Sanford Begley

Fiction vs Nonfiction

Written by Sanford Begley

Sanford Begley
The First Reader

I usually write non fiction. Essays, blog posts, reports and the like. I’ve been doing it to some small extent since school. I do reasonably well, though I usually run it by a friend or two to check it before releasing it into the world. There are usually spelling and punctuation changes out of that, occasionally a word choice or two are questioned, that’s about it.

I can actually write non fiction better under pressure of a deadline. It is much easier to write it when the blog is due in the morning than when I have a week to get around to it. I’ve always ascribed that to basic laziness on my part. When it is due I sit down and hunt and peck at my best speed until i am finished with whatever topic I have chosen. On occasion I have to change the topic because, for a variety of reasons I cannot do justice to the topic. (Please, no complaints that I never do justice to the topic, my ego is fragile enough when writing)

As a rule I ruminate over the topic for a while then sit down and write it as I’ve been thinking about it. Sometimes I have to do a little research. Once in a while the research leads me to drop the topic, either because I realize I don’t actually understand it well enough or because I don’t feel I can do the topic justice.

Fiction is another kettle of fish entirely. I wrote my first fiction in third grade, a Twain pastiche. It was probably terrible, my teacher praised it, but praise for the work of a third grader is more about the effort than the product. I have occasionally tried my hand at it since then. I had an entire series plotted in my head, starting in 1980, that somehow never made it to paper. It died when the Dies The Fire series by SM Stirling came out. It would have looked much like a copycat book.  Since then I have done a number of aborted pieces that ended after a few hundred words. I did finish one short story, a twisted origin of Arthur tale. It was pretty bad. Not that it didn’t have a good story there, poor execution.

I have actually started a new book, 11K words so far. Those who have seen it have been very positive about it. Including the lovely lady that told me “By pain of death, you need to finish it.” She has to know the end. I am hopeful that now that life is settling down after the wedding and Libertycon I can do more on it. I worry that I won’t. I have figured out why, and that is the true subject of this post.

Non fiction is a collection of facts or opinions presented for information with entertainment as a side item. Fiction is entertainment with information and opinions as side items. When writing nonfiction I always figure that the info presented can carry the piece through the places where the entertainment fall flat, that isn’t true in fiction.

I’m a storyteller by nature. I use gesture and facial expressions and a reading of my audience to take the story in directions it needs to go. A skilled writer can use words to paint the pictures that facial expressions and gestures convey in storytelling. Judging an audience and changing the emphasis is another matter. You have to hope you aren’t losing them. That calls for judgement and no one knows whether they are doing it right.

What I have really found to be my problem is another matter though. When I reread what I have written it always seems flat to me. And because it is mine my usual ability to see what is wrong doesn’t work. Everything fictional that I write comes in as insipid and stale to me. This is a hurdle I must learn to jump before I can truly write fiction.


3 responses to “Fiction vs Nonfiction”

  1. I don’t think that hurdle can be jumped. You just have to do it anyway. Time before reread helps, but it’s still yours.
    This is what I’ve gleaned from the Huns (in part ;o)

    Cedar is right, you must!

    I’m in the same boat, but I am determined to do it this time. There is the added incentive of being physically unable to keep up with the jobs I used to do, but you probably are experiencing that, as well.

    I’ll race you.
    Good luck.


    1. Sanford Begley Avatar
      Sanford Begley

      I agree with you, note however the lady quoted wasn’t Cedar 🙂

    2. Cedar Sanderson Avatar
      Cedar Sanderson

      I think what he’s writing is very good, but I didn’t threaten him about finishing 😀 I try to do some cheerleading and encouragement instead.

      And yes, some of the reason I’d like to see him writing more is that I worry about him if we move and he can’t find work. He needs to be busy, because he is a man in the old-fashioned sense of the word and won’t be happy if he’s not providing.