There is a big difference for a writer between writing fiction and writing non-fiction. With fiction a writer can give free reign to his/her imagination. It can soar like a bird. The only restrictions are to stay within the bounds of possibility. But with non-fiction you must stick to reality – unembellished by your creativity.
With fiction you want to tell a story and you want captivate and entertain the reader, you want the story to be as engaging as possible, and so you employ all your writing skills – all your imagination and creativity – into producing your masterpiece.
Non-fiction needs a totally different approach. You are writing for a different type of reader – a reader who is seeking information. No flights of fancy here. Just facts. Here your reader is not looking to be entertained – he is looking to you to help him solve a problem. You can only attempt to do this if you have the knowledge and expertise to do so.
Perhaps you’re an expert in your field. Or you might be someone who has discovered a new and easier way to build a dog kennel, and you want to tell other dog owners or soon-to-be dog owners all about it to save them time and effort. In either case you do it because you know something that you believe will be helpful to others. And to be able to pass it on you have to explain it in the clearest way possible. No fancy words, just plain, simple statements.
I have just finished a non-fiction project, which has taken much more time and effort than I envisaged when I first started on it, and I have found it much more difficult and demanding than fiction. Called ‘Eat Cook Slim’ I decided to write this book because of the frenzy of diets, books, supplements and meal replacement products on the market today relating to weight loss and good health. During more than thirty years experience in the beauty/natural therapy industry in Australia I helped hundreds of clients to gain good health and a slim figure – by which I mean the right weight for them – along with the benefits of a healthy glowing skin, which is the basis of all beauty. I know that diets don’t work and that following the simple guidelines to healthy nutrition is the only way stay slim and healthy, and when you know how, it’s not all that difficult. And I believe I can pass this know-how on to others. So I wrote a book about it, and then decided to put together a series of books of quick, simple recipes to accompany it. It proved a big task.
I had no idea of the amount of time and effort I would need to put into such a project.
When I’m telling a fictional story I become embroiled in the lives of my characters – I’m like a fly on the wall watching them as they go about their endeavours, eager to see what they will do next, totally immersed in them. And I love every minute of it!
But non-fiction demands so much more. You must check your facts, down to the last detail. Does the latest research agree with your advice? You must be careful not to make a mistake, your readers are relying on you. I must admit I gave a relieved sigh when I finally finished this project. And if it helps a few readers I’ll be satisfied.
But I can’t wait to get back to my next partially written novel, which has been languishing in my laptop for too long!