Friday, October 2, 2009
Joyce's guest blog - Ace Collins
Why I Made The Move To Fiction
By Ace Collins
For three decades I had been exclusively a nonfiction author. Writing about four books a year left me little time to dip into anything else. Yet during this period of my life, I was always jotting down ideas and concepts for novels. By the time Zondervan fiction editor Andy Meisenheimer chatted with me about my attempting a novel for them, I had more than twenty outlines in my files. As I had always dreamed of writing a novel, it took very little convincing for me to jump into the new genre.
One of the things that made the transition easier was that I have always been a storyteller. The most consistent line I read in reviews of my nonfiction projects was, “It’s like sitting down at the table and having Ace tell you a story.” So in that sense, my writing style had been preparing for the move for years. Yet writing fiction is about more than style. It was a few other gifts I had been given that assured me I was ready to make that move.
One of my early editors in magazine work had instructed me to think of each story I wrote as a television movie. He had me picture the main scenes, find the strongest visual, and begin at that point to tell a story that read like a motion picture. This was the kind of advice that not only worked well in doing “Drama in Real Life” features, but in visualizing and producing a work of fiction. Without the vision Ric Cox gave me, the transition would have been much more difficult and I might have hesitated.
Another thing that prepared me for the jump into the genre was a background in sports. Sports are all about starting and restarting. They are about finding a rhythm and staying the course. Preparing to play games is also about embracing self-discipline. Sports combine fundamental skills with imagination. Sports teach that paying attention to the little details is the difference between winning and losing. Discipline, fundamentals and details are important in writing fiction as well. Hence, I had to have them anchored inside me before I made that move and my nonfiction work provided them in large doses.
There is another thing my athletic background gave to me as well. In sports I learned that an individual is only as successful as his team. In writing the team consists of everyone who has directed and encouraged you, coupled to editors, publicists, artists, designers, the sales department and members of author relations. I learned over my years of writing that those folks are vital to having success. Thus, when I finally made the move to fiction, I was ready to listen to them and plug their advice into the project. I was more than willing to be a part of their team. As I had written many books for Zondervan’s nonfiction side that had been successful, I was trusted the group completely. Having a team behind you trust and will listen to means you can pick up new skills in a hurry.
Yet to fully answer the question as to why it was important for me to take a detour from an area where I had been successful and dive into a world that was new to me goes back to the fundamental nature of who I am. I am a storyteller and a person who loves new challenges. The perfect place to use these attributes is in fiction.
I am so glad I made the move because I so enjoy being a part of a genre that allows me to create entertainment that contains an underlying message. In a sense, nonfiction works come from just the opposite viewpoint — you push the message first. So I relish the chance to have no limits placed upon creativity, to be able to soar as high as my imagination will take me and to have characters that reflect people who fascinate me. That is what makes this kind of writing so compelling and that is why I made the move.