How I Stopped Being a Chicken and Admitted I Wrote Nonfiction


Sometimes, I’m shy.  To those of you who know me in real life, or even the online persona I posture, this may come as a surprise.  I show up in this world as larger-than-life, loud, and brash.  Confidant.  To a fault.

When I first started writing, I called my work “fiction.”  Though, the majority of the subject matter and characters were pulled from my real life.  It was a long process of being able to admit, proclaim my work as nonfiction.

Why? My early writing was largely prompted by assignments for my graduate program.  As I was undertaking a MFA degree, I had to experiment and play with different structures and form, tone and style in order to discover what was mine.  Often, we had to workshop these pieces.  I called it “fiction” to protect myself from my peers’ faces when they realized it was “real.”

I’d be silently sitting in the class while my peers discussed the piece at hand.  I had to behave as if I was invisible, a feat in itself.  I found myself staring at my paper, scribbling incoherent notes and poorly drawn pictures to keep from speaking.  Around me, people would discuss the plausibility of the story, the character, the emotional holes and unnecessary details.

On the occasion I’d confess the story was true, their faces would fall.  Their voices would soften and take on motherly, fatherly tones.  They’d say, “Oh, honey, this is true?” And the benefit of workshopping would fall to pieces.  Instead, it became a form of group therapy, of sighs and invisible, across the room hugs and hand holding.

Eventually, I learned to tough it out.  Lying about my work, hiding behind the safety of fiction diminished the impact, the power it could have.  It also helped to work with other nonfiction writers and get feedback / support from people with similar styles and goals.

The next piece I’m serializing is written in third person for this reason.  I could try to change the piece into first, but it would create a whole slew of problems, namely the inner thought process.  In first, the narrator would have to “tell” the reader these things.  This creates some plausibility issues.

So, readers, rest-assured, I’m not chickening out on my nonfiction.  Nor am I trying to pawn myself off as a fiction writer.  The next piece is 100% nonfiction.  Look for it soon!


5 Responses to “How I Stopped Being a Chicken and Admitted I Wrote Nonfiction”

  1. What an inspiring story. I think it took a lot of courage to admit this. Truthfully, although I write fiction, I enjoy reading nonfiction just as much, if not more.

    We can really learn from nonfiction. That’s one of the many great things about it. 🙂

    • Thanks for your kind words. It’s always cool to hear from other writers. I’ll have to check out your site to see what your story is!

  2. 3 BehindMyBooks

    I’ve been caught up in my own commotion recently, so I haven’t commented much. But for the record, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying everything you are writing. I can definitely sympathize with the insanity of admitting something is nonfiction, and I can also celebrate the genre and the honesty!

    Keep doing what you’re doing, not that you seemed prone to stop, and thank you for gracing my mind with your lovely words!

    Looking forward to the next tale!

  3. You ARE SuperFly!

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