Saturday, July 25, 2009
I've written fiction ever since I was in what they now call middle school.
There was a time when I, like many others, had visions of writing The Great American Novel or whatever.
Now I understand that, for professional fiction writers, writing is a job. It may be a job under attack right now, facing all kinds of problems. Maybe even the medium in which writing is presented is in flux, but still we write.
Do "how-to" books on writing really help? I doubt it, or at least they seldom do.
I still have several older "how-to" writing books on my shelf.
I've never found them very helpful. Few of them are written by real writers. Lawrence Block used to write a lot about how to write, and he, of course, writes with authority. But a lot of the others may be among the "if you can't write, write about writing" school.
If I were to give myself advice, it would be this--Read and Write. Read the best in the genre, and write, not to imitate, but to add something different to the mix.
I have one other little thing to say. Encouragement helps. When Ruth Cavin wrote me a brief email about my book The Body in the Record Room, and then when that book was published to good reviews which nailed both the book's weakness and strengths, I came to look at my writing in a different way.
Now someone had told me they saw value in what I had written. Now I had a standard to uphold.
Writing is my retirement activity. I approach it like other retirees approach gardening or playing golf, but I don't want to do it poorly. I want to keep on growing. I think I can do that best, not by reading a lot of books about writing, but by reading good mystery novels and then writing something which adds to the genre.