Over the past few years, more freelance writers have been writing ebooks, because as freelancers, we’re wordsmiths for hire. We’ll write just about anything, as long as someone pays us for it. We’re either frantically busy, chasing deadlines, or staring at the phone willing it to ring. Please call and HIRE me, we mutter.
Initially, our carefully crafted “spare time” ebooks fill the holes in our schedules. Then writing ebooks becomes a profit center. Hey — ebooks make money. Who knew?
Freelance writers’ next step is a question. Novels sell well, often better than nonfiction, so they wonder can I write novels? Making the switch from writing nonfiction to writing fiction is scary.
Writing ebooks for cash: can YOU write fiction?
Yes, you can. It’s challenging for nonfiction writers however. TV and movies don’t help. You can get some idea of novels’ structure from movies, but novels are more intense than movies. In a novel, readers live vicariously, as your characters.
Here’s what I tell my students: be there. Be in your novel, or in your short story. Fiction authors know what “show, don’t tell” means. To nonfiction authors, it’s a new world. Former writers of nonfiction tend to narrate everything, which means that they’re writing outlines, not stories.
When you’re there, right in your fiction, you see, hear, touch, smell, taste, and think, as your character. You’re in someone else’s skin. When you’re there, your readers are too, and that’s what they want.
The “being there”, in your story character’s skin, involves writing in SCENES.
Why scenes? Because you can’t be there for every second of your story. Otherwise each of your novels would be twice the length of Gone With The Wind.
It’s hard for nonfiction authors to get their heads around scenes, which is why I tend to yammer on about them. You write in scenes in both short stories and novels. In Writing Short Stories: How Many Scenes Do You Need?, we said:
A scene is defined as a unit of action; the operative word being ACTION. Something happens in a scene. If nothing much happens, it’s not a scene…
Your scenes can be any length. Chapters can be any length. It’s all up to you. You decide. 🙂 You can write a scene with a sentence or two, no judgments. That said, when you’re planning your stories, knowing approximately how many scenes you’ll need for a short story, novella, or novel is useful. It just helps you to plan.
So the short answer to: “can I write fiction?” is yes, of course you can. And you’ll write better fiction — fiction which sells, when you learn to write in scenes.
And when you avoid flashbacks like the proverbial plague.
No flashbacks, please — drop the backstory, and keep your story MOVING
In addition to telling their stories — narrating them, rather than writing in scenes — new fiction authors want to EXPLAIN everything. This means endless flashbacks. And backstory. (“Backstory” is everything that happens before your story starts.)
Of course you want to explain… but… Please don’t do that.
Remember, we said that readers want to be there.
To cure yourself of wanting to explain every single thing in your novel, read Elmore Leonard. He’s a master of fiction, and you’ll rarely find any backstory, or flashbacks. He trusts his readers, and so should you. Readers just want to get on with the story — they’re not interested in the past.
Resist the Impulse to Explain
New writers start off great. They get the woman in the trunk of the car (or create some other hot action which starts things off.) Then they feel they need to explain who the woman is, and how she landed in the trunk of a car. They go on for pages and pages. RESIST! Please do not do this.
For one thing, your readers don’t care. They’re in your story, because you’ve done a good job getting them to empathize with your heroine’s plight. They want to know what happens next.
Fiction is all about what happens next.
I adore 19th century fiction; novelists like Anthony Trollope and his friends. But I’d never dare to write the way they did, because Victorian novels are all about flashbacks and backstory and narration… Victorian novelists were writing in an era without TV and movies. So they described, and explained everything.
Don’t do that. 🙂
Writing is writing: if you can write nonfiction ebooks, you can write fiction
If you can be there in your novels, and bravely resist the temptation to explain, you can write fiction. Writing is writing. The ease of writing you gained from writing nonfiction means that writing fiction will be huge fun for you, once you get your head around it. In all likelihood, you’ll enjoy writing fiction a lot more than you enjoyed writing nonfiction.
So get started. Write short stories to get comfortable with fiction. Before you know it, you’ll be a pro. I’ve just released Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories to help you to get comfortable with fiction. Enjoy. 🙂
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