15 Nonfiction Writing Prompts to Start Writing Your Book Today Without Writer’s Block
If you're looking for a way to start writing your nonfiction book, this article is for you. It can be hard to find the clarity to start writing, not to mention finding what to write about. Sometimes, we know we have a book inside of us, but we have no clue what the book is about. This is normal. The lessons we’ve learned, the skills we’ve mastered, the experiences we’ve had, and the events we’ve witnessed can get muddled.
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These 15 nonfiction writing prompts will not only give you ideas of what to write about, but they will also give you experience as a nonfiction writer. These prompts use Trivium Writing’s 4-goal framework. This framework takes into account the different writing purposes, and it forces you to structure your thoughts in a way that’s compelling to your reader. The 4 goals are: describe, narrate, explain, and argue.
As you go through these writing prompts, think about the WHO, the WHAT, the WHY, the WHERE, and the HOW. Question words help us structure our thoughts on paper, and they make our writing more complete, more substantial. Though some of the prompts are explicit about using question words, make sure you always keep them at the back of your mind. Use these writing exercises to write short personal essays or slowly build your book idea.
Writing Prompt #1: Describe the achievement that makes you feel the proudest (what, why, how, when, where).
This writing prompt requires you to think about your greatest victory. It’s a great thought experiment to get started with your book because it relates to what you can teach other people. Although we tend to emphasize our failures and downplay our victories, it’s important to take a realistic look at what we’ve achieved to kick-start our writing process. Use this writing prompt to uncover your value and what you can share with the world.
Writing Prompt #2: Narrate your greatest failure (include all the different stages and emotions involved).
As important as it is to uncover your value, you need to examine your failures as well. Every mistake we make is an opportunity for learning and growth. Tell the story of your greatest failure, how it made you feel, and what you’ve learned from it. It’s important to craft a narrative around your failure because narrative is how we get readers to relate to us.
Writing Prompt #3: Explain the one thing you understand better than anyone else (connect the dots for the reader).
We are all gifted in our own way, and we all have something we understand better than anyone else. Often times, what we understand better than anyone else is the intersection between two different topics. For example, I understand the politics of personal development probably better than anyone else. This doesn’t mean I am the foremost politics expert, nor does it mean that I know everything about personal development. However, I understand their combination better than anybody else.
Writing Prompt #4: Argue a position you firmly hold (use emotions and logic to make your argument).
What is something you firmly believe? What is a position you would fight for? Use this writing prompt to make a case for your vision of the future. What should change in our society? We all live in the same world, but we all see the world differently. Take an aspect of reality you often argue about with people and make a compelling case for it.
Writing Prompt #5: Describe in detail the impact you’ve had on somebody’s life (emphasize the before and after transformation).
There are so many ways we can impact people. Think of one person you’ve had an impact on and describe the process. Use this prompt to create a contrast between the transformation’s “before” and “after” states. Make clear how the person you’ve impacted benefited from what you did together. This writing prompt will help you show your audience what you can do for them.
Writing Prompt #6: Explain what you do as if you were talking to a four-year-old child (use simple words and avoid all jargon).
It’s often hard to explain what we do when we’re fully immersed in it. Take a step back and ask yourself how you would explain what you do to a four-year-old. If you have a four-year-old in your network, you can ask them and then write it down. If you don’t, try your best to imagine which words a four-year-old would understand. Don’t use any jargon; keep it simple and clear. This prompt will give you clarity about what you take for granted.
Writing Prompt #7: Narrate how you got started with your career or your business (include all the different stages and emotions involved).
One of the best stories you can tell is how you got started in your career. You may not realize it, but some people would kill to be where you are. Tell the story of where you came from, what your goals were, and how you achieved them. Recount the different stages you went to, and describe the emotions involved. This prompt will help you give your readers’ an inside view of your universe.
Writing Prompt #8: Describe the first job you’ve had in your life (the environment, the people, and the work).
What was your first job like? Your first job was an important milestone in your life, and it probably had a bigger impact on your life than you imagine. What was it like to hold that job? How was the environment? How were the people? What was the work like? This prompt will help you get personal with your readers and show them an impactful part of your life.
Writing Prompt #9: Explain the toughest decision you’ve had to make in your life (include the different variables and how much they weighed).
In French, there’s an expression that loosely translates into English as “to choose is to die. Every decision we make comes with gains and losses, and some decisions are particularly tough. Walk the reader through the toughest decision you’ve ever had to make as well as the variables involved in the decision-making process. Do you think you made the right decision? Why or why not? Paint a full picture of this decision for the reader.
Writing Prompt #10: Argue against something you believe deeply (make counterarguments for your position).
To be a persuasive writer, you must be able to deconstruct your own arguments. Take a position you firmly hold and make the opposite argument. Research arguments if you need to. Ask friends who disagree with you if necessary. Make a compelling case against a position you hold firmly. Although difficult, this writing prompt will make you a more persuasive writer.
Writing Prompt #11: Narrate the worst thing someone has ever done to you and how you’ve overcome the situation (include all the different stages and emotions involved).
We’ve all had terrible things happen to us, and the best we can do is learn from those situations. For this writing prompt, reflect on a time when someone did something that impacted you, them, and your relationship. This writing prompt may prove emotionally difficult, but it can be a great way to make peace with events from the past. It can also teach something important to your readers.
Writing Prompt #12: Explain the most complicated thing you know in the simplest manner you can (use simple words and avoid all jargon).
You likely know something that most people can’t even begin to understand. Whether it be about physics or Hegelian dialectics, find the one thing you typically avoid talking about due to its complexity. Break it down to its different parts and start at the beginning, assuming no knowledge from the reader. Give a comprehensive explanation that will satisfy your reader and make them feel like they have learned something.
Writing Prompt #13: Describe the most satisfying event you’ve ever experienced (the environment, the people, and the work).
Though we sometimes struggle, life brings exhilarating events we should share with our audience. Think about the most enthralling thing that’s happened to you and describe it in great detail. Describe to readers what this event felt like. You can easily inspire and motivate readers by sharing your positive experiences. What’s more, you will relive these positive emotions yourself.
Writing Prompt #14: Explain the best bet you’ve made in yourself or your career/business and how things changed afterward (include the different variables and how much they weighed).
To get to where you are, you’ve likely had to take a risk and bet on yourself, your career, or your business. Explain what you consider to be the best bet you’ve ever made. Walk the reader through the different options and your thought process for making this bet. This writing prompt will help you uncover the way you think and what people can learn from you.
Writing Prompt #15: Argue for a change you would like to see in society (make counterarguments that challenge your view).
There are a thousand things we would like to see change in society. The world around us is very far from perfect. What behaviours do you think individuals should give up? Make your case for a better future by prescribing a change. This writing prompt will help you enter the conversation of social change with your unique angle. Persuasion is about prompting people to take action or change behavior. This is your chance!
Click here to get a printable version of the prompts!