Friday, February 26, 2021

Nonfiction Writing Tips: One Amazing Thing

Today I'm continuing to share strategies from the anthology Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep: 50 Award-winning Authors Share the Secret of Engaging Writing that students can use to choose topics they’re excited about for nonfiction writing projects. You can scroll down to read some of the earlier suggestions.

One of the fifty authors who contributed an essay to Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep is Jess Keating. She also provided a fabulous idea-generating technique that she calls “One Amazing Thing.”

Each morning, students draw an empty box in their writer’s notebook, write the words “One Amazing Thing” above it, and then close their notebook. Throughout the day, they should be on the lookout for one thing that catches their attention or sparks their curiosity. It could be an object, an action, a snippet of conversation—anything at all.


The act of making space for an amazing thing will raise your students’ awareness of the world around them. All day long, their subconscious brain will be looking for a way to fill that little box.

After doing this activity for a few weeks, students may see some trends among the things they notice. Identifying these commonalities can help students discover what matters to them, which can assist them in choosing topics they’re excited to explore and write about.

Choosing a topic is an important first step in the nonfiction writing process, but for their prose to shine, it’s equally important for students to find a focus they’re excited about. Next week, I’ll begin providing suggestions for helping students narrow their topic and identify a unique approach.

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