Ah, the joy of telling a story.
Too often writers think only of the creative writing process, but while the joy of being able to write a good fiction story, can be challenging, the joy of writing a non-fiction story can be just as rewarding. Too often we don’t give ourselves enough credit for what we have learned as fiction writers and we don’t realize that those lessons can be equally applied to non-fiction. We ignore our ability to produce a coherent piece of educational information or humorous true story that others might enjoy reading. We often don’t allow ourselves to utilize or celebrate the special joy of what we have taken the time to learn about the basics of writing beyond our fiction work.
When it comes right down to it, the writing process is not easy and as fiction writers, we may be constantly studying the craft. For certain we are practicing it every time we sit down to write another story. What we don’t realize is that for many people writing non-fiction can be just as profitable and as creative as writing fiction, and we’re already working at becoming better at the writing process every time we sit down at the computer to write.
The value of knowing how to write
My sister has worked in the computer field all her life and she has often told me that while she cannot imagine sitting down and making up a fictional story, much less being able to get it down on the written page, she still needs to be able to write in her work. Because of that, she has had to take the time to study and learn to be a better writer. Now she also tells me that her boss is constantly picking her to do certain jobs because she has become a good writer. She has a special sense of being able to recognize what needs to be said and then the ability to get it written down and passed along to others. This is the sort of skill we as writers possess or –like my sister—that we study and should continually celebrate. We can complain about a scene not coming together today, but when it does, we will be ready to write it. We will have the knowledge and the skill and the ability to write. Not all people can.
Too often writers don’t give ourselves enough credit for the writing work we do on a daily basis. Whether we’re lamenting not getting our word count done for the day, or worrying about reaching new audiences or really reaching for the pinnacle of success as a best-selling novelist we forget that we have been given a special gift already—our writing skills.
Celebrate your writing
Whether we’re writing promotional snippets or blurbs, or query letters or we write a blog, writing is a major part of our daily lives. This is a skill we should not only celebrate but that we can also use to write articles or pieces that many people can enjoy reading. Whether it’s writing a report or a letter, we don’t think of the importance of knowing how to put words together. As writers, we just seem to do it. Even if they don’t enjoy it, or complain, that could mean you’ve touched a nerve with your writing but you’re still reaching others emotionally and that takes a special skill tool so don’t let negative reactions or criticism ever stop you. I remember on one of my early newspaper articles as a young college reporter, someone sent a letter to the editor calling me a “half-baked” reporter. I was hurt and to make matters even worse, my editor published it in the “Letters” section. I don’t remember if I was right in the end, but the criticism made me ask more questions next time I went out, and in the end, it made me a better reporter. It also prepared me for negative reviews I might receive in the future.
Writing fiction and non-fiction are two separate skills but they can build on each other and if you can create a novel you can probably also write non-fiction. For more than forty years my day job was writing non-fiction as a newswriter, TV producer and later a public relations writer and manager. There was no waiting for creativity to strike. I was given base material and I just plain had to write and produce a news story or a press release. Those are the challenges of being a non-fiction writer where you have to automatically be ready to put words, sentences and paragraphs together that make sense and get a point across.
But if you are already working as a fiction writer you know most of the basics of putting a story together already. You have been studying and perfecting that craft every day, probably without thinking about it. And what you may not realize is that you’re also gathering information that can be useful in non-fiction stories to promote your work.
Where do you get some of that information to use? Or how can you use it? Let’s start with gathering the information. Let’s face it, we are often gathering research material for our stories – whether it’s about the historical town where you want to set your story to learning about the local bakery where your characters work. Or perhaps you’re studying a particular time period. Even if you’re making up a story about a spaceship on a trip to Mars, there will be material you might need to research. Writing fictional suspense stories might send you to the library to learn about local mystery or murder tales or you might have to get in touch with the local police department and perhaps take a citizen law enforcement class. Learning about these areas can always provide great blogs, but there might also be places where you can sell that story or you can use it as part of the publicity for your own book.
Two years ago I began a non-fiction project for a local group that involved writing video a series of scripts for famous historical women. The research on some of these fascinating heroines of the early West grabbed my attention and before long I began working on my own fiction project – a time travel set back in the early days of Colorado. In the meantime, I also got to use my old video knowledge to help put together the short videos biographies and that grew into a series project on famous women that eventually aired on our local PBS affiliate and resulted in two regional Emmy nominations.
Your writing skills should not be taken for granted. Writing fiction is not easy work, nor is non-fiction. We all need to celebrate those skills we already possess, but sometimes it can be fun to stretch our limits and try new outlets for our writing. As writers we should always be ready to celebrate our accomplishment and then move forward and expand our horizons.
Join me and learn how to use your skills in a new way
In the next month, I will be teaching a class on how to write non-fiction for fun and profit. We’ll be looking at story ideas, conducting interviews and then writing and submitting proposals to various outlets. Join me for Writing Non-Fiction with Becky Martinez from September 3 through September 30
Creating Memorable Characters: Let’s Write a Story (Volume 2)
Creating great heroes, heroines and villains doesn’t need to be a mystery if you take the time to build your characters using this step by step guide. Learn how to make your characters unique individuals who are both human and heroic, or thoughtful but troubled or cunning but courageous. Find out how you can use a simple procedure to come up with a character who will keep readers turning the pages.