View Full Version : Is it possible to be great at fiction but suck at non-fiction?

Skye Jules
09-04-2009, 08:28 PM
I've been wondering this for a while. I don't suck at non-fiction, but some girl in my creative writing group claims she is good at fiction but terrible at non-fiction. I'm not fighting against her claim either. I just want to know what all of you think. I realize they are completely different, of course, but I just want to know your take on it.

I'm merely asking because I've noticed that a lot of well-established fiction writers write essays about themselves in relations to their writing lives.

Is it possible?

09-04-2009, 08:55 PM

09-04-2009, 09:00 PM
Yes, and vice versa.

09-04-2009, 09:34 PM
Totally. Different skill sets are involved in each. I know plenty of non-fiction writers who say they can't do fiction, and I'm a fiction writer who can't do non-fiction.

The Lonely One
09-04-2009, 09:40 PM

09-04-2009, 10:02 PM
Yes, and vice versa.



09-04-2009, 10:24 PM
Definitely. At least the girls knows what their limits are, so they have a chance to learn to improve their skills on this front.

The Rav
09-05-2009, 01:14 AM
Yes. It's possible to learn to be good at both, but being good at one does not necessarily mean being good at both. I know I can use a ton of work at non-fiction writing, for example. ;) :D

Stijn Hommes
09-07-2009, 01:06 PM
I realize they are completely different, of course, but I just want to know your take on it. In there lies the answer to your question. They're different, so it's easy to be good at one and not the other because they require different skills.

09-07-2009, 10:40 PM
Yes, definitely. They require different skills, and a different tone and style. When writing stories, you are encouraged to 'show, not tell' and let the readers figure things out for themselves. Essays and similar are the opposite: the idea is to present ideas as succinctly and eloquently as possible. (In my opinion, at least...).

However I believe that one can help the other; if you're good at non-fiction writing - e.g., essays - then it might mean your fictional writing follows a more logical order. However it might not help so much the other way round... my English teacher used to hate my essays because they read like stories, for example.

Okay, so this turned into a mini-essay... :D Whatever.

09-08-2009, 01:39 AM
Yeah. I'm great at fiction (in my opinion) and I suck at non-fiction, so yes, in my experience, it definitely is possible.

Mythical Tiger
09-08-2009, 02:49 AM
Yeah. I'm great at fiction (in my opinion) and I suck at non-fiction, so yes, in my experience, it definitely is possible....

09-08-2009, 05:50 AM

Oh, sheesh, did I kill a thread again by forgetting that we're all supposed to claim we suck at writing?

You know, it really is okay to have confidence in yourself and be pleased with your achievements. Yes, there's always more to learn, but the fact that I'll never stop learning how to write well doesn't mean I am a poor writer. I don't play the self-deprecation game; not when it comes to my writing, anyway.

Besides, I admitted I suck at nonfiction. Isn't that enough to fulfill my requisite insult-yourself quota for AW?

09-08-2009, 06:23 AM
Perhaps Mythical Tiger was agreeing with you?

09-08-2009, 06:41 AM
Perhaps Mythical Tiger was agreeing with you?

I hope so! It would be nice to see more writers around here who don't think they suck! Because I've encountered few on AW who actually do stink. Most of us are really fabulous (always allowing, of course, for room to grow and improve, as there always is.) (but the room for growth does not imply suckage.)

(people seem to either forget or ignore that around here, and it kinda disturbs me to see so many talented people run themselves down.)

09-08-2009, 07:16 AM
I suck at fiction, but I'm pretty decent at non-fiction (or so I think), so I'd say yes.

09-08-2009, 07:22 AM
I've published a couple of nonfiction books (third one coming out next year) and my agent is now shopping a novel I wrote. So I've tried my hand at both. I think it depends upon what kind of nonfiction you're talking about. Some of the skills for nonfiction are very like those of fiction -- describing things, such as historical events, in an arresting or unusual manner, for example. Writing a technical manual is a whole different breed of cat.

09-08-2009, 07:31 PM
I've published non-fiction but I'm darned hopeless at marketing my fiction. So maybe my fiction sucks.

Chasing the Horizon
09-09-2009, 12:54 AM
Yes, very possible. I think I'm pretty good at fiction writing, but can't write non-fiction to save my life. When I sit down at the keyboard I just start to lie. I can't help myself. :D

I also agree with Libbie. If I thought I still sucked after 3.5 years and all the work and practice I've done, I'd give up.