Deborah Hopkinson (deborahhopkinson.com) shared some thoughts about where to begin writing nonfiction for young people:
Judith Rosen, in her July 17, 2015 Publishers Weekly article, asks the question: “Is Children’s Nonfiction Having its Moment?”.
The answer is a resounding yes.
Rosen’s piece notes that there is both a rise in sales and an increase in nonfiction titles for young readers. “Although the Common Core State Standards have become mired in controversy in many states, their introduction served as an inspiration for publishers to bulk up their nonfiction lists and focus on fact-based fiction.”
One recommendation that’s emerged from the Common Core Initiative is that 50% of what students read in 4th grade – across all disciplines — be informational texts. This increases to 70% in 12th grade.
But where to begin to write page-turning nonfiction books for middle grade readers and up? How do you know if this genre is right for you?
1. Do you love learning about history, science, or politics?
2. Do you find yourself watching PBS as opposed to reality TV?
3. If you watch a fictional series (like the Tudors or Game of Thrones), do you end up with your browser open anyway, checking the accuracy of the characters or time period?
4. When you travel to a new city, do you like to visit its museums?
5. Did you actually like history when you were in school?
6. If you write fiction, do you end up cutting out all the detailed research tidbits because they simply don’t fit?
7. When you read an adult work of nonfiction, do you find yourself looking at the bibliography and source notes?
8. Have you ever taken over the conversation at a dinner party, going on and on about some fascinating fact you just read about or heard on NPR that day?
9. Do you think there are, quite simply, enough fantasies being written?
10. Do you actually enjoy details, like formatting several hundred footnotes?
11. Are you a content expert yourself?
12. Do you find yourself reading a nonfiction book and thinking you could do better?
If you’ve answered yes to several of these questions, it may be time to stop fighting the inevitable and start writing nonfiction!