On writing non-fiction

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about writing fiction vs. non-fiction.  I explained how somewhere along the way I developed an affinity for writing the latter, and when I do write now, that’s most often what I choose.

Just today I was looking through an old filing box, trying to find something completely unrelated, and found the pile of old, old, very old writing of mine that I’ve kept for years.  Did I mention it was old?  One of the documents was originally printed on a dot matrix printer, and then copied onto some kind of slick, old-school fax paper that I don’t even know if they make anymore.  But that’s all beside the point.

One of the documents I found was an assignment I did for a non-fiction writing class I took in 2002, which talks about my reasons for switching.  I found it interesting, because I bring up one of the same points my friend did when discussing why she never shares her writing with anyone before it’s complete. So I decided to add the piece to my collection here.

Where am I as a writer? What are my strong and weak points? Both very difficult and interesting questions. I suppose it’s easiest to start with the weaknesses, since one in particular jumps to mind, and then we’ll see where things go from there.

When critiquing myself, the most glaring issue I see (and this is before technical errors – voice, tone, etc.) is the simple fact that I don’t complete a good 80% of the stories that I begin. I get an idea, I flesh it out, come up with some good plot points, and begin to write. Usually this gets me to page two. It is here that I lose momentum. The thought of continuing to write the story is tedious, regardless of how much I want to see it completed. It’s as though I’ve finished the story in my head, and thus see no need to trouble myself with putting the words to paper.

Something that I recently noticed, was that this phenomenon occurred almost solely with my fictional writing. The science-fiction, fantasy, horror, crime, etc. Almost every non-fictional piece, whether essay or story, that I’ve begun, I’ve finished, polished, and am fairly content with. This got me to thinking: Maybe I should be writing more non-fiction. Now, that’s an idea all good in itself, except for one problem. I have a much harder time coming up with non-fiction stories to write about.

I suppose then, another area I need to work on is the “how” to see the events in my life as interesting stories. Tales that would interest others as well as myself. It’s amazing how many stories can be made more interesting if told well. Which could be another reason for my hesitation in writing, since I’m of a particular mint that if a story hasn’t interested me withing the first page, the likelihood of my continued reading (or comprehension) drops exponentially. The same goes for my own writing. If I can’t interest myself, from a pseudo third-party point of view, then I have a hard time justifying any continued writing of the piece.

Interestingly enough, though my best work has not come from classes, since I am forced to finish pieces, I feel a good sense of accomplishment. So, I suppose that’s what I’m hoping to get from taking creative writing classes – both a sense of having finished more pieces, and thus being more likely to do so in the future, and developing the habit of writing to accomplish the same.


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