It’s Time to Write Nonfiction, Part One

“If I am going to make money as a writer, I have to learn to write fiction.” Where did that idea come from?

Tell that to nonfiction writers Philip Yancey and Os Guinness and David Jeremiah. Tell that to Kay Arthur and Lee Strobel. Has anybody told Thomas Friedman or Stephen Covey they need to write fiction if they are going to be successful? C. S. Lewis didn’t simply write The Chronicles of Narnia. He also wrote Mere Christianity.

People who help change their world are often nonfiction writers who influence minds and hearts in a way that fiction can’t. Jerry B. Jenkins may be most known for his fiction, but he has written almost as much nonfiction. He is a successful writer who knows how to do both. Why be a bird trying to fly with only one wing?

Each of my own 15 books is nonfiction. Even the ones long out of print are still being read and passed along. I hear from people who have read my books years after they were published. Nonfiction isn’t a read-once-and-give-it-away project. Nonfiction speaks to people who understand the value of the transformed mind. Fiction as entertainment is fun; fiction can even make a culture-altering point, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. But year in and year out, nonfiction is the genre that makes the greatest and longest-lasting impact on people’s lives.

Is your ship listing?
If a writer’s ship is listing to one side—the fiction side—the ship won’t move as well. We need writers who are balanced, who can write fiction and nonfiction. It takes research, accuracy, attribution, and substantiation to write strong nonfiction. But most of those skills are also part of the fiction writer’s life. So the fiction writer can also craft nonfiction. And, by the guidance of God, the next powerful, life-changing nonfiction writer may be you.

Photo: Roger PalmsRoger Palms, a long-time Guild mentor, is the former editor of Decision magazine and the author of 15 books and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles.

Photo credit: Winnond


  1. Marie says

    I, too, have a desire to write both non-fiction and fiction. For some reason, I felt I had to limit myself to one or the other. Thank you for that bit of encouragement to include a balance in my writing journey!

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