My confession to another writer. I have no expertise, only imagination and ideas!

I was having lunch in Palm Springs last month with a group of people and one of them turned out to be a writer.  She was a writer of business books, who had also been a professional speaker and was happy to learn I was a writer as well.

“What is your expertise?” She asked.

“My expertise?” I said. Somewhat taken aback as I tried to digest her question along with the short ribs and cornbread. I think I took an extra gulp of pale ale to get it all down.

“Yes, what is your background of expertise to write your novels?” She asked.

“Ah…I use my imagination,” I answered, “And I have these crazy ideas…sorry…that’s all I have.”

Well, she laughed. But in a good way. She said, “That is fantastic, I can’t wait to read your books.”

Well, I don’t know if she has read any of my books, and doubt if they are her type, but then who knows? But this does bring up the question of expertise over imagination and ideas. Which is of more value?

I propose we need it all, but without imagination where would Gene Roddenberry be. Yes, the vey man who gave us the wonders of Star Trek. Gene was an air force pilot, which could have given him some expertise in flying, but he wasn’t an astronaut. And how he’d ever come up with Captain Kirk and Spock beaming down to a planet was probably not in any flight manual. He’d used his imagination.

And before him, there was Jules Verne. He was considered to be one of the father’s of Science Fiction. His expertise was he was trained to be a lawyer. Neither of these men were rocket scientist and yet they gave us this wonder of space and science fiction.

Now, take a look at J.K. Rowling’s who gave us the Harry Potter series. Is she a bonafide Wizard? I’m not sure, but I think her area of expertise is more in the area of her wonderful imagination.

Yes, in writing, we do need some expertise. In planning to write my very first book, although I had the plot, the character and the action thought out, I hadn’t the foggiest idea of how to do dialogue.

I started with Writing Level One at Mount Royal University, and sat in back of the room (yes the old grey haired guy) and learned this fascinating craft of how to make characters talk to each other. To me, it was like seeing that the Wizard of Oz could actually come from behind the curtain.

There was something else I learned. You can have all the ideas and imagination but without the effort and the hard work of sitting down and putting it on paper, none of it will mean anything.

I just read this quote from Stephen King, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”

And there you have it, right from King’s mouth as it were. Here is Stephen King with some of the greatest volumes of work in the market for readers, and his claim to fame is he was an English Teacher who loved to write.

Now, that begs the question, will all English Teachers, and people who study English become great writers? I mean after all, that is their area of expertise – you’d think the world of writers would be full of English majors.

Well, I did have another conversation that same day, and it was on the golf course with a some friends from Canada. My friend remarked to me how his wife had a degree in English and was a great editor, probably one of the best he’d ever seen.

“Why doesn’t she write something?” I asked.

“She says she doesn’t have any ideas,” My friend answered.

So here it is. I think expertise is great, but without imagination and ideas all the expertise in the world  just lies there like a unused sports car all full of gas and no idea of where to go. With a little imagination and just a the germ of an idea there can be one hell of an adventure.

You can make up the rest of the story from there…you get the idea.


Writing my 30 day novel. How I cheated and let the characters do it for me.

If any of you saw my post back in October, I said I was going to enter the 30 day challenge, which is called NaNoWroMo, which means write a novel in the month of November.

It does seem daunting. I mean, 50,000.00 words? That works out to 1,666 words per day, and I mean every day. There can be no days off unless you drink major quantities of caffeine and fire off 5,000 words one day so you can coast the next day.

So how did I do it? Well I had help, yes and I hope the folks at NaNoWriMo don’t find out that I cheated, because you’re supposed to do it alone. What I did was put together an outline first – no that’s okay – that’s not cheating. And then I put together a list of the characters, and all the things that they do, and what they look like – again many authors do that and it’s okay.

But when I got three chapters into the book, which is called CIRCLING THE DRAIN, I found this amazing thing. The characters started to interact. They were talking to one another and all I could see were scenes that they were in. I couldn’t see words I needed to write, I could only see scenes that needed words added to them.

Everyday I woke up at 6am, and I was in my chair by the window, overlooking this lovely golf course pond in Palm Desert in my rental unit, and from 6am until around 10am I would pound out my scenes.

Sometimes I woke up earlier. I told my wife that my characters were bugging me – wanted to get to the next scene to get some things resolved. Some of them had issues with one another. They just needed me in the writers chair to give them life – to put them on the page.

Sound a bit crazy? Well it does, but if you ask many writers who write on a regular basis they will tell you the very same thing. Sometimes we have to take control, because we see a character wanting to go off in a direction that we don’t think suits the outline we gave them.

Sometimes we just let the character go off and explore, and we see if we like where they’re going. Kind of like what you’d do with your child, only hope they weren’t making a bee line for the road or the water. Yes, it is kind of like that.

So, there you have my confession of how I wrote my book in 30 days. I wish I had learned this several years ago, as all my previous books, such as Dolphin Dreams, Polar Bear Dawn, and Pipeline Killers were words that became scenes. Each of them took so much longer to write.

I will now go into the wonderful world of edits, where every author must dwell in the grueling task of ensuring each sentence means something, and everything is spelled correctly, and more importantly if the facts are straight.

This is also a great time for me, as I get to see all my characters again. I will be hanging out with this entire crew until you get to see this new book in print in about 3 months from now. But please don’t tell anyone I cheated in the competition…let’s keep it between you and me.