"...everything in life is writable...if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."..... Sylvia Plath

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Repost: Good advice for beginning fiction writers from someone who writes non-fiction

I do not write fiction, but that doesn't mean that I don't use many fiction techniques in my non-fiction writing. Fiction writing fascinates me. I have even tried it a time or two but I have to say I find it very tedious...all that character development and dialogue...It's just takes too much time and effort, like sculpting a statue or like my She Writes on-line author friend, Meg Waite Clayton, puts it, "...like......making a jigsaw puzzle."

No. I'll stick with non-fiction. I prefer writing journal articles... in and out fast. Maybe do a little research...but that's easy with the internet, Amazon, and the library. And personal essays...writing about something you know and/or feel. For me, that's easy and satisfying, but making up stuff? What a chore. You might think I have no imagination but that's not the case. I can write fairly decent poetry, paint or draw a vase of flowers in the style of Picasso, write and perform an original song, and turn out a pretty good evening meal from left-overs. But I just don't enjoy making up stories.

I like to tell stories, stories about people and events that really happened. And so, when it came time for me to try my hand a larger piece of writing, I decided upon a memoir instead of a novel. Writing a memoir has been a joy. My main goal was not to get published, although I've deviated from that decision since I started writing it a year and a half ago. I'm still not sure which way to go, traditional or self-publishing. Maybe I'll format it for Kindle.

And by the way, the advice on writing fiction I mentioned in the title of this post, a title not geared to the memorist, can be found in the following straight forward, useful and well written article.

Don't Write What You Know by Brett Anthony Johnston: An essay on Fiction written for The Atlantic

if you enjoyed this post, feel free to leave a comment


  1. Nancy~
    You just wrote my feelings -- exactly. And...pretty much the same about the poetry, art, songs and original cooking...even from leftovers. I had no idea how much we thought alike on this subject. I am pleasantly surprised, and like the way you presented it :~))

    I too enjoyed Meg's jigsaw analogy. Although it is clearly befitting of fiction, it actually helped me over a hurdle with my larger non-fiction project -- hence, the use of fiction techniques, as you pointed out from the get-go :~)


  2. Wow Kathy...that's amazing. It's always nice to find someone who thinks along the same lines I do...especially about writing. Not that I don't like ideas and views that vary from my own, they always keep me thinking. Thanks so much for the lovely comments..hoping to see you around the web often.

  3. A fiction writer I will most likely be; too many stories going through my head! Lol! Just wanted to stop by and say hello on the blog ball! ; )

  4. Nancy,
    I can understand how writing fiction can be daunting, but I love to fall into it. To me it is much easier to make up stories than try to remember the truth...especially as I get older!

  5. I don't find it daunting just tedious and boring...developing all those characters and crafting all that dialogue. I would much rather be writing from a familiar place. The remembering is triggered by the emotions that are attached to each event. Those are the best memories...the ones you want to write about. And once the process starts, it snowballs.

    Then again, I am a dyed in the wool realist and most made up stories don't resonate with me. And BTW, I'm way over 65 and there are some events in my life that I will never forget. And those are the ones I write about in my memoir.

  6. Before I started memoir style writing, I hated it, as you dislike fiction, but after writing it, I quite enjoy.. I like the freedom of fiction and knowing I can lie and not have to worry about someone checking my facts. I enjoy writing stories about my family but since some of the facts are not always clear...I might call those stories - fiction. I met a artist in my first fiction class (who I became good friends with) that introduced herself during that first class by saying how much she hated fiction, but she wanted to understand it and put words to her art.

  7. Brenda, I didn't say I didn't like fiction. I actually read and have written a lot of it. I understand the craft, having taught creative writing in the Chicago Public Schools for 25 years. I just don't enjoy writing fiction like I do writing journal articles, essays and memoir.

    I use a lot of fiction techniques in my writing for drama, emphasis, and interest. Check this excerpt from my memoir-in-progress: http://alekhouse.hubpages.com/hub/Rodney-and-The-Boys

  8. Hi, Nancy. Came over here from SheWrites. I feel much the same way that you do about fiction vs. non-fiction. My English major in college was an uneasy fit because I was fascinated by non-fiction -- Samuel Johnson, Montaigne, Hemingway's "Moveable Feast" rather than everything else he wrote, Caesar's Gallic Wars, etc. I thought it took much more talent to grab the interest of a reader when you didn't have quirky characters or a plot line to hang the writing on.

    I also like your repost on beginning your memoir since I'm trying to begin one now.

  9. Julie, Thanks so much for the nice comments. It's great to know I have a connection with other writers who feel the same as I do about writing non-fiction...and, from what you've said here, for some of the same reasons. I'd love to know more about your memoir. Have you started it yet? If so, what time period in your life does it cover?

  10. Hmm, such interesting perspectives! Made me look at my own preferences. I think I've always preferred writing short stories to novels because each short story is "in and out fast," as you put it.

    Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment on my blog earlier. I wish you much success with your memoir publication.

  11. Always nice when someone appreciates my perspective. And glad it made you consider your own. that makes me feel I'm getting better at blogging...always room for improvement ya know. Thanks for checking out my blog.