My guest blogger Maryruth Dilling, is new to JPC Allen Writes. She kindly volunteered to do this post when I was looking for guest bloggers who write both nonfiction and fiction. Welcome, Maryruth!
This past November during NaNoWriMo 2019, I took a giant leap at a writing project I had been percolating in my head for over a year. I’m a nonfiction writer who creates educational programs to help people move from barely surviving to abundantly thriving. For my first real attempt at NaNoWriMo, I wanted to try something different in the fiction realm, using the novel as a vehicle to educate.
I didn’t meet my word goal, but I learned a great deal about the difference in writing a novel and writing a nonfiction, educational piece.
When I develop a class, I may jot down ‘session’ divisions (similar to chapters), but it is mainly with the purpose of making sure I do not leave anything important out. If I find I have too much information for one class, I will develop a second class (similar to a second book in a fiction series).
With my classes, I write from decades of knowledge. Organizing sections happens almost as easy as breathing to me. With the move toward the fiction genre, I had to learn some new skills.
The first thing I realized was that I needed to flesh out my characters. This took time, but they soon took on a life of their own. I also needed some type of outline. Normally, a ‘pantser’ when I write, I learned that even though parts of the story could be done as such, some type of loose outline was needed.
Personally, I did not write a full outline. Since it is a dystopia book, I jotted down some scenes which were important to build suspense and lead the reader to where I wanted him to go, giving him a reason to want to learn what I wanted to teach.
Other differences, outside of character development and outlining, I had to brush up on dialogue skills. With my usual nonfiction, I had no need of dialogue. The dialogue itself was not difficult. Remembering the bits and pieces of punctuation with dialogue required review. The challenge was that when I began writing, I wanted the main character to be the aunt who is the knowledgeable one teaching about herbals. Instead, after the first chapter, an original secondary character stole the main spot in the story. This led me to rewriting a few sections. I do believe with the new main character, the story will be stronger, leading to more lessens for both the characters and the reader to learn.
Another new lesson for me to brush up on with fiction is writing the scenery. With program development, no scenery is required. Scenery development has been the biggest struggle to learn. Show, don’t tell, is a mantra writers often hear. Learning to combine enough detail to put the reader in the same time/place as the character, yet not become bogged down by details is a skill I’m still working on.
With the scenery, I decided to write enough detail to remind me of where I want the characters to be in the rough draft and fine tune the scenery when I go back for my edits. In the meantime, I continue to learn about improving my craft as I move from only writing educational nonfiction to using the vehicle of fiction as a teaching tool.
I hope my experience has motivated you to step out of the comfort zone of your current genre and step into a new world.
Maryruth Dilling, author/speaker/coach, describes her job as CEO/Founder of Kindling Dreams as one who educates, challenges, and encourages as she helps people through personal coaching and educational programs to achieve their potential. For more information on available services or products, contact Maryruth at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at kindlingdreams.com. You can also visit her on LinkedIn and Facebook.