Fiction: Harder to Write than Nonfiction

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I should have warned you in my NaNoWriMo post that the 50,000-words-in-30-days experience prompted a lot of musings on writing—and that these posts would inevitably show up in my blog.

In college writing classes, I submitted short stories multiple times a semester. After college, I participated in a few writers' groups; having a slot for people to review my work kept me writing.

Gradually, fiction took a backseat to business articles and other nonfiction, including a couple feature articles in national magazines. In May 2012, I started this blog.

So NaNoWriMo became the route back to fiction. And once I started, I remembered how dauntingly more difficult fiction is to write than nonfiction.

Think it's easy to make up stories? Think again.

With nonfiction, I'm writing about something I've experienced or considered. The subject isn't terribly remote from the world in which I live. I can take a break and quickly jump back into the article. Recounting real things, people, places, and activities is a matter of shaping the right language to give them life on the page.

In fiction, you fabricate people and their entire worlds. Let's say a character needs to move to the kitchen. What does it look like? Wait, she's in her office when she learns she needs to get home. Her work is in what kind of building? What is her office decor? What kind of car does she drive? How far apart are work and home? Does she have green eyes? Red hair? What color did I say these features were in earlier sections? Oh—I need to reference her childhood. What did her bedroom look like? Did she play with dolls or was she more into stuffed animals?

Even with a general outline, fiction writing regularly presents blank walls that you need to knock down—or decorate.

And because it's so "other," it's not easy to jump into and out of a fictional world. Getting my mind into place each writing session takes considerable warming up. I flounder for half an hour or longer before I catch traction.

Then, after I catch traction, I find it's a reorientation process to return to real-world topics and have real-person interactions. During NaNoWriMo I declined many social invitations because keeping up with the necessary word count required a significant amount of after-hours work. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn’t socialize much during NaNoWriMo simply because I became such an oddball from lengthy spans in fictionworld.

And yes, smarty pants: It is possible for me to be even odder than usual.