Fiction vs nonfiction – What should I write?

Fiction vs nonfiction – What should I write?

So, you have decided to write a novel.  Good for you!  You are entering into a world that is full of excitement and adventure!  When I finally (after five years) decided to write my first book, it opened a door to fiction, nonfiction and sooner or later, science fiction.  Which one are you leaning towards?  Well, let’s explore some of the options, and while we do that, I will try to answer some of your questions.

Nonfiction definition…

The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines nonfiction as: writing or cinema that is about facts and real events.  In other words, if you chose to write a book about your life’s events, told by you, (an autobiography) then that would be a work of nonfiction.  If you wrote a true account about someone else’s life, (a biography) that too would be a work of nonfiction.

The Nonfiction definition is pretty basic, and many people start their writing careers with works of nonfiction.  My first book was an account of my twenty-two years in the Navy.  I wanted to start there because I wanted my five children to one day read about what I did, and know me a bit better.  When they pull that book down from the bookshelf after I am dead and gone, the name they read off the cover will be mine: Clay Westfall.  In my book, that’s pretty cool!

mysteryFiction definition…

The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines fiction as: something invented by the imagination; an invented story.  In other words, you write a book with a story that was produced from your imagination.

Personally, I think these are the best kind of books!  You have no restraints, no rules to follow… you just let your imagination run and enjoy the ride.  The only book I ever intended to write was my autobiography.  Once I was finished, I found that I really enjoy telling stories, and that I was good at it… at least I thought I was.  Once I get up enough courage, I started writing my first fictional mystery story; Mystery, USA.  With this book, I was able to run free with the story, and I even added some real life details, like the personalities of the three sons.  I had such a good time writing it, I went on to write two more, and the fourth on is on its way.

I greatly encourage you to write a fictional book, even if you have no intention of publishing it.  It will unlock those childhood fantasy’s that are just dying to come out of you!  You can be your own version of Scarlet O’Hara, or Sinbad the sailor… or maybe even Captain America!  I promise you… if you start writing fiction, it will open doors that you never thought existed!


The Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines science fiction as: fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imagined to the moonscience on society or individuals or having a scientific factor as an essential orienting component.  In other words, science fiction is the same as fiction with a scientific spin on it.  The reason science fiction is so popular is because people are always fascinated by science, and when you add that to an interesting story line, people who normally are not interested in fiction will be drawn to it.  If you look at the world today, science fiction is everywhere! Super heroes, magicians, even dinosaurs in the streets of New York… there is no end to the scientific spin you can put on, well, anything!

I have never been brave enough to try science fiction.  With me it has always been a safe zone – fiction vs nonfiction.  The problem I have with science fiction is all the learning that comes with it. In the days of black and white TV shows, the evil scientist could invent a ‘planet destroying ray,’ and that was good enough.  Today, if your evil scientist does invent a ‘planet destroying ray,’ you had better give your audience some idea of how it works.  Children and adults of this millennium have the benefit of technology… in other words, they know too much to be interested in the science fiction of yesterday.  If you don’t believe me, on the next movie night, watch the 1902 version of ‘A trip to the moon.’

So, fiction vs nonfiction -???

Here is what I recommend you do.  If you are planning to write an autobiography, then put everything else out of your mind.  If you need some help with that, look into the January archives to your right and you will find some helpful articles there.  If you don’t think your life is
that interesting, then start writing down ideas for your fiction novel.  Every idea is useful, so don’t discard anything!  When I was writing my second fiction; ‘Potluck Murder,’ I thought of an excellent way to cover up forged documents.  The problem was, my book had no documents that needed forging!  But, I wrote down the idea anyway and put in my idea shoe box (it sits on my desk… I recommend all of you get one). Two years later I started my third book; ‘The Silver Sower,’ and that idea fit perfectly into the plot of the story.  Bottom line… never throw out an idea.

If science fiction doesn’t scare you like it scares me, then go for it!  Be the best science fiction writer out there!  Oh, and if any of you ever write a book that was inspired by my website, let me know… I will buy a copy!

blankNational Novel Writing Month

In closing, I wanted to tell you about National Novel Writing Month.  It is always in November, and the idea is that if you have been meaning to write a book, this is your month to do it!  You would start on the first on the month, and complete it by the end of the month.  Personally, I have never written a book in one month.  But, if you have nothing to do but write all day, go for it.

I have enjoyed spending time with you in this article.  I hope that one day you can get as much enjoyment out of writing as I do.  Please, if you have any questions, comments or if you need any help with your book, leave me a note below.  I will do all I can to help you. See you between the pages…

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17 thoughts on “Fiction vs nonfiction – What should I write?

  1. Loved your site. You offer such great information to those who have it in their hearts to write and don’t know where to start. I find it amazing that you have given everyone so many tools in one place. Keep it up!

