The Two Best Things About Writing Nonfiction

Saturday, January 27, 2018

After many weeks of “serious” and intelligent posts, I thought I would take the time this week to write a more “fun” post. This will be my fifth year writing/studying creative nonfiction and I have definitely learned a few positives and negative points when it comes to writing nonfiction. Today, (in good spirits) I’m going to lay out for you the top two positives and top two negatives about writing nonfiction.

Positive #1: You already know your characters!

By far one of the best things about writing nonfiction is the fact that you already know your characters. When writing from personal experiences, I already know the characters I’m writing about because I know them in real life. I can promise you that I have never had to fill out a character map, or try to discern character flaws when writing nonfiction. It saves pre-planning time and since you know the character personally, it's easy to check your description.

The only negative thing about knowing your characters when writing is you may be too close to convey them well at first. Personally, I have had to add more detail when revising because I didn’t give an accurate image of who the person was because I was filling the blanks in my mind instead of on the page for the reader.

Positive #2: You already know the ending!

If you are writing a personal story that you have already experienced, then lucky for you, you already know the ending. I struggle with endings, so already knowing where the story is going is comforting. Alternatively, I can focus on the journey to the ending which I find more enjoyable anyway. Again with knowing your characters, already knowing your ending saves from extra pre-planning (always a plus) and allows you to focus on your message more. Definitely a win-win in my book.

Negative #1: You and other people know your characters!

The hardest part about writing nonfiction is being close to the story and everyone in it. I write about my family and close friends often, so it can be hard to write them in a less than flattering light even if you are telling the truth.

But on another note, you are a character in your own personal essays, making you a character that people know. It can be hard to put your own flaws and experiences out on display. I know you want to write that essay about kissing a girl or your anxiety, but is that something you want your parents to read? This is a hard choice to make with every essay you write, but sometimes it is necessary to think about especially if you are close with family.

Negative #2: The story is too close to you!

Being sentimental is not always a good thing in writing. When writing from personal experience, it can be hard to seperate yourself from the event to write accurately. Some of the best advice I received from a creative writing mentor is to never write anything that is so fresh, you feel a overly strong emotion. To avoid this negative, let a story marinate in you for a while before putting it down on paper. It will help you more in the long run because you will be able to write your essay with a clear mind, leading to a better writing process.

I hope you enjoyed a few of my thoughts about writing nonfiction. I’m loving blogging weekly and can’t wait to post for you again in a week.

What are some of your favorite perks about writing nonfiction? Do you struggle revealing your work to friends or family?

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