Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fiction, Non-Fiction or Simply to Write - Cindy Sproles

I field writing questions on a daily basis. Ask me about a devotion and I can bolt upright from a dead sleep and recite the Hook, Book, Look and Took method of writing, why you should use it and how it impacts the reader. Then there are moments I have to resort to writing books or other authors who have a greater grasp of knowledge than myself. I'm not always the expert but I am always learning.

When conference time comes and folks line up for their 15 minute appointments there is one thing I continually hear: "I don't write fiction." or "I don't write non-fiction." I understand the love of a specific genre. Some of us are strong in the fictional process where others' voice weighs heavy in non-fictional stories and articles. Hearing those words, "I don't write..." sends chills through me when the art of writing is still writing.

Grant you, learning your target type of writing is vital but should you close your mind to the other side of the spectrum? If you're a fiction writer should you not learn the tools for writing non-fiction or vice versa?

Writing is a craft and like any craft the methods can intertwine. For example, I have a friend who is an excellent knitter. I'm learning to crochet. Both crafts are somewhat interchangeable. They both require needles, yarn, instructions and a specific way to hold the yarn. Both require me to count stitches, single out rows and attach more stitches. Both demand I follow a pattern to start my first row, make the design and finish the project.

The same is true with writing. Fiction and non-fiction are intertwined to a point. Non-fiction projects require me to follow a storyline pathway just as fiction dictates I build and follow a plot. I have to get from point A to point B in a way that holds the reader's attention and makes them want to read more. Be it fiction or non-fiction my work needs to follow a path from beginning to end to keep my reader on track.

Fiction characters demand personality and attributes, even flaws to pour to the surface. The reader can fall into stride along side the character and walk the path with them if they understand why and how a character acts the way they do. The same character traits are needed in non-fictional characters. Even though those characters already have a personality built, it's up to you to flesh out the attributes of those characters so a reader will connect. You see....intertwined.

Painting a scene colors the fiction world. It shows the reader the surroundings and the situation where your characters live. Within non-fiction, a reader needs to see the scenes of the story you tell. They need to see inner dialogue and conversation so they are drawn into a deeper connection with the characters of the story.

My point is simple. Learn writing as a whole. Of course focus on your strength as a fiction or non-fiction writer but learn the skills of both. A writer who does this rounds out their work. They weave a story that uniquely ties the little details into life-changing moments. Their work goes from good to memorable and we want our stories to be memorable.

My mother and cousin are avid readers. I qualify that by saying they average reading two or three novels a week. Two weeks after they've read six to nine novels, they can recall the book title and maybe the name of the author. The books they've read are good reads but they are not memorable. Slip in Max Lucado, Francine Rivers or Frank Peretti and they can recall the book chapter by chapter. Why? Because the story was memorable. The writers incorporated tiny pieces of writing fiction and non-fiction into their work and wow! What a mark it makes.

When you see a workshops on writing, soak them in. Learn the craft of writing because writing is still writing. Will you need every little thing you learn? Probably not but will you be able to incorporate tidbits and make your work better.

Finally, don't lock yourself into a box. If you write fiction as your primary, venture out and learn to write articles, how-to's and memoirs. If you're a non-fiction writer, venture into the world of fiction and learn the skill. The only result you will have is a better piece of writing. When you write for God, you never know what road He'll send you down. Love the craft. Learn it. Then write it.