Monday, October 11, 2010
Fiction Writing Vs. Non-Fiction Writing
As my fellow (and very talented) writer Christine can attest - everyone stop by and give her three cheers for the publication of her latest non-fiction book Emotional Intensity In Gifted Children - writing non-fiction is very challenging in its own way. Or maybe she's a whiz at it and I'm just the one having difficulty. It could very well be the latter.
In any event, I have been working on an essay regarding the Internet, applying law to it, and the inherent issues around concepts like trademarks and privacy. It's difficult for me, but the reasons for the difficulties are both similar and dissimilar to my fiction writing.
The first - and most obvious - thing I notice is that I am terrible at agonizing over the right word. No matter if I'm writing a thrilling tale about two lost teenagers in the mountains or if I'm writing a fact-based essay on the impact of jurisdiction on Internet laws, I stare at the blank screen deciding how to say what I want to say. You'd think it'd be easier in an opinion paper, but since this is for a grade and I want to sound at least halfway competent, I choose my words carefully. Then I backspace over a sentence here, a word there.
No, that's not exactly what I mean to say. Delete. Delete. Delete. Dang-it, I don't even have one paragraph written. Okay, where was I?
Oh yeah, I don't organize my non-fiction writing any better than I do my fiction. Yep, I'm a pantster here too. I can here all of you cringing, but trust me. No matter how sporadic and undisciplined it sounds, I managed to make it through an entire Bachelors degree being this way. I suppose I should have learned, but trying to organize a plan for an essay makes me cringe even worse than deleting the wrongly-chosen words.
Delete. Delete. Delete. I suppose this is good practice for editing and revising. Yeah, that's it.
Where these two styles are different however, is how the flow of the words happens. With fiction, I can write and write and not worry one bit about how credible I sound (first draft, anyway). One thing I cannot do with non-fiction however, is type something I know (or even suspect) to be incorrect. It bugs me worse than a pianist playing an off-key note. Or a book with dog-eared corners on the pages. Grrrrrr.
Delete. Delete. Delete. Is this getting old yet? Heh heh.
It's interesting how many differences and similarities there are in these two distinctly different styles of writing. Fiction is by far more enjoyable to work on IMHO, but I do agree with the necessity to be proficient in non-fiction as well. The more capable we are in expressing ourselves in the latter, the better we'll be in the former. Okay, that's enough distraction from homework.
How about you? Do you find non-fiction enjoyable? Do you approach it the same way you do fiction?