11 April 2011

Non-fiction vs Fiction

I was asked recently if I found it difficult to switch between fiction and the non-fiction writing that is my ‘day’ job.
I didn’t even stop to think about it.  The answer is no, I don’t find it difficult.
After the conversation I thought about how I approach each.  Much of the non-fiction writing I do is training materials and technical manuals.  These can be for print or online.  They may be self-paced distance education, or tutor-led materials. 
Invariably the material is driven by a set of training objectives.  These might be Unit Standards, or for a corporate organisation more business driven.  Whatever their origin the learning objectives drive the subject content, and as such I write more tightly, always asking myself if the content is required by the objectives. 
Training materials need to be easily understood, and therefore plain English and short sentences are a must.  Also a necessity is a logical path through the material, and chunking of ideas, always building on new learning.
Occasionally I might find myself rethinking the logical path through the material, or the way I am chunking information, but generally speaking the editing changes for my non-fiction work are minor compared to the multiple drafts and edits in a novel manuscript.
I don’t find it difficult to switch between the two, but I think my creative writing side could learn a lot from the non-fiction side.

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