Fiction vs Non-fiction

I met with my student once a week, to talk about things which I thought an editor should know. It took her three or four weeks to bring back the marked-up typescript of Stroad’s Cross, with red comments on only about thirty pages. She told me what she thought the major problem was, and pointed out examples. This was why she hadn’t read any more. 

It was a huge problem, and I saw at once that she was right. I had written it as if it were non-fiction, which I had learned how to do when I was writing computer books and magazine articles. I had stopped doing that some years ago, but that kind of style had stayed with me, though I never thought about using it. I just had. 

Non-fiction has a distinctly different style. It is concerned with conveying information and with facts. It has no place for mood, or character, or plot. I was glad that Stroad’s Cross hadn’t been published in that form, but I wondered why, with such an obvious problem, the rejections had taken two years instead of two or three weeks. 

I re-wrote the book, revising and tightening, which reduced it from 225,000 to 150,000 words. Now it was more like fiction. The revisions had made the text rougher than it had been, so I had to go over it again to smooth it out, more than once, and the last time I concentrated on the storytelling. Reading specifically for story is something I do with all my fiction now. When I had done all that I could, I published it as an Ogden House book. Several of my readers have told me how much they liked it. 

My student had taught me a great lesson. Now I felt that publishing myself was going to work. But I still had a lot to learn about self-editing, and about book design, before I tackled The Black Ring.