Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Fiction Writer Writing Nonfiction

Since I decided to become a writer in 2001, all of my published work has been fiction (seven mystery novels and several short stories). In my current writing project, I’m writing the biography of a World War II veteran. This has been a fascinating project and a real learning experience for me. So what are my observations on nonfiction versus fiction?

With my novels I always do at least a preliminary outline. This gives me a roadmap even thought I often take detours to admire the scenery. Since my nonfiction project has relied on recording interviews with the gentleman I’m writing about, I’ve let him tell me his stories and then I’ve pieced them together as I go over the recordings. I let him control the agenda of the early interviews, recounting what he remembered. Then as I began writing, I had a number of questions, so the later interviews have been me asking him questions to get things clarified and filled in.
What is similar between fiction and nonfiction? They both require a good story. I had written journal articles when in the business world, but writing a nonfiction book requires the same attention to story as does a novel. I began writing the episodes recounted to me and then began organizing them in a story arc. Although I first put things down in somewhat of a chronological order, I began diverging from this as I built the story arc. I’ve written 56,000 words, and I’m now doing a read through to see what I’ve got so far.

An interesting process.

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