Jennifer Swanson: STEAMing Into Nonfiction!

STEAMING into Nonfiction
We’d like to thank Jennifer Swanson for this blog post! Jennifer is on the faculty for Becoming a Nonfiction Writer: A Two-Part Online Course, which is happening October 23-November 3. Thank you, Jennifer!

Nonfiction manuscripts are a hot commodity these days.

Between Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), narrative nonfiction, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and STEAM (STEM + Art) writing is in high demand. But how do you make your nonfiction piece exciting enough to grab an agent or editor’s attention? Make it leap-off-the- page exciting!

Try these steps to get things going.

1. Pick a topic you want to learn about

Ever wonder how satellites work? Investigate the NASA website for more information. Wonder how the Olympic Committee picks the site of the next Olympics? Do some research and find out. Something that peaks your curiosity is exciting and will motivate you to do research to find out more.

2. Pick a unique angle

Discovering just the right angle can make your nonfiction writing come alive. Say your topic is the desert. What can you say about a desert? It’s hot. It has cactus. The animals sleep at night. Blah, blah.

Not so fast! Did you know that Antarctica is a desert? Well, do some research and find out. Taking a different approach to a topic can grab your reader’s attention and get them to keep reading.

3. Use active words

Short, active words paint vivid pictures in a reader’s mind are a great way to capture attention. Use words with energy to describe what is happening.

Here’s an example:

Rain is a form of precipitation. It is made when water in the atmosphere comes together in the form of a cloud. When the cloud gets big enough, it rains.  

Is that last piece exciting? Not really. Let’s try re-writing this:

Ever wonder how those fat, fluffy clouds turn into stormy rain clouds? Here’s how. High in the atmosphere, thousands of tiny water droplets condense and stick together to make a cloud. As other water droplets join in, the cloud grows and grows. Eventually, the cloud becomes very heavy–too heavy. It can’t hold all the water any more. Whoosh! The cloud bursts open thousands of water droplets race to the ground as rain. 

Which piece is more fun to read?

4. Have fun with it

Writing is fun! No matter what you write about, challenge yourself to make it exciting. Make your readers feel like they are actually tramping across the cold, barren, snowy Antarctic. Have them feel the icy wind as it slices across their cheeks and worms its way into their gloves. Let them experience the blinding sun as it reflects off the sharp, clear snow crystals. Putting them in the place they are reading about will make the story so interesting, they won’t even realize that they are learning.

By using these tips, you will

Spellbind your reader,

Tickle their imagination,

Excite their senses,

Activate their minds, and

Make your book memorable forever.

Jennifer SwansonJennifer Swanson is the award-winning author of over 40+ nonfiction books for children, mostly about science and technology. Her passion for science and technology resonates in all her books but especially, Brain Games (NGKids) and Super Gear: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up (Charlesbridge), Astronaut-Aquanaut, and Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner, Save the Crash-test Dummies. Jennifer encourages kids (of all ages) to engage their curiosity and DISCOVER the Science all around them! Learn more at


Becoming a Nonfiction Writer: A Two-Part Online Course
October 23-November 3, online, $399
Faculty: Jennifer Swanson, Teresa Robeson
Special Guest: Workman editor Pamela Bobowicz
register now

Posted on: January 21, 2016

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