Four Tips for Moving Between Fiction and Non-Fiction Writing Voices

by Kayla Dean
published in Writing

Many authors have day jobs that are completely unrelated to their writing. For example, Caitriona Lally, who wrote her novel while working as a janitor at her alma mater, Trinity College, which recently gave her a prestigious award for her novel Eggshells. The article about Lally mentions that she graduated with a degree in English and held other jobs which let her travel around the world. At one time, she was a copywriter. Although Lally ultimately made the personal decision to solely focus on her fiction, some writers do choose to be copywriters and content writers alongside their personal writing.

When your day job is totally separate from your writing, it’s sometimes more possible to sit down at your computer and escape the thoughts of the day. But when your day job exists on your personal computer (if you’re freelance, that is), it’s all too easy to let the blog writing voice take over.

If you’re a freelance writer, you may be used to switching gears. But what if the language you use as a content writer finds its way into your literary lexicon? How can you separate the two and preserve your own voice?

1) Give Up Ground

To help yourself spatially understand the difference between your work, often the simplest solution is to work on them in different places. You could do your freelance work in a co-working space and your fiction writing at a personal desk in your home. Or, if you have fewer resources, write in different areas of your home even if all you do is sit in a different corner of the room.

Psychologically, this will help you switch gears and get into writing mode because you’ll recognize the space where work happens. My only suggestion: avoid doing work in your bedroom, because you will want to take a nap!

2) Divide Your Time

The perk of making your own schedule means that you can choose when you write. You may have to give up something, but dividing up time can often help you take inventory of your work as a whole. It could be as simple as freelance work in the morning and early afternoon, essay or novel writing in the late afternoon or evening. Some writers also strictly do their personal writing on the weekends or dedicate an hour in the morning while they are still fresh and unaffected by their email inboxes.

3) Join a Writing Group That Will Hold You Accountable

Think you don’t have time to write? A writing group that expects your pages every week will make you think again. When you have a writing group that will hold you accountable in person or online, you’ll write faster than you ever thought possible. It’s pretty embarrassing to show up to workshop with no pages, so you’ll make time for the writing that you want to make happen.

4) Read or Do Writing Exercises Before Writing

Get yourself mentally unstuck by taking a breather to read an enjoyable book. It may also be helpful to do a freewriting exercise with the first line generator and a timer. Write whatever pops into your head, and don’t stop writing until the timer goes off. What you produce may not be world-changing, but at least it got you out of the content writing voice for a little while.

While it may not seem like it, there are upsides to having a writing-related day job. When you get great bylines in your dream publications, they often build your self-esteem and give you the confidence to write even more. But the truth is that whatever career path you choose, writing is a deeply personal endeavor and every writer is different in their approach to their routines. Find what works best for you and stick to it, even if the naysayers try to say you’re wrong. Only you know what works best for your writing.

Kayla Dean has written for publications like Electric Literature, Ploughshares online, Darling, and Bella Grace. She has an MA and BA in English. You can find her on Twitter @kayladeanwrites.

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