Saturday, January 29, 2005

A Conversation at a Signing...Lessons in Writing Fiction

I had a signing at my local Barnes & Noble on Thursday night. I was seated between two non-fiction authors who asked me about writing fiction. They thought writing fiction would be easier than non-fiction because in fiction, everything is made up. I told them that, for me, it was exactly the opposite.

Learning to write fiction after many years as a successful non-fiction writer was really tough. Non-fiction is very linear: Here's the opening paragraph, the points I am going to prove, here are supporting facts A, B and C, and here's the conclusion. It follows a predictable pattern, incorporates your research and wraps up in a tidy paragraph at the end. Once you master the pattern, it's pretty much all the same.

It's also all written from the brain--you follow the "rules." How many sources to use in an article, how the article is constructed, etc. I found it was very much a clear mental process.

Fiction, however, is written from the gut. To make that emotion work, to really get in tune with your characters, you have to write from the gut. That's not an easy thing to learn, particularly if you have been a brain writer for years. You have to learn to let go, to get quiet with yourself and to really delve deep into yourself, your subconscious and your characters.

All easier said than done :-)

So, how do you do this? Practice, IMO. You have to write away from distractions, sometimes with a new method (if you're used to writing on a computer, try longhand, or try moving the laptop to a quiet corner of a coffee shop or some place new). The point is to get out of your rut and to try to get more in tune with the intuitive part of yourself.

Remember, I wrote 10 books in 8 years before selling. It took a long time for me to find my gut. Even now, I have to sometimes get away to a new place or write longhand, just to get back into that mode.

So, IMO, fiction can be harder, but the joys of writing it far outweigh any work involved :-)

Oh, and I liked Cindy's idea, LOL. Might interfere with a few synapses, but if it's professor recommended ;-)...

Have a great day! It's a balmy 28 degrees here!



  1. Anonymous6:04 PM

    I would agree! Wasn't it Mark Twain who said something along the lines of, "Writing is easy. Just open up a vein . . ."


  2. Glad you liked my writing "idea." Have still not tried it yet... The thing about fiction is, you have the "rules" and "guidelines" for getting it right, and then there are others who seem to go straight to the top breaking those same guidelines. It gets really confusing!


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