Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Write what you know

by Dietrich Kalteis

If you could choose between being incredibly popular, prolific and commercial like James Patterson or being a revered, admired writer who will go down in history as a classic which would you choose and why?

Popular, prolific and commercial or revered and admired — rich or famous? We all want to be recognized and rewarded for what we do. Yes, it would be great to see a line snake down the block at my next book signing. And if there was a lot of money and a movie deal to go along with it, yoohoo, I wouldn’t rip up the checks. But let’s face it, writing fiction is the love of making stuff up and telling a good story.

It took time to find my voice and the right fit (genre) for it. Once I had that, it wasn’t about chasing a market down a rabbit hole or guessing at a best-seller; it was writing what I love to write about. There’s a passion to it, and that’s like writer’s rocket fuel. And it’s great when the words just flow on the page.

Storytelling is an art, and trying to force myself to write something I don’t have my heart in would never work. It would feel like work at best. And worse than that would be trying to sound like somebody else while I take a stab at the next best thing — a sure way to end up with a pile of crap. Being influenced and inspired is something different, and that’s why I read what I think are great books, to help elevate my own writing.  

Putting on blinders and tuning out the world, not thinking about whether I’ve got a hit or miss on my hands is how it’s going to get done. Just focusing on the work, not letting in distractions. I’m at my best when I turn off the phone, shut my door, turn up the music and refrain from social media and email, and go play with my imaginary friends.

Besides the voice and sticking to what I know, I think it’s important be able to edit my own work, to know when I’m taking a bad turn on a first draft, when to cut a scene from a second draft, and know when I should set down the third one and call it done.

Write what you know, they say. Well, I haven’t done most of the things my characters get into, but I suppose there’s a bit of me in there somewhere. Maybe I write what I do because I like seeing justice served, like when the antagonists get what’s coming to them. Or maybe I like the levity and irony that often creeps into the stories. Overall, I aim to write the kind of stories I would like to read myself. That’s the way it works for me, writing about something that sparks my interest, then finding that groove and letting the words flow. And in the end, if the book becomes a hit, then I say yoohoo, bring it on.

1 comment:

RJ Harlick said...

Writing what you love to write about, totally agree. Good post, Dietrich