All my recent reading about fan fiction (bigger post forthcoming) brings up a thought about nonfiction. When I present at conferences, I often talk about magazine freelancing - and remember, freelancing is important because magazine writing is a great stepping stone toward building credentials and a platform, then writing a nonfiction book. During these presentations, I help writers identify markets, realize their strengths and compose query letters. But no matter how much instruction I give, people still want to know one thing: Where do you come up with ideas for magazine articles?
Well ... hopefully, these ideas will come to you here and there as you walk through life. But if you continue to hit a dead end concerning ideas, you can always take what others have done and piggyback.
Of course I'm referring to the all-important follow-up article. It's one of the first things they taught me at the newspaper: "Every story deserves a follow-up." It's true. Whether it's one year later or five years later or 25 years later, you can write an article focusing on what has happened since the "event" (or whatever) first transpired.
One year after the state school board (etc.) passed a controversial funding change, how has that impacted schools?
Five years after that buffoon fan reached over the seats at a Chicago Cubs fan and (likely) cost the Cubs a playoff series, where is this guy now? Is he dead? Does he still get death threats? How does he make ends meet?
30 years after a nearby oil spill, how are animals and environment still affected, if at all?
In a way, I consider such work almost to be "fan nonfiction." With fan fiction, you're taking what others have done and piggybacking on it with your own story. With a follow-up, you're taking someone's idea and just providing an update on the story. Anyway ... food for thought.