Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Categorising literature - a specific case

I have a finished manuscript which is a biography of my son's life. I have written part of it in my voice, and the other half in his voice. The story is about his conversations with family, and friends, and how he lived his life. He died of cancer at seven! I have now been told by agents, and editors, that I can't write a biography in someone else's voice. If I do the book is just classed as 'fiction' - therefore, not credible as 'non-fiction'. So, after a 'scathing' report on my manuscript from an agent, I am now wondering if I should change the entire book to my point of view? I have been advised that my book could also be classed as 'Literary Non-Fiction'. So, the question is - what do I do next? Also, is there such a 'category' as Creative Non-Fiction?

As you are imagining what your son would be thinking and saying, strictly speaking what you're writing in relation to him is fiction. Autobiographies can be written by others - that's what ghost writers are for - but what you're talking about here is an amalgamation of non-fiction (your voice) and fiction (what you're writing about your son). This is certainly not the first time someone has combined the two, but in the end the category doesn't matter as much as whether the writing is any good: agents and publishers look at the writing first and worry about the category later (that's the marketing department's domain, anyway). So in answer to the question 'what do I do next?' - keep drafting your manuscript until you find someone who responds positively. That might take you eight drafts, but it will be worth the work if you get it published. Writing is work, and getting published is work, and some of it is hard work but hopefully it's rewarding, and that's why you're doing it.

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