Writer’s Blog, Part I
I wanted to write… about writing. This is not an esoteric subject; everyone writes in one way or another. Especially now, with email and social media, most people spend a lot of time at the keyboard. In fact, the keyboard (and for many, the cell phone) has become an instrument, not unlike the piano or the trumpet. The ability to speak is one of the things that makes us human. The ability to write enables us to speak with people we will never meet. Writing enables us to express emotions we might have trouble voicing out loud. The writing of others can teach us things we’d never hear… or entertain us in profound and lasting ways. Writing and reading are the fundamental skills that allow us to live full lives.
I have always loved to write. Even when I was writing for senior officers in the Navy, I enjoyed the process of putting words on paper, then revising the text until it was (in my eyes) perfect. Now retired, I am writing a trilogy of thriller novels. Why thrillers? Because they take me out of the real world, and into any place I wish to go. When I read a good story about heroes and villains, the characters become real. They are my friends, my teammates, my adversaries. Sometimes they change my life. Non-fiction teaches us about the world we live in; fiction lets us visit the world as we would like it to be. A well written thriller is a joy ride, but it is also a vehicle for self-examination. My heroes inspire me to be better than I am; my villains inspire to avoid being like them.
Deciding to write a novel was like deciding to run a marathon. I had never attempted anything like this before. The finish line was somewhere far in the distance. I didn’t even know if I could write a story – a beginning, a middle, and an end. Real characters who say important things. So, I wrote a short story about the drug war and called it The Kingpin. It didn’t take me long to see this story as the first chapter of a novel. It was the old adage about eating an elephant: one bite at a time. One chapter at a time. After almost a year, I had a rough manuscript. It took another six months to remove the plot holes, rewrite most of the sentences, and fix the typos. In the end, I had a thriller novel called Jungle Rules. The characters in the book did the things I wanted them to do. They said the things I wanted them to say.
Writing is like jumping out of an airplane. If you can muster the courage to do it once, then you have to decide whether or not to do it again. Before the Navy, sitting in the door of a Cessna, I remember thinking, “Why am I doing this? I’ve already proven that I can do it.” It was the same with the novel. After a surprisingly short period of time, I decided to write a sequel. My second parachute jump was pretty much the same as the first; my second novel was nothing at all like the first. Many of the characters were carried over from the initial story… but that was where the similarity ended. I needed a whole new story – with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Where was I going to find that?
Mark Twain once said that writing is easy… that all you have to do is cross out the wrong words. I found that writing fiction is not easy, but it is fun. All you have to do is find a story to write. That’s the only writer’s block I’ve ever had.