My mind has been focused on another form of writing of late: a substantial non-fiction article. Readers of the mystery genre may wonder why/how a mystery/crime fiction writer would do that, and if it takes a different set of skills to write in a more journalistic sense. I prefer to think of it as writing about a crime of a different nature—this a real but invisible crime of a human concerns issue. I felt compelled to resurrect something I had taken years to research and write about almost twenty years ago, intending back then for publication as a text book for a college course in Women’s Studies. When circumstances dictated it to be even more relevant today, I recognized it was an important issue whose time had finally come. Originally, I was reluctant to revisit my original purpose in writing the manuscript until my conscience won out. This time, I limited it to a long article.
Actually, I started my writing career in journalism. Like many women who grew up reading Nancy Drew and Nurse Cherry Ames, I always wanted to write mysteries. After first writing a memoir about my years living in Europe, I finally made the switch to writing in the mystery genre. I’ve also published satire though. These are all very different genres, so I guess our brains don’t need a special section enabling us to receive special insights or talents in writing each one. Yet, I would rather eat nails than become a technical writer which I personally find boring as hell.
Journalism is dealing with real life in all its manifestations, but isn’t that what fiction accomplishes as well? We just manipulate the truth in fiction—it’s make-believe. Sure journalism requires an objective approach, but the writing style can be the same as you’d use for your fiction. Both fiction and non-fiction require a lot of research to get the facts straight. Fiction needs a creative plotline, but journalism (non-fiction) uses the actual facts of the matter structured into an interesting (hopefully) story about whatever the topic is that you’re covering.
They say that truth is stranger than fiction. Some things are so weird you couldn’t possibly make them up. Those are the ideas that provide fodder for a fictional story. Sometimes when you’re writing about real people you almost wish you could manipulate where the story is heading so that it could end happily ever after. But, real life doesn’t always have a happy ending.
I found that when I re-read my original work from so long ago, about an injustice that has never changed in our culture, my anger and frustration was re-ignited. I didn’t want to go there again. Something kept niggling at the back of my mind though. A week later, without referring to the original, I started writing an article. I got to the end of the first page and I was so bummed out, I told myself to forget it; I didn’t need this negative energy in my life. I let it go for two weeks. After a synchronistic communication from a friend, the idea wouldn’t leave my mind and I wondered if the universe was giving me an assignment, or rather, telling me to complete my former assignment.
So, I went back to the article. This time, I was motivated by the passion to advocate for change again, instead of anger and frustration. I kept thinking of additional things I should mention as I woke up each morning. The article expanded. Now finished, I just need to find the best outlet where it will reach the largest audience and the people with the power and compassion to enact the changes that are needed.
What I also realized from writing the article was how much I used to enjoy writing journalism. No, I don’t plan on giving up writing mysteries. I’m just acknowledging that it’s always good to stretch ourselves beyond what is familiar. We are all so much more than the limitations we place on ourselves. This was a good exercise in creating balance for my writing career. Occasionally turning our hats around to the other side opens our creative channels and refreshes us in ways we never expected.
P. J. Woods is the author of the Harper Simone Mystery Novels. You can keep up with Pat at her website: http://pjwoodsauthor.com or her professional website for editing manuscripts at: http://bonmotsandprosepublishing.com.