Writing non-fiction is not an easy task. When the truth limits content, we are forced to create drama, intrigue, and interest within very tight parameters. As authors, there are a few simple tips you can follow to help your non-fiction leap off the page.
1. Consider the Reader. More than your source, more than yourself, more than your research - think about what the reader will get out of this work.
2. Engage in a Conversation. Pretend that you are in a conversation with friends who love the subject you are talking about. What interests them? What do they already know about it? What will surprise them?
3. Read Mystery Novels. One of the hardest things to do as a non-fiction writer is to keep the reader "hooked." You want to give them enough to compel them to read the next chapter, but not so much that they figure it all out too early. Mystery writers are masters at this and there is a lot to be learned from their work. Read the great mystery novels and the modern ones and your non-fiction writing should improve.
4. Know Your Material. This one is simple, but often overlooked. You should know your material very well. A good rule of thumb is the 90/10 Rule for Authors. You should know more about the subject that 90% of your target audience. The 10% who know more than you probably won't read your book anyways, do don't overdo it.
5. Simplify. It is rare that a non-fiction book conveys too little information about a subject for the reader. On the other hand, including way too much information in a book is a common mistake. Simplify your work, simplify your prose. Always ask yourself two questions from the beginning to the publication date. One, what's the point? Two, why does it matter? Stick to it, and your work will be crisper, cleaner, and more engaging.
What other methods have you found helpful for engaging the readers? What is your favorite way to "hook" the reader at the beginning? Which one of the above tips best suits your writing style?