Since I was a child, I’ve dreamed of becoming the next great American novelist. I have published a few novels, and yet none of them are quite as dear to my heart as my two memoirs. I realized something critical about myself the more I’ve devoted myself to nonfiction writing (mostly about the intersection of faith and politics): I’m not very good at making things up.
If there’s anything I’ve learned during my time as a graduate student of creative nonfiction, it’s that memoir writing, and even literary essays, can follow a story arc similar to what you’ll find in fiction: there is a beginning, a development of conflict, a set of characters (even if the only character is the writer herself), a middle, and a resolution. Like fiction, nonfiction doesn’t require a neat, tidy ending. But a decisive finishing point is required just the same.
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