What Is Creative Nonfiction?

What Is Creative Nonfiction?

Our journal has been getting flooded with submissions this semester! It seems that every issue becomes a little easier to produce with the level of high-quality pieces continuing to rise, though we always run into a little snag when it comes to our Nonfiction submissions. Why? We think it might just be that people don’t realize what creative nonfiction is. It isn’t popularly taught in classes and it’s generally misunderstood, so we thought we would break it down and show what nonfiction writing really is.

  • It isn’t just essays and research papers. While these completely fact-based pieces definitely make up a part of nonfiction writing, it is still a very small part.


  • Nonfiction writing can be any writing that is generally rooted in truth. This means that journal entries, letters, documents, even short stories can be nonfiction if they are true accounts of an event or situations that actually happened.


  • Nonfiction can be just as creative, imaginative and narrative as fiction. Think of it this way: any book or short story that falls under the ‘realistic fiction’ genre could easily be a nonfiction piece of literature if all of the major events in the story actually happened. This means that you can add as much eloquent writing, vivid descriptions, and funny narration as you want into nonfiction writing. Or leave it out! That’s the beauty of this genre.


  • You don’t have to get everything exactly right. The most important thing to remember when writing nonfiction is that the major events and characters are rooted in as much truth as possible. The reader is going to assume the story is an actual account, and so there shouldn’t be too many made-up events or situations. However, nonfiction allows for a bit of freedom when it comes to dialogue and other small additions that add to the story and move it along, even if the author has no way of knowing if these small additions are actually what happened or not.


  • Nonfiction is a wonderful genre to break into. If you have ever kept a journal or wrote an account of something that has happened to you, then you’re already a nonfiction writer! If you dream of getting published, consider submitting nonfiction work as well.

If you would still like to know more about creative nonfiction writing, The OWL at Purdue is a wonderful resource to use, and you can read their in-depth overview here. As a reminder, Sheepshead review is still accepting submissions and is in need of nonfiction pieces, so please consider submitting if you have a piece you are looking to get published!

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