Friday, March 07, 2008

Making a Literary Life Friday: Fiction Challenges?

The four of us were writers before we turned our attentions to fiction in a serious way. Journalism, public relations, technical and educational writing are discrete disciplines, nothing like fiction. Thus, our thought this morning is: what kind of Other Writing did you do before turning to fiction, and what did you find most interesting, or more difficult, or most amazing about the transition?

Lisa Marnell
When I write for work: reports, children's evaluations etc, I must force myself to start working. With fiction writing, I must force myself to stop. That being said, there are times, often, in either fiction or non-fiction, when I find myself in the zone, so engrossed in the subject of my writing that I barely hear the phone when it rings.

Amy MacKinnon
Sorry, I'm late to the party today. I started writing essays and must admit I find them the easiest of all literary forms. I adore reading them--Elyssa Ely and David Sedaris are favorites--and so enjoy writing them. I think my favorite ones are tailored to radio, i.e. NPR. Those driveway moments are always inspiring. I feel fortunate to have done a few of those. Reporting, though fascinating, especially the research and actual reporting, was hard. Imagine having to report, research, and then write a story under a tight deadline and then your editor throws another story at you with only a couple hours notice. I wasn't that kind of journalist, never could work so well under the gun, but I know plenty who are and that's why I have so much respect for the field.

Fiction? I am passionate about it, but it's like they say: open a vein and write. Gug...

Hannah Roveto
In public relations and journalism, the challenge is to strip a huge concept down to its bare bones, wrap in a call-to-action. Years (decades) of doing that made the most difficult transition for me the number of threads. It took me quite a while to realize the number of threads not just possible, but necessary, that can be worked in without losing readers to frustration!

Lynne Griffin
I had lunch last week with a dear friend and colleague. When we began discussing my passion for writing fiction, there was no need to deliver my latest shtick about why a parenting expert who wrote a book would find her way toward writing a novel. She said, "I've always seen you, first and foremost, as a writer. You wrote about parenting and now you're writing about families in a different way, that's all." Thanks, Nina! It was a lovely moment for me, to hear someone I respect capture my journey so succinctly. Though what I choose to write about may vary, I am a writer. The seeds for my writing come from family life. I express my truths in fact and fiction.


Larramie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larramie said...

Don't you all wonder which of your writing forms will have the greatest impact?!

Anonymous said...

I'm with you, Lisa. I had to struggle to write nonfiction and have to struggle to stop writing fiction.

The hard part about fiction is finding a focus. Writing nonfiction is concete. It either happened or it didn't. In fiction, there are endless ways to spin one story and I find it challenging to settle on one.

I'm really struggling with the creative aspect. I'm a good writer, but not a very good story teller--story finder.

Shauna Roberts said...

Before turning to fiction, I wrote (and still write) for magazines. I specialized at first in articles about biomedical instrumentation and techniques. Later I shifted to writing on medical topics—bigger market, higher pay per hour, more satisfaction (because I was helping people live longer and better lives, or at least I hoped I was).

Coming from a scholarly background, I never "got" journalism or enjoyed it. I hated begging scientists and doctors for interviews and photos; I hated transcribing phone interviews; I hated the emphasis on being first with a story; I hated how issues had to be portrayed as having two opposing sides, no matter what the true situation was.

Gradually I found my way into writing short items that didn't require interviews and that could be on the most useful topics rather than the most timely. Occasionally, I covered medical meetings and wrote traditional news stories under short deadlines, but otherwise I enjoyed writing short items based on research rather than interviews. Yes, one can make a living that way.

For me, the biggest difference with fiction is that I don't have to limit myself to writing in the style of the magazines I write for. Instead, I can try out different styles voices in short stories and write in my own voice when I like. It's freeing and fun.

Anonymous said...

For about seven years I've been writing test prep materials, lessons, and articles for teachers and learners of English. I have no doubt that teaching, writing, and editing in the ELT field has helped my writing get to where it is today. But these days, I feel the urge to stop "writing for work". Do other fiction writers get that feeling? I feel like I want to do something brainless-something with my hands- like paint houses! I've even thought about going back to waitressing, though I know I won't. I sometimes wonder if it's just my fiction craving a different background.