Friday, August 29, 2014


Q – Is it common for a writer to stick with nonfiction or fiction, or do they cross over to the other? And if it's OK to cross over, how would you know when to do that?

A – The answer to that question probably depends on where you are in your writing career. One of the keys to success in writing is to start building a reputation as a writer who does a certain kind of writing—especially if you write nonfiction. You want editors to recognize you as someone who can handle certain topics, or types of writing—such as feature articles, how-to pieces, devotionals, inspirational material, family or marriage topics, or whatever. Once that reputation takes root, editors will often come to you with assignments. For that reason, at the start of your writing career, you will want to give some serious thought as to which path you will follow. Jumping around too much in your choice of topic or type of writing defeats that goal.

If you are a fiction writer, doing short fiction, you will want to write for a specific age group or particular genre to gain recognition in that arena. If you are writing novels, you will likely need to stick with one genre or target audience initially. You could run into a problem if you switch from writing children's novels to adult novels, or visa versa. You never want to confuse your target audience.

I offer that as background to answer your question about switching between fiction and nonfiction. If you are well established in your writing career, being known for writing a certain type or genre, switching to the other side can create problems for your readers. It is similar to what happens when you switch from one target audience to another—age wise. If you have always written children's novels, and suddenly switch to adult, readers may buy your adult book for their child—thinking it is a children's novel.

So, if you want to make a switch it's often a good idea to create a pen name for the new genre. That way you make a smooth transition with no confusion. Of course, there are writers who do both successfully For example, Debbie Macomber has written general market fiction, Christian fiction, devotional and inspirational nonfiction, and as I recall she has a knitting book because a knitting store plays a part in her fiction. A situation like hers is an exception because she is so well known and it's part of a plan to continually feed her readership. She's also a great marketer who always makes her readers aware of what books are coming out next.

So, if you want to make the switch, don't do it until you are well-established. You will also want to seek the advice of your agent or publisher who can help you make that decision as part of an overall plan to expand your career.

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