Publishers often encourage writers to stick to one genre. Stephen King is not about to start writing romance novels any more than J.K. Rowling is going to take us on a spaceship to explore the galaxy next door. And, if you want to jump from fiction to nonfiction, then you are in for similar challenges.
As a reporter I wrote nonfiction, but I have always thought my book-length projects would grow out of the realm of fiction. I was a storyteller and there was no way I could write about cold, hard facts for that long in a way that would interest me, much less anyone else. I have since come up with some ideas, but those are collaborative products where I would be partnering with others to channel their brilliance. Doing it on my own seemed impossible. Coming away from my last writers’ conference, I brainstormed ideas with my wife about how to turn my first novel into a trilogy. I was set to write book two in the series this summer and the third one next summer.
Then one day an idea popped in my head: why don’t I take some of my experiences as a teacher and use them to help parents help their kids? Ruminating over this concept for a few days, I christened the project High School Declassified and decided to launch a new blog, and write the first draft of a book while I design parent workshops to create a platform for the project when, and if, it does get off the ground.
The Monday after I started summer vacation I began to write. Instead of having to force ideas out, they came naturally. With a little bit of planning and structure, the words flowed from mind to fingers to computer screen like a rushing river. Now, to be sure, this is a rough draft and may require radical revision, but I was excited by the progress.
This may be my one significant work of nonfiction for a very long time, but if so, it is a delight to be well on my way to a brand-new world of writing. I am looking forward to what I discover in this enchanting land.
Every year at this time our nation is gripped by a drive to improve itself. We habitually set lofty goals for ourselves without the requisite determination or fortitude for success.
And, while it would be easy throw proverbial stones at others, I am well aware of the crystal castle I call home. I frequently have made goals more ambitious than the inherent inertia that dominates both my life and Newton’s First Law of Thermodynamics.
This year, in addition to my typical plans for a healthier diet and exercise outside of walking from the couch to the fridge for a snack, I want to be a better-read person. It is so easy to pick up a paperback or download a novel to my Kindle. I have discovered over the years that it is less natural to find myself in the pages of a nonfiction text that provides a contemporary retelling some historical figure or event.
To be fair, I have my favorite historians, like H.W. Brands or David McCullough, and I read a great deal of news and analytical pieces for my night job as a government teacher. This year, however, I have decided incorporate more nonfiction into my “fun” reading time.
Right now, I am in the middle of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Not only is Dietrich Bonhoeffer a fascinating character study in the idea of speaking truth to power, but the way Eric Metaxas combines narration and letters from Bonhoeffer makes it feel like I am having a real conversation with one of the few 20th century pastors willing to stand up to the evils of Nazism. I have been reminded that good story does not necessarily need to come in the guise of the latest thriller from my favorite author.
So, if you’re an avid reader like I am, maybe it’s time to weave into your Goodreads list a biography about someone who fascinates you or a story about an intriguing event in history.
As I have come to learn, a good conversation with history is well worth the time.
I've been writing stories and taking photos since I was old enough to hold a pencil and stand behind a tripod.