Fiction vs. Non-Fiction: Which Do You Prefer?

New year, time to review what you're going to be writing in the coming months. Maybe like me you have a project or two already in the works from the previous year and you're working hard to reach a book launch deadline. Or maybe you're mulling over new ideas and deciding if you want to try a new genre. If you're a fiction writer you may have an idea in the back of your mind to do a non-fiction book about a specific time or event in history. Maybe you'd like to write about an interesting period in your own family history. Non-fiction writers may want to begin to write that long-delayed fictional novel whose characters and settings have been rolling around in the back of their heads.

You're a writer and anything is possible.

So what exactly is the difference between fiction and non-fiction? Simply put fiction is not true and non-fiction is true. Non-fiction involves real things, real people, real events and real places. True facts are needed for a non-fiction book. Fiction is a creation of imaginary things, imaginary people, imaginary events, and imaginary places. Imagination creates fiction. But whatever your preferred genre may be, the fact is that both fiction and non-fiction use the writer's creativity.

Can you be both a fiction and non-fiction writer? Absolutely; some of the best authors got their start writing journalism and memoirs. Margaret Mitchell, George Orwell, Mark Twain, and reporter-turned-novelist Willa Cather.

On the practical side, and if you're a true author, you have to think of the practical side of writing which is book sales, which genre is easier to sell? While there is still a healthy market for fiction, a demand for the attention of publishers and booksellers has moved elsewhere. Publishers are in agreement that it is getting harder to sell a new novel, even by a known author. Book buyers seem more and more interested in non-fiction. Finding a publishing house for your non-fiction is far easier than for your fiction.

It makes sense especially since there is a section of writing, known as literary non-fiction or creative non-fiction, that employs the literary techniques usually associated with fiction or poetry. Under this non-fiction umbrella falls the subjects of travel writing, nature writing, autobiography, interviews, memoir, and autobiography or personal essay.

Books about self-help, cooking, making life changes, dieting, and job strategies sell well, really well. More people read short, non-fiction stories than short, fiction stories. My first book And Then I'll Be Happy! is a collection of true stories about why women find happiness so elusive. My literary agent was able to sell the idea to a publisher in a relatively short period of time. It is still selling well today even though it was published seven years ago. My true love is writing fiction but that non-fiction book got me noticed and, since my writing style was established, it made it easier to have the first book in my Cate Harlow Private Investigation series picked up by a new publisher.

A positive of non-fiction writing is that you have to love facts, order of events, and research to write a good non-fiction article or book. Since non-fiction writers usually start out writing for on-lines, print magazines, and newspapers, there is a formula that has to be followed. Having to make deadlines, do research, and guarantee truthful facts create a great writing discipline. I still write for magazines and that discipline has carried over to how I write my novels.

But fiction, despite the latest trend in the publishing industry to acquire more non-fiction works, is far from gone. It may be hiding a bit but it is still alive and kicking. Once they are established with a solid fiction book, authors find that readers of fiction are more prone to become regular readers of their favorite author. Twain wrote wonderful articles on his travels but what we mainly remember him for are his fiction such as Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.

And if I may quote this master humorist and prolific writer of both genres, he had a very good comment to make about writing fiction and non-fiction: "Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't."

A good thing to remember is that as a writer you should take advantage of various areas of writing. If you write mostly fiction, you might try writing a non-fiction article for the numerous online magazines available. Switching from one area of writing to another stimulates creativity. The same is true for the non-fiction writer; try writing a short story and learn the differences and possible similarities between the two writing genres.

Remember that writing what you love is the real key. Your best work shows through in that form. That doesn't mean that you can't try something new every once in awhile. See where the muse takes you and enjoy the journey.

Happy writing!

Grave Misgivings, book 2 in the popular Cate Harlow Private Investigation series is now available where all books are sold.

Copyright 2015 Kristen Houghton The Savvy Author all rights reserved