As a nonfiction writer, I’m always looking for ways to boost my creativity and productivity. Recently, I’ve become fascinated with ChatGPT and its ability to generate high-quality content from simple text prompts. With the right prompts, ChatGPT can help nonfiction writers research topics, organize ideas, and even write full articles or book chapters. However, crafting effective prompts is an art that requires thought and strategy.
In this article, I’ll share my top prompt engineering tips for unlocking ChatGPT’s potential for nonfiction projects, whether you’re writing articles, essays, books, or any other form of informative content.
Prompt ChatGPT to Brainstorm Topics and Titles
Staring at a blank page struggling to come up with ideas is every writer’s worst nightmare. Thankfully, ChatGPT makes generating content ideas and catchy titles easy.
ChatGPT, please suggest 10 creative titles for a book about the history of women's suffrage in America. Base the titles on popular books in the history genre.
Prompts like this provide numerous unique title ideas that I can choose from, saving tons of time brainstorming. ChatGPT can suggest titles for articles, books, or any other project.
And it doesn’t stop there. Ask ChatGPT to propose potential topics to write about as well.
ChatGPT, please suggest 5 unique article topics related to positive psychology that would appeal to a mainstream audience. Ensure they do not overlap.
With a simple prompt, I have a list of viable topics and I didn’t have to rack my brain to develop them myself. The key is crafting a detailed prompt so ChatGPT understands exactly what you need.
Use ChatGPT to Research and Fact Check
One of the most tedious parts of nonfiction writing is doing extensive research. ChatGPT allows writers to instantly access volumes of information on any topic.
For example, I asked ChatGPT to provide background on the origins of hip hop music and key facts to include in an article. It responded with a concise summary citing critical details.
I can copy this information directly into my article draft, then independently verify the facts from other sources. This makes the research process exponentially more efficient.
ChatGPT also helps identify credible sources to reference. When I prompt it to suggest sources on a given topic, it provides publication names, links, and a summary of why the source is relevant.
As useful as ChatGPT is for research, human fact-checking is still absolutely vital before publishing anything. Treat ChatGPT as an AI research assistant rather than a definitive source of truth.
Generate Detailed Outlines and Structures
With the right prompt engineering, ChatGPT can create entire outlines for nonfiction books or articles. This provides an easy-to-follow structure for writers to build upon.
ChatGPT, please generate a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline for a 10-chapter book on the benefits of mindfulness. Include a 1-2 sentence summary for each chapter explaining key points covered. Use APA formatting for headings.
A prompt like this gives me the foundations of an outline covering exactly what I asked for. I can then flesh out the summaries into full chapters myself.
When creating outlines, be very specific about things like number of chapters, writing style preferences, key points to cover, etc. The more details ChatGPT has to work with, the better the results.
Use ChatGPT to Write First Drafts
This may be ChatGPT’s most controversial capability–its ability to write complete first drafts of articles, papers, and book chapters after being sufficiently prompted.
While AI-generated content requires heavy editing before being publishable, ChatGPT’s writing capabilities are quite impressive given sufficient direction.
ChatGPT, please write a 1000 word first draft article about the benefits of gardening for mental health. Use scientific evidence from credible sources to support key points. Target an audience of women over 50.
A prompt like this resulted in a reasonably coherent first draft touching on all the areas I specified. I was able to take this draft and spend more time refining and editing rather than starting from scratch.
Some argue that using ChatGPT to generate any written content toes ethical lines. My personal view is that, like any writing tool, it comes down to how the individual chooses to utilize it. The key is being transparent about your process while upholding quality standards.
Useful Websites for Crafting ChatGPT Prompts
While mastering prompt engineering takes practice, many online resources provide prompt examples and ideas across different genres:
- Awesome ChatGPT Prompts – A GitHub repository of prompts for content writing, code generation, and more
- PromptHero – Contains a prompt generator with ideas for blog posts, ads, stories, and other applications
- PromptEngineering.org – Provides an overview of key prompt engineering concepts with examples
I suggest browsing these sites when looking for inspiration to create your next great prompt!
In Closing: Balance Automation and Originality
ChatGPT is an exceptionally useful assistant that, when prompted correctly, can elevate any nonfiction writing project. However, over-reliance on AI can undermine originality.
The key is finding the right balance between automation and human creativity. Use ChatGPT to generate ideas, structures, and first drafts, but apply your own perspective, voice, and purpose through extensive editing and refinement. Produce final drafts that uphold quality standards for publishing.
By combining ChatGPT’s raw processing power with human creativity and critical thinking, nonfiction writers can maximize productivity while still creating authentic work. Master prompt engineering and let your imagination soar!