Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Getting to Grips with Creative Non-fiction

What is it and how do you get started?

Put into its simplest terms, creative non-fiction conveys facts in a creative way. In other words “true stories well told”. Most of what we write day to day is non-fiction, but most is far from creative. It could be argued that it is more difficult to make a true story exciting (while sticking to the facts), than to make up an exciting story from scratch.

Non-fiction writing covers news stories, feature articles, reviews, biographies, autobiographies, diaries, memoirs, travel writing, essays, historical accounts, self-help books and a whole lot more. Traditionally, non-fiction writers such as journalists have stuck to the facts – who, what, where, why, how and when. But there is no reason why non-fiction (journalism included) cannot be as interesting and enjoyable as fiction.

In fact, some might argue that all creative writing starts with facts. After all, a writer's ideas have to come from somewhere, so why not 'real life'. As a writer of both fiction and non-fiction I find many of my fictional story ideas are inspired by key historical events, while my characters are based on real people (that said, they are usually 'blended' i.e. each has traits from more than one person).

In recent times non-fiction has become ever more creative by borrowing techniques from fiction writing, such as writing in 'scenes', including dialogue and focusing on an individual's experiences, turning the piece into an emotional experience for the reader. The best non-fiction writers make non-fiction stories read like fiction, so that their readers are as enthralled by fact as they are by fantasy.

In fact, creative non-fiction has now become the most popular genre in the literary and publishing communities. This means the biggest publishers are seeking creative non-fiction titles more vigorously than literary fiction and poetry. Even small and academic (university) presses that previously would have published only books of regional interest, along with criticism and poetry, are actively seeking creative non-fiction titles.

So, if you haven't already tried your hand at creative non-fiction, why not give it a go? There are plenty of good books on the subject, or you could attend a workshop / course to get you started.

15 years ago I trained and then worked as a newspaper journalist and have worked in editorial roles ever since. I've spent the last five years practising and studying fiction writing, which has improved my non-fiction writing no end and resulted in one completed novel and several works in progress.

On Friday, 4th July I'll be running a creative non-fiction writing workshop (for ages 16+) at Mirfield Community Centre (West Yorkshire, UK) from 10.30am to 12.30pm. Cost £7 (concessions £5). All abilities are welcome and there is no need to book, just turn up on the day. If you have any questions, please email me at


  1. I enjoy the modern American gothic of authors such as Bailey White and Michael Lee West where even their autobiographical stuff has this fantastical air about it. But because it is obvious, nobody can be accused of deliberate obfuscation or of being disingenuous.

  2. Thanks for your comment Nicola. I'm not familiar with their work, but will check it out on your recommendation :)

  3. Interesting perspective and your workshop sounds great! Enjoy.

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    -Fr. Sarducci, ol SNL