Thursday, April 4, 2013

Can you be both fiction and non-fiction?

Writer Abroad has led a pretty ordinary life (if you can call going out your door and being surrounded by the Swiss German language and a gigantic medieval clock tower ordinary). 

The only problem with being ordinary? It isn’t so good for memoir writing. That's too bad, because Writer Abroad loves memoir. And she's written one too.


Writer Abroad hasn’t been a Prisoner of Tehran. She never went Running with Scissors. And she hasn’t spent A Year in Provence.

Instead, she’s spent seven years in Switzerland—a country most publishers don’t care about.


Writer Abroad sometimes laments her ordinariness. Because for every Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life that is published, there are at least one hundred A Million Little Pieces.

So what is a happily married non-alcoholic drug-free mother of a normal baby non-fiction writer to do?

Write fiction, of course.

But can a non-fiction writer be a fiction writer? Are we naturally born one way or the other? 

At first, the fiction form seemed to resist Writer Abroad’s sarcastic first-person style of writing. After all, the first full-length book she completed was her memoir about life in Switzerland, which is now sitting in one of many fate-to-be-determined piles.

But can you write fiction with a memoir voice? Writer Abroad doesn't know, but she did. She just went with it. She figures maybe the style will be innovative for fiction. Or maybe it will just suck. There are about 2,000 words to go to finish the first draft of her first novel. And then Writer Abroad will hopefully have some perspective to decide if a memoirist at heart can really write novels too.

Are you either fiction or non-fiction? Or do you think we can be both?


  1. I'm a NF writer with a novel stuck in her head. I have pretty much the entire plot, but just can't get it down on paper. I'm also not that great at describing things. However, having read a few "write your novel in X days" books, I believe you can learn how to draft and complete a novel. Whether other people will want to read it is another matter.

    1. It's okay, Expat Mum. Writing the novel is its own reward. You'll feel so thrilled when it's done, which of course might take you longer than you expect. Or, occasionally, shorter. But you'll never regret the effort of having done it.

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