Mystery Writing

3 Differences Between Writing Fiction and Nonfiction

You know I write mysteries. And while I haven’t published yet, I’ve been writing fiction for years. I make the bulk of my living writing nonfiction though. I’ve even drafted my first nonfiction book — a business book for freelancers. While that goes through edits, I’m drafting the first novel in the Murder Script mystery series.

Here are three of the biggest differences I’ve found between writing fiction and nonfiction books (at least for myself).

  1. Nonfiction is faster. This is likely because I’ve been involved in the niche for years. All of the information is already in my head. I just pull it out. With novels, I have to wait for my mind to spin a story. It’s a much bumpier road for me, and I slow down most days to visualize scenes before writing them. There’s also more to research when writing a novel because they don’t stem largely from my personal and professional experience like my nonfiction work does.
  2. Fiction causes more of an editing obsession. My general rule is that that I don’t edit something until it’s finished. Now with a book that might mean a chapter as opposed to the entire book. But with fiction I find myself constantly editing as I write, editing what I wrote the previous day before moving on, and editing at the end of each chapter. With the nonfiction manuscript I plowed through the entire book before trying to edit. I think that’s because I fear fiction more. One wrong turn now could throw the entire story off-course. I write from an outline though, so you’d think most of those twists and turns would already be hashed out. My hope is that this will get easier over time so I can spend more time writing and less time second-guessing myself. I’d rather write crap in a first draft and actually finish it. That’s what the later editing process is for. I have to remind myself that the first draft is just about getting the story down on the page.
  3. Fiction is more fun. That’s really all there is to it. I love writing nonfiction too, but fiction is an escapist thrill in a way nonfiction will never be for me.

Do you write both fiction and nonfiction? If so, what are some of the biggest differences for you? Do you write each for different reasons? Have different goals? Feel differently about each type of project? Tell me in the comments.

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