"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Monday, March 18, 2013

How to Juggle Fiction When Nonfiction Brings in the Bread-Guest Post by C. Hope Clark


Writers know that nonfiction is bread and butter when it comes to earning a living. Fiction, often much more fun to write and a style that many writers feel better displays their prowess, does not draw in much of an income for years, if ever. So therein lies the rub. How much time do you spend on writing what you love versus the writing that pays the bills?
How is a writer to remain sane and satisfied? How does he juggle fiction and nonfiction?
1. Writing time.
Regardless the type of writing one does, a writer needs to have a regimen. What time of day and how long a period can you devote to your profession? It’s only when you identify the block of time you have at hand, and instill it as a hard-fast habit, that you can decide how to divide it up.
2. Prioritize.
If you need the income from writing to pay your bills, then nonfiction takes priority. Frankly, you need to focus all of your official writing time on nonfiction to establish your career before you can afford to steal time away to write fiction. Once you are solid in your writing income, you can judge how much time you can afford to lose to fiction.
3. Note your most creative times.
Fiction is more imaginative a craft than commercial nonfiction. You’ll find that evenings might be more conducive to your storytelling, once the world has slowed down. Or maybe you love mornings, while your mind is fresh, so you can tap those wonderful lines of dialogue and savvy plot twists. When you reach the point of assigning time to your fiction, give it the plum piece of day that makes it sing. You’ll be more inclined to stick to a schedule if your spirit is fed well using peak times. Chances are your nonfiction, business side works best at other times anyway. You use different parts of the brain.
4. Set goals.
Your commercial career has deadlines and administrative duties. You need time to write, research, manage queries, promote and collect payments. When you develop that managerial routine, you’ll be surprised how that knack carries over into your fiction. Everything you write needs goals even if they are no more than hours per week, word count per day or chapters each month. Without direction, you go nowhere.

I followed the above-mentioned four lessons to establish myself in this nonfiction career path. The primary goal was to make people see me as a writer, regardless what kind. Nonfiction was most logical in reaching that goal. Once I knew how many hours per week to work, once I’d collected published clips, once I knew what time of day suited me best for my nonfiction versus my fiction, I reopened the door to my fiction.

Every night, once I’d completed my nonfiction requirements, I wrote my mysteries. Nights let me escape and think characterization, emotion, setting and storyline. I knew my biological clock and its preferences. I gave myself a minimal length of time to write creatively.

That was a decade ago. Today, FundsforWriters.com is fourteen years old with 35,000 subscribers. I’m also author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, contracted with Bell Bridge Books. Lowcountry Bribe was the first in the series, released February 2012. Tidewater Murder, book two, comes out in April 2013. Palmetto Poison, book three, is tentatively planned for early 2014. I’m pleased as punch, but admittedly, I wouldn’t have published my fiction if not for the discipline developed in my nonfiction career.

1) My writing matured.
Writing so many articles, keeping so many deadlines, and tightening pieces to specific word counts gave me a more skilled, agile, practical knowledge of words. It doesn’t matter what you write, you improve your writing abilities with it. Each word on paper is one step closer to marketable talent.

2) My editing matured.
Under deadline I developed an eye for effective turns of phrase. I quickly grasped passive voice, hooks, metaphors and how to efficiently complete a thought. Punctuation, verb choice and minimal use of adverbs became natural to me.

3) My voice took root.
Nonfiction writers need recognition amidst the fray of other nonfiction writers, just as fiction authors fight for their places with readers. We twist sentences to be slick and wise. We learn to make a point more succinctly, more cleverly than the next guy. Over the years, after penning so many magazine features and essays for FundsforWriters (two to four per week), I awoke one night with the realization that my novel needed to be in first person, like the hundreds of essays I’d written. That sarcasm, pithy phrasing and pointed messaging from my essays was actually my voice, and those traits soon assumed their places in my fiction, making my protagonist a power to be reckoned with.

You can juggle fiction and nonfiction in your career. However, you need more than a storytelling aptitude. You need organization, diligence, and the ingenuity to recognize how to give each skillset its proper time, place, and respect in your writing life.

C. Hope Clark is author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series (www.chopeclark.com) and editor of FundsforWriters.com (www.fundsforwriters.com) . She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in beautiful South Carolina.

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net


  1. A special thanks to Hope for this "double dose" post, (the second this month) as a part of my Women's History Month tribute. Great food for thought here.

    1. Glad to be a part of this, Jennifer. It's a neat, crisp, informative blog, and you go a great job.

    2. Be still my heart...thanks, Hope. :-)

  2. I do think that my most Creative Times are when I am just Relaxing, like for example during taking breaks and doing nothing. Only it's not always that easy to do nothing, because there frequently is plenty to do.

    Although today I actually did manage to get a new idea during a break, and did get a new Story Idea that I wrote a post about.

    1. It's hard to take a true break and think about writing. But you are right. I do my best brainstorming when I relax and just think without distractions.

  3. Jennifer Brown BanksMarch 20, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    Hey there, H.P.,

    Good to hear from you today on this; I will have to check out your story...Thanks for stopping by and weighing in.

  4. As always, Hope gives credible, timely advise. We all need to know how to survive in the "juggling jungle." Thanks, Hope and Jen.

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksMarch 20, 2013 at 1:57 PM

      Thanks, Sue. Survival is indeed crucial, particularly in today's economic times. Lovely hearing from you today. :-)

  5. Right now I have a collection of poetry that's slow going because of my non-fiction work. But I do find I write my poems late at night, and I've set a goal to have forty written by the end of the year so that I can have a chapbook manuscript.

    I figured I wasn't the only writer with this dilemma.

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksMarch 20, 2013 at 2:00 PM

      Ah...poetry...my "first" literary love. Ironically, I'm working on a chapbook myself and seeking a publisher this year. Anybody out there interested? LOL

      You are not alone, dear one. :-) Thanks for chiming in-much appreciated.

    2. Oh yes, Sarah. We have our work and our creative times. While I can cross those lines, I love the night when all is quiet to pen my fiction. Never was a poet. Tried a few times and failed miserably!

  6. I agree with Susan - Hope always delivers good advice. I appreciate the fact that "she practices what she preaches". Thanks so much to both of you for sharing this.

  7. Thanks, Karen. I appreciate your feedback.

  8. Thanks so much, Karen. It's a lot easier to write and talk about what you know and do, and especially when you love your work.

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  10. While some writers might have a Literary Agent for representing them for their Fiction..., It might also be practical to have an other Agent for Non-fiction work. (When possible also one that likes doing some of the editing.)

    That's what I mean with 'Rock Star Style Writing' as you can read in Short Stories in Developement some sort of 'Crowd Sourced Writing' with having a whole Entourage with Managers, Promotors, Assistants, Commenters and a Fan Club :)