Hello readers! Please welcome my first guest blogger, Bree Brouwer. She has some unique experience in the writing world, and she’s approaching building her career as a writer in an entirely different way than I am. Even though she wants to be a fiction writer, she’s starting in the nonfiction arena, and since she’s done such a fantastic job building a platform in such a short amount of time, I invited her here today to talk about the what and why of writing nonfiction.
When I was younger, I decided quite early on that I wanted to be a writer. My mom read me classic stories before bed like Little House on the Prairie and The Chronicles of Narnia. As I grew up, I discovered YA literature like My Side of the Mountain, and my all-time favorites Misty of Chincoteague and The Saddle Club (boy, I loved horses). As adulthood approached, teachers introduced me to Wilde, Tolkien, the Brontes, Austen, Lewis, Huxley, and so many more writers who created stories that made me yearn for more.
I wanted to do for others what these authors had done for me. In college, I decided to focus on a degree in English writing, determined to pursue fiction the rest of my life. The problem, as I’m sure many of you know, was that English writing degrees tend to involve lots of non-fiction writing, with only a smidgen of fiction classes added for “well-rounded” measure. I grudgingly showed up at my journalism and advanced expository writing classes, anticipating that next semester I could take screenwriting.
Why such a diversion to non-fiction writing, you ask? I grew up with a news anchor dad, and everything I saw in the news, journalism, and communication world disgusted me. The sensationalism of it all seemed demeaning and frankly unethical. Though I firmly believe that even one person can make a difference in an industry, I told myself I never wanted to be that one person. Leave the job to someone who actually cared more about all that non-fiction stuff.
So now that college had drilled me with mostly non-fiction knowledge, I had a choice to make once I graduated: focus on fiction and stay penniless for a while, or plod through a non-fiction job just to start paying off loans. I still cringed at the thought of becoming a journalist or copywriter, so I took a completely different route and became an online English teacher.
My job was a desk job in a massive warehouse-converted-to-office building, and since the school’s curriculum was pre-written, I mostly graded. At home, I was so weary of English and grammar in general that my writing slowed to a complete stop. Not surprisingly, it was towards the end of these three years as a teacher that I started to realize how much I needed to write… and write anything at all.
Fortunately, I’d been keeping up-to-date with all my favorite geeky websites about gaming and entertainment, and had been watching the developing world of blogging for years. I noticed that the more I read articles and blogs by other writers, the more I thought, “I can do this.” The world of new media journalism was growing, and I actually found myself wanting in on the adventure. I started applying for internships and volunteering to write for these sites, all the while thinking of a blog I’d like to start myself and hoping that my non-fiction background would pay off.
It did. This past August, a few months into writing for two sites, I decided to take the freelance plunge and quit my teaching job. I networked on social media, launched a geek blog, and scored an entertainment blogging position with a smartphone app company called Fanhattan. Though I had no paying clients, I was writing again and it felt perfectly right. I still don’t have many paying clients, but I’m slowly getting closer to a livable salary and adoring my little non-fiction writing successes along the way!
I really think two key factors were at play in my non-fiction enlightenment. First, the fact that I found a specific part of the often unethical, sensationalist world of journalism and non-fiction that I ended up loving (entertainment, new media, and other geeky stuff), really provided a whole new perspective on what I’d previously thought I hated. Second, I had never had correct guidance in college or directly out of it on how to find and become involved in this area of non-fiction. Once I learned all this myself, I was more than eager to try my writing hand at it.
I share all this with you because I know many of you are aspiring fiction authors like I was, and I know that as much as you want to write fiction, you shouldn’t avoid non-fiction. I don’t mean to turn you off from fiction entirely, because it’s still one I haven’t given up on myself. Instead, realize that some form of non-fiction exists that you probably would love to participate in (and in all reality, could easily get paid for doing so as you work on your fiction aspirations). You may find blogging about ancient Mayans gets you going, or contributing articles to a local non-profit newsletter creates a sense of accomplishment. Heck, you could even find joy in local news reporting.
Whatever it is you find about non-fiction that keeps you writing and stretches your skills, get to it, and don’t let your non-fiction prejudices hinder you.
Would you be interested in hearing more from Bree about how to start building a nonfiction platform? Do you have any questions about writing nonfiction? Let me know in the comments!
Bree Brouwer is a freelance writer and blogger who loves investigating culture, pursuing geek enlightenment, producing videos & short films, and shopping for deals like a true Dutchwoman. She is working on the launch of her blog, Geek My Life (www.geekmylife.net). Her desire is to create, discuss, and promote content worth consuming; find her at www.breebrouwer.com. Find her on Twitter at @BreeBrouwer