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Fiction vs. Non-Fiction, What’s Your Approach?

August 10, 2011

Most of the energy in writing credit these days goes to fiction writing. Non-fiction is always relegated to second-best. For example, each year has an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, yet there is no Breakthrough True Story Award. Why is that?


Not to belittle the hard work that goes into creating something from nothing for fiction, but non-fiction does end up picking up the crumbs. Every now and then a memoir or adventure story gets the attention it deserves, but somehow it always feels “weak.” That will probably never change, but I also will probably never understand why.


Non-fiction and fiction can both take huge amounts of research and resources. Good fiction writers will go to the corners of the earth (on a round planet yet!) to experience a climate necessary to create their stories, just as a non-fiction writer will go off to the same location to have a very similar experience. There is no rule that says a fiction writer must do so, and with a very vivid imagination it may not be necessary. Jules Verne never traveled to most of the places he wrote about. Of course science-fiction writers have not yet traveled at warp speed to get to faraway galaxies either and they’ve had a measure of success.


Non-fiction writers do have a major disadvantage though, especially ones that write about faraway places or adventures: they have to go there, or at least have the adventures. Jules was able to sit in his library and write away and never miss a meal at home. Bill Bryson, at least for his travelogues, had to go to those places and have those experiences. One would think that there would be equal acclaim for that as compared to fiction, but alas, there is not.


So authors, tell us about your thoughts about writing non-fiction. How do you approach writing your story? Do you take lots of notes? Do you write about your adventures after-the-fact? Do you set out traveling with the intention of giving birth to a book, or is it an unexpected result? Post a comment here and let us know.

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