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Best Kept Secrets


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I do love a good secret, don’t you? And when I hear that something is a best kept secret—like a new hometown restaurant off the beaten track or a mysterious walking trail—I can’t wait to give the secret a try. But here’s the thing about best kept secrets: they don’t stay secret very long. 

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You just can’t keep people from extolling the virtues of something wonderful. And before long, it’s not secret anymore; everyone’s in on it. That’s what’s happened over at Nonfiction Fest, a writing challenge that on February 1st will be starting their third year.

I expect Nonfiction Fest to draw even bigger numbers this year so yes, it may not have that cozy, isn’t-this-great-just-the-200-of-us feel anymore but (and this is a big but!) it will still be a wonderful, inspiring, and supportive community where any writer can learn a whole lot. 

And before you say, “But I don’t write non-fiction so pooh-pooh to this challenge!”, hear me out. Because whether you write fiction or nonfiction, for children or adults, picture books, novels or articles, you will learn something of value over at Nonfiction Fest. Like… 

Research! 

Have you ever wondered how a writer was able to get all that terrific (and vetted!) material, perhaps even a few quotes from professionals for an article on say, dinosaurs? There are a lot of tips and tricks of the trade when it comes to getting information, and authors of nonfiction are pros at this skill. And they’re willing to share a how-to or two. For free. 

And now you’re thinking that you don’t need that skill for something simple like a poem. You’re just writing a happy little verse about a platypus, right? And I say, the more you know about a platypus, the better your concept will be. And maybe it will take an unexpected turn because you found out something surprising about platypuses (like the correct plural of the little critter). That’s the thing about research. It’s like shooting a film where tons of reel stays on the cutting room floor. But you don’t know what stays and what goes until you get into the thick of it all. 

The Art of Editing

That’s a skill, too, editing all that research. Maybe your novel’s setting is the Province of Massachusetts Bay during the years of the Salem Witch Trials. Perhaps you have reams of information about the time period and the place. And it’s awful tempting to get all that hard-earned info into your novel. Nonfiction authors can give you tips on balancing story and all that research and ultimately helping you write a rich, textured novel instead of a mystery that reads like a textbook. 


So here’s the best kept secret every writer should know: the skills to writing good nonfiction aren’t just for nonfiction authors. But don’t take my word for it. Do a little research for yourself over at Nonfiction Fest

(And P.S. I didn’t even mention that you can win prizes if you participate in this challenge and that’s pretty wonderful, too. And you know what else is wonderful? Supporting the NF authors who give so generously of their time and talent. So check out their books, leave a review, encourage your schools to invite these authors for a school visit. It’s a win-win for everyone!)

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