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Which is Better – Fiction or Non-Fiction?

February 5th, 2014

We often get asked whether it’s better to start writing with fiction or non-fiction. Well, the answer is, it depends on what you want to achieve with your writing. I know that in the Comprehensive Creative Writing course we advise that you start with non-fiction, and there’s a good reason for that advice – it’s much easier for you to be published with non-fiction than it is with fiction. Understandably, publishers are much more likely to take a chance on a comparatively short article from an unknown, unpublished author, than they are a full-length novel.

So, if you want to build up a portfolio of published work, which is always a great idea as it shows potential publishers how you write and who you’ve written for in the past, starting with non-fiction is the way to go. This allows you to earn some regular money while you work on your life’s passion – your novel!

Having said that, there are those of you who know what you want, and what you want is to write fiction and only fiction. That’s fine, you can start with fiction writing, but you have to bear in mind that you may find it takes a little longer to get that first publication success. Essentially, you’ll be asking a publisher to take a punt on you, and your 80,000 word novel, with no indication as to how you are as a writer. What I mean by this is getting published is not just about the quality of your writing, there will also be questions in the publishers mind about your reliability whether they can have an effective working relationship with you. You’re not just a one-hit wonder!

If you’ve already had work published, however, it shows that you can work to briefs and deadlines, that you are able work with, and take direction from, editors and that you can create pieces that are suitable in style, content and length for your chosen publication.

It’s no use to the publisher if you are a wonderful writer, but it takes you five years to complete a chapter or article, you argue with every correction or piece of advice given and you constantly miss deadlines!

So, the choice is yours. If you fancy trying to create a portfolio of published work for yourself, then start with non-fiction writing (next week’s course of the week is non-fiction writing, so you’ll get £25 off the course fee). If you are only prepared to take a chance and try your luck with a novel – go for it!

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