Here’s a question: should I write nonfiction? It’s a simple question but it raises a lot of additional questions that you might be wise to answer.
Question #1, I write fiction, what is needful to be done differently to write nonfiction?
Surprisingly, I have discovered that writing nonfiction is not a whole lot different than writing fiction as far as my work output is concerned. The biggest difference has been to make dry facts enjoyable to read.
In fiction, I employ my imagination to a high degree and have the freedom to create new characters, dialogs, etc. In nonfiction, I have to be fact oriented. It is not just a story; it is a document that relates facts in a manner that instructs and possibly entertains the readers. Like any writing, the more you do it the easier it becomes.
Question #2, If I write nonfiction do I need to stop writing fiction?
That is a personal question that only you can answer. There are authors who write both. Recently I have joined those ranks. I would recommend you try it before you arrive at a final conclusion.
You just might discover that you are good at it!
We will explore these and more on the other side of the break.
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Now back to the article.
Question #3, Do I have the skill level?
This is another question that requires effort on your own to discover the answer. I would say that many of the skills needed for fiction are needful for nonfiction.
You still need to do research, check your spelling and grammar, and perform other writing basics. One helpful thought might be to read nonfiction books, particularly on your chosen topic. This is not required, but it might help you see what skills you may need.
Question #4, What topics would I write about?
One of the rules I have followed in writing fiction is to ‘write what you know about’. That can change over time. In my case I love history so it was natural that I would write historical fiction. I also love the Bible, so it was natural to write about historical people, places, and events in the Bible.
Later, I developed an interest in science and exploration of space. I have read several science fiction books and didn’t care for the requisite alien life that dots the landscape. But when I started writing speculative fiction, which is science fiction from a more Christian point of view, I found I enjoyed it.
The same is true about nonfiction. Write what you know or what you are interested in. I am not talking about reporting. We live in an age where the average reporter simply echoes what someone else has said.
For examples of this, simply look at the Covid-19 coverage. Whether you are reading the New York Times, an Associated Press article, or most major television news, you get almost identical information. Not because those news sources are reporting the truth, but because they are either too lazy to the digging to verify the facts or because the ‘facts’ reported simply fall in line with their political agenda. In fact, sometimes you feel like you are reading an article written by the Democratic National Committee.
If you are going to write nonfiction, you should be willing to rock the boat a little. Dig down and find out what is true. Don’t accept so-called ‘fact checkers’ as, in my opinion. they are of little use. In general, report as old-time reporters use to report by digging deep for the truth.
Question #5, Does this require a lot more research?
Generally, my answer would be yes. For the simple reason that your entire book, article, or document is fact based. But that only means you include more of your research material.
If you’ve been following my blog for any time, then you know I believe in doing research. Fiction is more believable if soundly based on facts, and nonfiction literally requires facts. Basically, you still do the research and perhaps more depending on the subject.
Question #6, Am I willing to put the extra work in?
Again, this is a personal choice. I do not know how much time and effort you normally put into your work. If you invest hours and hours of time and effort in writing fiction, then the increase in work is probably minimal.
But if you toss off fiction with little work, then you can expect a dramatic increase in your work load.
Question #7, What’s my motive?
Motive is always important. I recently wrote about your motive for writing. That covers both fiction and nonfiction. You might want to review it. However, that primarily covered writing in general.
Writing nonfiction can be just as exciting as writing fiction. Most fiction has some truth involved and often requires research into people, places, and events. In science fiction and speculative fiction, you need research into tools, inventions, discoveries, and more. Nonfiction almost always involves research. Plus, in nonfiction you need to have references so your reader can check them out for accuracy and additional information.
In conclusion, take a look at what you know about yourself. You will likely discover that you have more skills than you thought, and that you know more than you think. Don’t let the unknown stop you. Give nonfiction a try and discover if that is a worthwhile writing career choice.
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