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Five Nonfiction Tests — by Andy Scheer

Help your writing earn a passing grade.

Would you like to write an award-winning article — or a chapter fit for an award-winning book? Here are the criteria for a national contest I’m judging.

1) Idea (timeliness, appeal)
Will readers skimming the publication stop and take a look? Does it promise to meet their needs by offering something they can put into practice or information they will find significant?

2) Effective development of idea
Will readers come away disappointed — or satisfied they’ve received what’s been promised?

3) Writing style
Will readers feel like they’re driving on a freshly paved highway or a badly rutted back road? Has the writer settled for what first came to mind — or carefully assembled and edited the presentation?

4) Use of imagery/emotion
How will the presentation make readers feel? Is that achieved not just by loaded language but also by examples that connect deeply?

5) Originality of treatment
Will readers feel they’ve already read much the same piece — or will they find a distinctive approach that invites them to continue reading and leads them to view the topic with new eyes?

Few published articles, even award-winners, will score a fifty. The higher your writing ranks, the better the chances it will get published — and touch readers’ lives.


  1. Diana Flegal says:

    Great information for the #nonfictionwriter here. Thank you, Andy.

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