Why I Don’t Write Fiction (right now)

“So, when are you going to write your novel/short story?”

I get this question more often than you might think, especially lately.  I’m an editor. The assumption is that I really must love fiction, short and long, to be doing this editing thing. (Trust me, it’s not particularly lucrative.) I’m indeed taking a break from editing partially so that I can revisit the pleasures of consuming fiction for fun (as opposed to with an eye to editing/publishing it).  I was a double-major in college in fiction in two languages (English and French), and I have an MA in English Literature on top of it. Yes. I enjoy fiction. Very, very much.

But I’m not taking a break so that I can work towards being a fiction writer. 

I’m an academic, and I routinely and joyfully produce nonfiction as part of my day job and on the side as well.  But nonfiction (to me) is a whole different skill set than fiction. Becoming adept at producing good fiction is a skill that I’m not currently putting time and energy into. I mean, that takes YEARS. And I could be spending that time consuming awesome fictions that other people have already done the work for, rather than starting from scratch trying to produce my own.

That overwhelming urge to tell stories? It doesn’t live in me at the moment. And I’m totally okay with that.

While  I enjoy helping to make other people’s fictional work better, I don’t make my own fiction. I watch and work with people who produce fiction struggling to make it good. It’s an awfully tall hill to climb, and I’d be starting at the very, very bottom. I’ve never produced fiction of any kind. Not fanfic, not stories that I tell myself, nada. Zip. Nothing.

(Okay, when I was an exchange student in France, there was a brief dalliance with fiction, and somewhere in a trunk, about a chapter and a half of autobiographical wallowing exists at my first attempt at the Great American Novel.  I’m happy to let that moulder forever, and I may just burn it before I die.  It wasn’t fiction, it was processing my emotions at the time. Valid thing, but not what I would want to produce these days. It’s about as good as the poetry I produced in 2nd grade.)

Just for the record, then, I have no plans to begin attempting fiction anytime soon. I’m going to be busy ripping my way through a massive TBR pile instead.

Which, for now, is just fine.



About Lynne M. Thomas

Lynne M. Thomas is a nine time Hugo Award winning editor and podcaster. In her day job, she is Head of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
This entry was posted in Editing, not so deep thoughts, reading and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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