Last week, I finished reading and editing the first draft of my novel. I was worried after I read through the book, I would hate it or realize my idea didn’t work. The good news is I still love the book, the concept, and characters. However, the bad news is my book is nowhere close to being published at this stage. My novel needs work. Lots of it. I need to fix plot holes, develop characters, add in more detail along with the typical line edits. My first book, When Light Hits the Path, also needed work after its first draft, but mostly grammatical and line edits. The contrast between the revision process for these two books got me thinking about the differences between writing fiction and nonfiction. I came to the conclusion that I love the freedom of writing fiction, even though writing fiction is more challenging than nonfiction for me.
The Freedom of Fiction
The beauty of fiction is the freedom. An author creates characters, setting, plot, and all the details for the story. As a fiction writer, there is something wonderful and freeing about creating something new, to take an idea in your head and flesh it out into a story. Often, ideas for characters, short stories or novels will strike me while I’m driving my car, walking the pug or going for a run. Later, I sit down with the idea and decide if it’s worth pursuing. Many times it may not be, but other times the idea sticks. That’s the freedom of fiction, the ability to pick and choose, try something new, and create whatever characters and story you want. I love that freedom.
The Challenge of Fiction
On the other hand, fiction writing is complex. An author needs to create a story where a sequence of events line up to create conflict, climax, and resolution. The plot must flow together without holes or discrepancies.
Let me give an example. The main character in my novel is named Rachel. She is sixteen, a high school sophomore who is raised by her grandparents because her parents are out of the picture. However, Rachel is close to her aunt Kate who is the younger sister to Rachel’s father. This family dynamic sounded simple to me in my head. But when I wrote the novel, I realized I needed to know ages and dates to make sure the plot and timeline made sense. Some questions I asked were:
How old was Kate when Rachel was born? Did they live together? For how many years?
What is the age difference between Rachel and Kate? Between Kate and her brother?
With fiction, the author has complete freedom to create the story, but the challenge is ensuring the story lines up in a cohesive manner.
Obviously, there is much more to writing fiction (and nonfiction) then the challenges and freedoms I listed above. These are just my thoughts as I work through my novel and contemplate future work.