Dropping the Non from Non-Fiction

Dropping the Non in Non-FictionI recently caught up with a friend I haven’t seen for a while, and she asked me about my plunge into fiction writing after nearly a decade of non-fiction. “What’s the big difference from a writer’s point of view?” she asked.

I must have rambled something vaguely coherent in reply because she seemed satisfied with my answer, or maybe she was just being nice. Or maybe I’m losing the ability to discern that glassy look in someone’s eye; you know, the lights are on, but they’ve long fled out the bathroom window.

Anyway, I’ve given it a little more thought, and I think the biggest differences lie in two words: focus and freedom.

Dropping the Non from Non-Fiction

Non-fiction, at least what I’ve been doing for nearly ten years, necessitates a defined focus on a particular topic, and requires the writer to drill down into the subject. There’s little freedom (within the demarcated focus), but there’s a set mineshaft to sink and a defined reef to excavate. Doing the right research and asking apt questions allows the journalist to mine all the gold ore available.

Dropping the Non from Non-FictionFiction has very little focus and so much freedom it can leave a writer’s head spinning, especially when the protagonist develops a mind and a will of his own. Just keeping up with a free-wheeling character (or the plot she drives) can stretch and strain an author’s imagination. There’s no one shaft to mine, and no defined reef to scour … rather there’s a virtual universe to explore, and where to start can be as daunting as where to end. And oh, yes … getting sucked down a black hole at some point is as sure as getting torched by a few flaming meteorites.

I mean, consider the basic genres available in fiction. Man, they’re a mess. Some are defined by subject matter (e.g. Sci-Fi), some by writing style (e.g. Literary), and some by target audience (e.g. Young Adult). And most involve a crossover of definitions. Believe me, writer’s block is only second to the angst of trying to shoehorn your “precious” creation into the muddle that is a publisher’s list of genres.

Having rambled on again, I must admit that I’m probably a sucker for punishment. I enjoy the challenge of both fiction and non-fiction, and if I’m entirely honest (which now makes you wonder if I was honest in first place, eh?), I think dabbling in both keeps me balanced (read: sane). This is my article and I can write what I want.

Feel free to say what you want below 😉

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