Monday, May 13, 2013

Guest Blogger Elizabeth (Beth) Blake on Writing Nonfiction Versus Fiction


Strictly speaking, nonfiction books include “How-to” books, history books, or books about any topic you wish: fashion, cars, sports figures, etc.
Memoirs fit into the category of nonfiction, but in a different way because they also have many fiction elements, which the “How-to” books etc., don’t. Memoirs tell a story and therefore, require a plot, a story arc, a theme, character arcs, dialogue, a setting, all the elements of a fiction book except that the story is true.
I started my writing venture years ago by writing true short stories about my ancestors, my parents, my grandchildren. I learned how to write a query letter and sent them to various magazines and received a whole lot of rejections. Then one day I received a contract and a check for $100. Then I started selling a whole lot more of my family’s stories.
After that, I branched out to writing a memoir. After working in the medical field for twenty years, I turned to teaching high school science in an alternative school. My dramatic experiences in that school were like being in a movie. I started writing a memoir about those teaching days, joined a critique group, fixed my manuscript, paid $500 to a professional editor and rewrote the book. It was all worth it because I learned so much and my writing vastly improved.
There are publishers who are looking for memoirs but unfortunately, they want memoirs of famous people such as former presidents, famous actresses, or
well-known sports figures. So after trying and failing to get a publisher, I self-published my teaching memoir:  “No Child Left Behind? The true story of a teacher’s quest” by Elizabeth Blake. It’s in paperback and e-book form both and has done fairly well.
Then I decided to try my hand at fiction and wrote a romance. My critique group taught me a lot. I read and studied “The Writers Journey” by Christopher Vogler, along with other fiction writing how-to books. In my opinion, writing fiction is a lot harder. So much to think about. Setting, characters, secondary characters, plot development, etc. All those things seemed to come naturally when I was writing my teaching memoir. I essentially wrote what happened and there was enough drama in the real-life events to carry it through, along with a natural arc in my character development.
But the fiction didn’t come ready to be written down. I had to plot it all out and it was hard. I must have done well enough, though, because I found a publisher, Keith Publications, to publish my romance: Shelter of Love by Beth Blake. (I write nonfiction under the name Elizabeth and fiction under Beth.)
Now that I’ve written both nonfiction and fiction, I have chosen to write another memoir. This one is about my years working in the medical field—lots of interesting  stories. I finished it, then had my critique group go through it and I re-wrote it. I’m currently looking for a publisher.
Even though I prefer writing memoirs, I will eventually run out of interesting things in my life to write about! Then I’ll tackle another novel. And I’m sure (hope) each fiction manuscript will be easier to write.    
Elizabeth/Beth Blake  on Amazon:  Fiction  or  Non-Fiction
Check out her website HERE
Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethBlake
 

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