On writing non-fiction versus fiction books by Kristian Hall
Posted on July 7, 2020
by Jeyran Main
So far I’ve written seven books, and published five of them. Two were best-sellers, both in my native country of Norway.
I’ve written both non-fiction and fiction books, and I’ve reflected a bit on the difference. Maybe there are more differences than similarities. It’s really two different worlds.
You should write a non-fiction book if you have an idea you want to broadcast, or a topic you know a lot about, and that you want to inform the world about. You should write a fiction book if you have a story you want to share with the world.
Though hard to compare directly, for new authors, it’s probably easier to write non-fiction than fiction. Writing good fiction is hard. You need to get the language right, the dialogue right, you need good character arcs, you need to be able to make your locations come to life. All of this is hard work, and it’s difficult to get it right without a lot of practice.
Non-fiction is easier. For one, it’s less language intense. A great novel requires beautiful language. For a non-fiction book, the bar is lower, as the language in most non-fiction novels shouldn’t be too extravagant anyways.
But it’s still a lot of work to write a non-fiction book. The process goes like the following:
- Get an idea or a topic you want to write about
- Do the necessary research
- Do several iterations on the structure of the book
- Write it
If you’d like to go this route: invest a lot of time and effort in structuring the book before you write it. I’ve fallen in the trap of writing a book with poor structure at least once, and that book took ten years to get right!
The structure of a non-fiction book is about how you answer the question(s) you are asking as part of the research. If the structure is wrong, you won’t be able to give a clear answer. You can use the following formula as a starting point for your structure:
- The Background
- The Problem
- The Complication
- The Conclusion
Kristian Hall is an author based in Norway. He’s written several books, among them 14 Steps to Happiness – A Program to Overcome Depression. He is also running a blog at kristianhall.com.
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I couldn’t agree more about “invest[ing] a lot of time and effort in structuring the book,” ANY book. A lesson learned the very hard way. I don’t agree that writing nonfiction is easier than fiction, or that the language content has to be any less intense. Facts have to be accurate and “checkable,” otherwise credibility nosedives — a death kiss for nonfiction. Flat and boring language in nonfiction leads to a slower “death,” but death nevertheless.
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I totally agree. Credibility is such an important factor.