Most readers think I began writing nonfiction, and then branched into fiction. I have no idea which I wrote first, but it doesn’t matter. A real writer can write either one. . . and should.
FundsforWriters was founded 15 years ago, when I could not sell my fiction. Nonfiction, fiction, didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to be a paid writer.
I learned quickly that nonfiction pays better, though fiction seems more respected. So, when I wrote that first mystery, taking two years, and could not sell it, I turned to the Internet to see what was available for me to call myself a writer.
It seems I write nonfiction with greater ease, anyway. Soon I started FundsforWriters.com, when I amassed so much information about becoming a writer that I hated to let it go to waste. I opened it with an editorial for fun. These editorials became the heart of the newsletter. They are my purest nonfiction, written in first person, which is my strongest voice.
To earn more, I ventured into freelance writing, predominantly magazine features. My voice diversified. I learned to research topics and write the results with a creative bent for a general readership. It was challenging but rewarding to see those bylines.
Five years later I self-published The Shy Writer, a book for writers about being an introvert in a noisy world. In keeping with my strong editorial voice, the book became a simple book of chapter-by-chapter mentoring, tutorial editorials, relying upon anecdotes to make the reading interesting. In turn, my editorials swelled with new power I acquired in writing that book.
Still, the mysteries niggled at me day after day, or night after night, since that’s my creative period. I joined a critique group and returned to the fiction, writing the old story in first person, which I’d honed with the editorials. In 2012 I acquired an agent and published Low Country Bribe, the first in The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, through a traditional press, Bell Bridge Books. The next year came Tidewater Murder. We just released Palmetto Poison, the third in the series.
I published The Shy Writer Reborn, a more advanced version of its earlier sister, and it sells steadily. I still write the occasional freelance piece for fun. I adore writing guest blog posts. I’m branching out into a second mystery series. Nonfiction and fiction—each added a brick to my writing structure.
When I speak at conferences these days, one point I preach hard and loud is this: every writer can write both sides of the fence, fiction and nonfiction. Sure, one will feel more natural and another less so, but nothing in this business is meant to be easy. Difficulty isn’t an excuse not to pursue both.
Every word you write makes the next one better, regardless of the genre or category of writing you think you do. We make the mistake of interpreting “hard” to mean not having the talent. That’s hog-wash. Hard is just your next challenge.
We limit ourselves to niches when in reality we can write what we put our minds to write. Bottom line is that it takes a long plan and tons of patience to make a living with fiction. Nonfiction is more short-term with more immediate income potential. Why not let one support the other? Your writing still grows. The best compliment I ever received came from a poetry review editor at a conference. After I did a brief reading from Lowcountry Bribe, he approached and said he loved my voice.
“I write nonfiction,” I said. “This is my first published fiction.”
“Doesn’t matter,” he replied. “I can tell you’ve done a lot of it. You know your way around words. Good job.”
C. Hope Clark is editor of FundsforWriters.com, newsletters that reach 45,000 readers. She is also author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series. Palmetto Poison is her newest release, as of February 2014. She lives on the banks of Lake Murray in central South Carolina. www.fundsforwriters.com www.chopeclark.com