It Doesn’t Really Bother Me . . .

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jun 21 2010

When people say “fiction novel” in queries. Sure, I know it’s wrong, but I think it’s because I see it so often that, frankly, it really just doesn’t bother me that much.

Now “nonfiction novel,” that bothers me.


20 responses to “It Doesn’t Really Bother Me . . .”

  1. Avatar wry wryter says:

    My husband says, it really doesn't bother him when I ask,
    "…honey do I look fat in these jeans?"
    Now "YES," that really bothers me."

    I know that has nothing to do with writing but I had to share.

  2. Avatar Robin Allen says:

    I know it's easy for industry professionals to develop quirks around what they do, but how often do those quirks limit them? How many agents reject the words "fiction novel" and so reject the entire query out of hand? It would be interesting to know if you ultimately signed a writer who wrote that in her query.

  3. You are a first!!:)

  4. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Robin Allen, I understand what you're saying (and Jessica's openmindedness is terrific.) However, it's hard to see how anyone who refers to a novel as a fiction novel could write a good one. There's so much baggage behind that simple tautology. It reveals a writer who may be confused about what a novel actually is; who doesn't mind using 100% more words than necessary in a query; and who has little feel for the language.

    This doesn't guarantee that the querier hasn't written the next TWILIGHT or KITE RUNNER (both terrific stories by authors who apparently wear oven mitts while writing), but it's fair for some agents to view "fiction novel" as a red flag.

  5. Avatar Philangelus says:

    It's just a holdover from "science fiction novel" or "women's fiction novel" (where it's perfectly fine.)

    Anyone who rages about a fiction novel should not then order a panini sandwich, enter a PIN number, or order a pizza pie. 🙂 Life is too full of redundancies to get worked up over them.

  6. Avatar wry wryter says:

    ALL writers make mistakes and sometimes BIG ONES.

    What I think Jessica is saying is she does not base decisions on assumptions regarding 'simple' error.
    I have been writing for thirty years and published many times but fiction writing is new to me.

    Just last year I learned the whole fiction novel thing. It was a 'duh', light bulb, forehead slapping moment. I never really thought about it before and wondered how could I have been so stupid, my many bylines prove I'm not.

    Some of us write like we play the piano, by ear. Listen to the whole piece and be moved, a few sour notes make it real.

    We should not be writing-snobs. None of us are perfect.
    Ah…I'm going to practice chop-sticks now.

  7. Avatar wry wryter says:

    Bravo, Phil 9:35

  8. And You know why "Non fiction novel" hurts? Because it's the truth!

    Most of what passes for non-fiction is such made-up, ghost-written, self-justifying tripe, it make flat out fiction seem dull and prosaic. But this is a good thing.

  9. Avatar Malia Sutton says:

    What a nice post, especially for new authors working so hard to get things right.

  10. Avatar pauraque says:

    I wonder if people started saying "fiction novel" precisely because other people started saying "non-fiction novel", and they don't want anyone to get the idea that their novel is "non-fiction"!

  11. "Non-fiction novel" is a genre taught and studied in honors and AP high school English classes now. It horrified me, too, but… I can no longer blame anyone for saying "non-fiction novel" or "fiction novel."

  12. Avatar terripatrick says:

    "Non-fiction novel" irritates me because "narrative non-fiction" is the correct description and I have one of these as a WIP.

    What irritates me about NFN is that novel writing is an art form where the process for crafting the story is within the control of the writer. Plot points, character arcs and themes can be changed, to make a stronger story.

    In narrative non-fiction (the real deal) the writer has to dig deeper to unearth the human truths from a variety of concrete actions and events. For me, a "NFN" is the work of a lazy writer who can use the "it's based on truth" as an excuse for pages of exaggeration that lacks the craftsmanship of a novelist.

    OK, off my soapbox now. L)

  13. Unfortunately, Terri, a high-fallutin' term like narrative non-fiction requires actual thinking to understand.
    Non-fiction novel is something that makes everyone happy.

    Everyone except you and me and the other marginal characters who populate this site. AKA writers…yuk

  14. Avatar Bekah says:

    Do you feel the same about "literary fiction"? I see the term all over, and agents seem to differ on the use and meaning . Curious!

  15. Avatar rissawrites says:

    Non-fiction novel- isn't that what James Frey's Million Little Pieces was? 🙂

  16. I have a WIP (aside from my nonfiction HR work) that is creative nonfiction. It's nonfiction yet reads like fiction. Do I get a hall pass? I think not but now I'm not so sure.

  17. @rissawrites

    OUCH! HA!

  18. Avatar Faye Hughes says:

    Hi, Natasha,

    That is fascinating, and a little bit scary. What state is this in?


  19. Actually, I just published what you might call a "nonfiction novel." It's a speculative micro-sized trip into the human body. I could think of a few other examples of the same thing.

  20. It's like using google in the sentence as a generic term to search for something or xerox to photocopy. People had gotten used to it that it does not bother them anymore. And yet, some people are still really bothered.