    The link you made available are wonderful, it make it so easy to find what I was looking for. Thank You.

  2. Hi Clay and thanks for the article.
    It so happens that I am towards the final touches of my first book so I eagerly read what you wrote. I couldn’t find anything on the kind of book I am writing which is neither fictional or autobiography. I am writing a personal development book which is totally different kettle of fish as they say. Thanks for what you wrote it is encouraging though but if you have any suggestions about my style of book I would appreciate it.
    Thanks, Eli

    1. Hi Eli… As I am sure you know, the personal development niche is rapidly growing, so you are in a great area.  I thought about including it in this article, but decided that the field is so large, it needs it’s own space.  Please check back us and look for Februarys article “Helping with Self help.”  Thanks for the comment!

      Clay

  3. What a fabulous website and what great information.

    I think we all secretly want to write a book – at least I know I do. Actually I have written 3 kindle books on golf coaching but they don’t count.

    I have had some amazing experiences in my life and if I was to ever take the plunge it would be a fiction comedy based around anecdotal happenings of my life.  The thing is I have no idea if anyone would even bother to read it.

    Right I am off to continue my exploration of your site and may just get enough motivation to start that book (in my mind at least).

    1. Lawrence, I think you need to start that book!  Please find the article about writing and publishing your book for free on my website.  And don’t sell yourself short… those Golf Coaching books might be gold in Scotland!  Thanks for coming by, and have a great day!

      Clay

  4. I am still on your website. I really like your style of writing and your website in general. You are now in my bookmars.

    As for your article, I personally think of fiction as a way of imagination. Nothing like the dictionary definition. I like reading fiction more than I like reading nonfiction books. That is the reason I would rather write Fiction. 

    Do you have any information on what books sale better, fiction or nonfiction?

    1. Hi Strahinja… I think fiction and nonfiction sell about the same.  I am like you, I like fiction much better.  Writing or reading fiction is like dreaming… you can go to places that you could never go to in real life.  When I write fiction, I am King Arthur, or maybe Robin Hood.  I can be what I want.  Thank you so much for stopping in.

      Clay

  5. Your site has blown my mind.  I can honestly say I haven’t come across a site so easy to navigate.  I absolutely love reading.  Mainly non fiction I might add.  I tend to read peoples books who inspire me like Tony Robins.

    I would love to be able to write and release my own book one day.  I would love to inspire people with my words and experiences.

    Thanks for a great article.

    1. David, thank you so much for your kind words.  If you do ever write that book, drop me a link… I would love to check it out.  Thanks for the visit, and have a great day!

      Clay

  6. I love your writing style and the tone of your “voice”, this was a very entertaining and informational article.  I like you path of doing an auto-biographical non-fiction piece first to leave to your family, and then following up by expanding into the world of fiction.  I am and will always be an avid reader, and fiction is definitely my book of choice.  Your ‘Potluck Murder’ sound really interesting!

    1. You know, Robin, Fiction is just so cool… I can be anyone I want, and really enjoy it.  Thank you for dropping by!

      Clay

  7. Clay,
    Reading your article has sparked a desire to look into developing a plot for, if not a novel, at least a short story. I was thinking of maybe along the lines of possibly fiction in relation to past religious events. Maybe developing a character that witnessed Jesus when He walked the earth but this character never really related to Him until after His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. What do you think?
    Anyway, you have got my creative juices flowing.
    Since I have been working to build a business I have been writing quite a bit. My writing skills are improving.
    Thanks for some inspiration.

  8. Clay,Reading your article has sparked a desire to look into developing a plot for, if not a novel, at least a short story.  I was thinking of maybe along the lines of possibly fiction in relation to past religious events.  Maybe developing a character that witnessed Jesus when He walked the earth but this character never really related to Him until after His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.  What do you think?Anyway, you have got my creative juices flowing.Since I have been working to build a business I have been writing quite a bit.  My writing skills are improving.Thanks for some inspiration.

    1. Thomas, as a faithful follower of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I think that is a wonderful idea!  I will pray for your success, then you can send me a link so I can buy it!  Thank you so much for brightening my website!  Have an awesome and blessed day…

      Clay

  9. I have started writing myself, recently… I’m lost at structuring the chapters… It’s not really non-fiction or fiction, but more like observations of our current world that we live in. I suppose that would be considered Non-fiction… 

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you would organize and publish such writing. You offer great insight with this blog! Can’t wait for your next post! 

    -Jason 

    1. Hi Jason… When I first started my book, I had no idea how to organize my chapters.  Finally, I decided to put the timeline of my story down year by year.  I made each year a chapter, and put bullets under each chapter.  From there, the book just came together.  I have several step-by-step articles on this website under “How to Write a Book.” Thanks for dropping in, and keep me posted on your book!

      Clay 

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