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Fiction or Non-fiction?….a non-life-threatening decision with serious consequences

Today, an emerging writer asked me for my professional opinion on an important question she was entertaining. Did I think that the personal spiritual experiences she was trying to capture in her original memoir/self-help manuscript (which I had just finished critiquing) would be better served if she rewrote them as fiction?

My answer was a thousand word email, the gist of which was, “No....!!!”

If you, too, are sitting on the fence, wondering whether you should write your true/autobiographically based stories in a fiction or a non-fiction format…allow me to tip you over to the right side.

Choose non-fiction.

The first and foremost truth is that writing successful fiction is much harder than writing successful non-fiction. And, in terms of marketability, non-fiction is easier to sell.

Non-fiction has been the "favored" method of written communication since cave hieroglyphics and other emergent forms of literate civilization. Little has changed today. Although contemporary writers face formidable challenges in mastering the requisite skills in successful non-fiction composition, those daunting tasks pale next to the multifarious talents and proficiencies necessitated by the more nuanced and complicated composition of powerful fiction.

Writing winning novels and short stories requires the highest “literary skill set”; writing a winning memoir requires the second highest “literary skill set”; writing winning narrative non-fiction requires the third highest “literary skill set”; and writing winning “inspirational/self-help” book requires the fourth highest "literary skill set”.

“Market share” infighting between various book genres is fierce; however the battlefield within the fiction genre, in and of itself, is the bloodiest of them all.

The novel market is glutted. Amazon won’t divulge exact numbers, but insider spies have noted that Amazon releases hundreds of new novels and short story collections—both self-published and traditionally published— every single week. The “Amazon Unlimited” program, alone, introduces a daily tsunami of mediocre to really bad new self-published fiction titles.

Another closely held Amazon secret is that of the thousands and thousands of self-published books that the company “distributes” on its website, only a minuscule percentage of a minuscule percentage of them really “work” and sell a notable number of copies.

The moral of the story is this: if you are sitting on the fence, wondering if your stories should be formulated as fiction or non-fiction…jump off as quickly as possible; take an axe to the fence and chop it up for firewood; and then go home and write your non-fiction manuscript in the glowing light of the flames.

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