens of millions of women in the U.S. alone and they’re hardly monolithic. Within that group you’ll discover many subgroups (hundreds?) that have differing needs, interests and levels of awareness.
So, start by breaking down your main demographic and identifying those subgroups who would benefit the most from your expertise. You need to find those niches that have a high level of urgency for what you offer.
For example, if you’re a nutritionist and you want to write a book to help women improve their health through better nutrition, you may want to limit your focus to women over fifty who suffer from type II diabetes.
Their need for a balanced diet is much more urgent than the general population’s, and by focusing on a specific age group you’ll be able to address their challenges in a unique way.
How to Come Up With Nonfiction Writing Prompt Ideas
To get you on the right creative track, I’ll show you the recipe you need to follow in order to line up a number of creative writing prompts for your nonfiction book project, and then I’ll give some examples based on six of the top ten bestselling nonfiction genres on Amazon.
First, write a list of all the areas of expertise that you bring to the table. If you’re in the home decor field, you may have developed expertise in:
- Organizing spaces
- Decorating on a budget
- Matching color palettes to personalities
- Working with open spaces
- Working with small areas
- Creating urban gardens
and so on.
Then, for each entry write a second list of the different groups of people who you feel will make up an ideal audience:
- De-cluttering: Writing for people who feel the stagnant energy in their homes, people who are planning a move to a smaller space, etc.
- Decorating on a budget: Writing for students who are moving out of their parents house to live on their own, recent graduates with a small starting salary, retirees, etc.
- Creating urban gardens: Writing for people who live in condos, apartment dwellers who want to grow their own veggies and herbs in their balconies, etc.
and so on.
Below, you’ll find some ideas to write prompts of your own in some of the most popular nonfiction categories on Amazon:
1) Biographies & Memoirs
This category is quite broad and it offers a lot of flexibility for creative thinking, given the personal nature of the genre.
Here are some creative writing prompts to get you going:
- Write a story about your own experiences in a way that people in a specific segment of the population can relate to (e.g. “My experiences growing up as a mixed child in a small town”)
- Write a book about how you dealt with a specific disability and how you succeeded in spite of it (.e.g. “How I went from being wheel-chair bound to becoming a successful Internet entrepreneur”)
- Write a book of short stories about your experiences in life that others in similar circumstances could learn from (e.g. “How addiction replaced the void left in my town when the largest employer left and what people did to overcome it”)
This is a very large category but there are multiple trends that can be broken down into more specific niches.
Here are some creative writing prompts:
- Write a book about a self-help discipline that you’ve specialized in for many years, but directed to a very specific group of people (e.g. “The complete mindfulness guide for teenage girls”)
- Write a book that focuses on a self-help practice that caters to people who suffer from a specific condition (e.g. “The best meditation techniques for people who suffer from insomnia (or migraines, or…)”)
- Write a self-help book to help people cope with a specific issue that you faced and overcame (e.g. “How to use conscious breathing techniques to help alleviate nicotine withdrawal symptoms”)
3) Health & Fitness
This is another broad category, so the best approach is to limit your topic by writing about a narrow application.
Here are some creative writing prompts to get started:
- Write a book that focuses on an unusual health practice that has proven health benefits most people are unaware of (e.g. “The health benefits of drinking and cooking with distilled water”)
- If you’re trained in a particular form of therapy, write a book that focuses on a specific demographic instead of everyone who could possibly benefit from it (e.g. “The benefits of weekly acupuncture during pregnancy”)
- Write a fitness book for people in a specific demographic or who suffer from a specific medical or physical condition (e.g. “The ultimate weight-training guide for people over 60”)
4) Cookbooks, Food & Wine
This is such a broad category that your best chance of carving a sliver for yourself is by writing a book that addresses a very specific group of people. Your goal is to find a narrow niche that runs very deep.
Here are some examples to trigger writing prompts for your book:
- Write a cookbook with recipes that are tailored to sufferers of a specific illness or disorder (e.g. “Safe snacks for sufferers of hypoglycemia”)
- Write a wine guide for followers of a specific diet, trend or lifestyle (e.g. “The best keto-friendly wines”)
- Write a cookbook for a group of people that share a specific interest (e.g. “The best recipes for avid bodybuilders”)
5) Parenting & Relationships
These are broad categories as well, so you’ll need to use the divide-and-conquer strategy to get traction.
Here are some writing prompts:
- If you’re a family counselor, write a book that focuses on a specific segment of the population (e.g. “The psychological benefits of attachment parenting techniques for young parents”)
- If you’re an expert in child therapy, write about issues that affect a specific set of children (e.g. “How to help a gifted child successfully navigate the public school system”)
- If you’re a psychotherapist, write about a unique technique or about an issue that affects a specific group of people (e.g. “The benefits of therapeutic horseback riding on children (or adults or teenagers or …) with disabilities”)
6) Crafts, Hobbies & Home
This is already a very fragmented category, so most book writing ideas will naturally cater to a small niche.
Here are some writing prompts:
- Write about home decor ideas that fit a specific lifestyle, demographic, budget, etc. (e.g. “Organizing ideas to keep the rooms of messy teenagers tidy at all times”)
- Write about ideas to make your house look like a model home on a budget (e.g. “The best Ikea hacks to create great-looking built-ins for 10 cents on the dollar”)
- Write a book or guide for people who enjoy a specific lifestyle (e.g. “The definitive guide to the best vintage clothing stores in the U.S.”)
I hope this article has provided you with the inspiration you need to create some writing prompts for your upcoming nonfiction book project.
The secret to write a successful nonfiction book lies at the cross section of the following three things:
- You’re writing about something you’re passionate about
- You’ve developed expertise in that area
- A specific group of people are actively seeking what you have to offer
Once you find this sweet spot, you can then begin the process of researching your target audience to find out what their hopes, dreams, fears and challenges are so that you create the right prompts that address their needs in the best possible way.
If you enjoyed this article and you feel like learning more about how to excel in the writing craft make sure to check out my free nonfiction success guide, drawn from years of experience editing books for bestselling authors (including a New York Times bestseller) and ghostwriting for CEOs and politicians. Simply click here to get instant access.
Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or a specific need that I can help you address – I operate an author services firm that specializes in helping entrepreneurs, professionals and business owners who want to publish books as a calling card for prospects, to establish their status as an expert or to generate additional leads for their businesses.
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Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning author of six books published through Harper Collins (New York) and Titan Publishing Group (London). He is also the publisher at Promontory Press, editor for multiple bestselling authors (including a NY Times bestseller), ghostwriter for CEOs and politicians and the founder of Cascadia Author Services, a boutique full-service firm that specializes in premium author services specifically designed for busy professionals. Our end-to-end services include writer coaching, ghostwriting, editing, proofing, cover design, book layout, eBook production, marketing, printing and distribution.