Thursday, July 06, 2006

Fiction versus nonfiction

I find writing nonfiction considerably easier than writing fiction. I don’t think this was always the case for me. I used to think writing nonfiction was hard, before I had done it, and that fiction was easy because you just “made it up.” Now I know that nonfiction comes with a set of guidelines. You have facts to guide you, which is almost like having an outline. And fiction can go anywhere. Yes, fiction writers also have to know facts that give their writing verisimilitude, and there are definite limits on what they can do and can’t do, but fiction writers don’t have to start at Point A and end up at Point B. This makes their job “harder” actually, because they have to choose among the routes they can take. In addition, I find that fiction requires more out of me on a personal level than nonfiction does. I can write nonfiction even if I’m not passionately involved with the topic, but to write fiction I have to feel it. I have to “live” in the world I’m creating, and that takes emotional energy that is not always easy to come by. Anyone out there have similar experiences? Or different ones for that matter.

1 comment:

cs harris said...

I suspect one of the reasons fiction is harder to write is because a nonfiction writer, typically, must simply focus on conveying his information clearly, in a logical format, in graceful prose. Which of course isn't all that easy to do well. But fiction writers must do that and so much more. In addition to telling what's going on in a scene, we must provide characterization and atmosphere. We worry about pacing and foreshadowing, symbolism and so many other things. I suspect that's why writing fiction gets harder (for some of us) the longer we do it. At first, we write by instinct. Then, the more we learn, the more we're aware of the choices we're constantly making, and that slows us down.