1. undertheradar
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    undertheradar Member

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    Critiquing non fiction writing to improve fiction writing?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by undertheradar, Jul 24, 2013.

    I hope this is in the right place - if it's not then I'm really sorry (been browsing the forum and have developed a healthy fear of the mods, there are a lot of rules I'd rather not inadvertantly break!).

    I've been reading with interest the threads about not publishing work online, and they make a lot of sense to me. I joined the site with the express intention of fulfilling the criteria for using the writing workshop section of the forums in order to get a critical appraisal of my fiction writing. I have no real frame of reference for whether it is amateurish or not, although I can spot that in others' work. I just don't think I'm removed enough from mine to identify it yet. However, I clearly don't want to jeopardise the minute chance there is of publication, so I'm going to keep it off here.

    My non-fiction work, however, I'm comfortable with and has already been extensively published on various websites. I've even been paid as a sub-editor of such a site in the past. So that stuff is all freely available and anyone can go and read it.

    Is there any merit in posting that up for critique here in order to gain insights into how to improve my fiction writing? Are the two skills transferable like that? Will I potentially have annoying writing habits in non-fiction which may transfer to my fiction and can be edited out? Has anyone used the site like this before?

    I'd be really interested to know people's thoughts on this. Thanks!
     
  2. UnrealCity
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    UnrealCity Active Member

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    I think the answer is yes and no.

    I believe the writing is a skill which is transferable to all types of writing. There is a lot involved, from the first draft, to the editing and revision, rewriting etc. The actual act of writing and editing can be improved through practice, fiction or nonfiction.

    However there are also significant differences between nonfiction and fiction. When receiving critique for non-fiction you may not be learning some essentials like character building, world and plot development, etc, that make up a fictional story.

    I hope this helps.
     
  3. undertheradar
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    undertheradar Member

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    Yes, that does help - it sort of confirms what I was already thinking, which is that the stuff I likely need help with isn't what I'll get from a critique of non-fiction work. After all, I already know my style and that it's good enough to be paid for in that genre! I guess I need to come up with something fictional alongside the piece I'm working on to be publishable, then it won't matter if the former is published on here. Not enough hours in the day!

    I need to decide whether or not it will be more useful to me to create some excerpts for critique first to help develop my style and eradicate bad habits, or to get a good chunk of the story I'm working on done (because I think that doing that in an of itself will develop my style) and then branch out to see what I've missed. Hmmm, food for thought.
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    It also depends on the type of non-fiction. Narrative non-fiction/biographies/memoirs/creative non-fiction have a lot in common with fiction, in that they're really telling stories, and thoughts, setting, dialogue, etc., come up in them, too. If, however, the nonfiction is some sort of essay, op-Ed piece, analysis of politics or philosophy, or a basic news reporting of an event, then, there's not as much that's directly applicable. That said, though, of course you can always benefit from critique of any writing as there still are elements that apply to all different types.

    Since some of your stuff has already been published, I don't see the point in submitting it here for critique. Since practice is the most important way to improve one's skill, I suggest writing some new fiction to post here. You could write some scenes that involve the characters from your story, such as a scene that you wrote that takes place well before or well after the plot of your story. Or one that is not relevant to the plot. Or you could write something completely different. Try some short stories -- you could use a theme from one of the short story contests here (although I find that the themes here are sometimes too general to give a real flash of inspiration) or you could google 'writing prompts.' You'll find a bunch of sites that are chock full of them. Pick one of those and write a story and then post that here for critique.
     
  5. undertheradar
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    undertheradar Member

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    Thanks Chicagoliz - it seems we're on the same wavelength - I decided on exactly the course of action you suggested, looked at the short story contest theme, wrote a short piece for it, am going to sit on it for a couple of days then edit and submit it to the contest, by which time hopefully I'll have generated enough stuff on here to qualify for putting it up in the critique section, so can post it over there, which I think is how it works?
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    not really... one can be a great non-fiction writer and bomb with fiction... and v/v...
    ...ditto above...

    ...sure, but only in grammar and other technical areas... i don't see that as being helpful in any other way in re fiction vs non...

    ...no clue... i wouldn't recommend doing so...

    ...there's no reason you can't post brief excerpts of your fiction, for feedback... all one needs to avoid is posting entire works or too much of a longer story/book...
     

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