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  • Dirk Patton

So, you wanna be a writer

It's rare that a day goes by when I don't receive an email from someone who wants to know how they can break into writing, or asking me to read something they've written. I respond to less than two-percent of those emails because, frankly, I don't have the time. But, I've been thinking about this for a couple of years and finally decided to share some insights on what it takes to start, complete and publish your first novel. That said, this advice is based on my personal experience and your actual mileage may vary.

I've been doing this for a while now, with 25 novels to my credit. If you'd asked me ten years ago what I thought I'd be doing today, working as an author would not have even registered as a blip on the list of possibilities. But, here I am, and there's nothing else I'd rather be doing. So, how do you get started?


The first thing is to ask yourself, "why do I want to be a writer?" If the answer is anywhere along the lines of you think it's an easy way to make a living, you'd be better off to go check out some vocational training because it's anything but.


Do you think you're going to complete your first novel and retire to a tropical island on all the riches that will be showered upon you? The odds of getting rich in today's literary world are almost assuredly longer than winning the Powerball jackpot. (Refer back to vocational school at this point)


You're still reading, so I'm guessing your desire to write isn't financially motivated. Or not primarily, at least. That's good.


So, what's left? You read a book and deep inside you know you can do better? Now we're getting somewhere!


I've always been an avid reader, and frankly, if you're not, you'll almost certainly suck at writing. I read everything I could get my hands on. Before the days of ebooks, there would literally be leaning towers of paperbacks on my nightstand. And what I clearly remember about everyone of those books is thinking to myself "I can do that, only it would be better if..."


But, where to start?

Well, what do you like to read? Action/Adventure? Thrillers? SciFi? Romance? Write what you like, otherwise you'll be miserable and you'll quit before you're a third of the way through the first draft. As an aside on what you choose to write about, make sure you know your subject. For example, there are a LOT of firearms in my books. I can write them because I know them. I'm not relying on Hollywood or other authors or a Goggle search. This could apply to anything, from six-toed cats to fishing poles. Know your shit. It will make your writing time easier and more enjoyable, and it will prevent readers who actually do know from throwing your hard work into the garbage and maybe even leaving a bad review. A brief example-- a few years ago I picked up a book from a well known author with a mainstream publisher. It was wonderfully written. A good plot, menacing bad guys and... well, anyway, somewhere around chapter 5, one of the bad guys shoots someone with a "silenced revolver". Sigh. I let it pass. Very next chapter, the "silenced revolver" was used again, in a library of all places, and it was so quiet that no one noticed. Double sigh. I won't bore you with the details, but I couldn't finish the book.


But the genre/idea I like is so saturated there's nothing original left to do.

BULLSHIT! When I published Unleashed, my first novel about an engineered virus that devastated the world, I was competing with Max Brooks' World War Z, The Walking Dead was relatively new and dominating TV and there were dozens of other top authors who seemed to have the whole zombie-apocalypse genre all sewn up. Well, I carved out my place in that world, and quite successfully if I do say so myself. And that's my point. Don't shy away from what you like just because the landscape is crowded. It's crowded for a reason and it's up to you to produce something that will grab eyeballs away from the competition.


Okay, that's all good. I got it. Now what?

Now what? Start writing, that's what! String some damn words together and just keep going. I wish I could bottle and sell you a magic formula that would inspire and motivate you, but that's up to you. Come up with an idea or scenario that you find interesting and start creating. It's that simple... and that hard.


Next Post: World and Character Building

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