Today’s post is written by author L.D. Bergsgaard, who currently lives in sunny Arizona, but for many years braved the Minnesota winters. Larry is a retired Special Agent with unique experiences adding a rare dimension to the crime story genre. Fellow writer William Henry says, “There are many authors who dream of being cops. Few do. There are many cops who strive to write. Few can. L.S. Bergsgaard is the rare exception of a street harden cop who can write like a poet.” In addition to writing crime novels, Larry also pens some darn good western stories.
By L. D. Bergsgaard
I ask you to suspend your belief in what Ms. Hammersmith told you in high school creative writing class about penning your masterpiece. Please toss aside the dozens of enticing promises that offer a sure fired system to write your novel. Why listen to me? I just finished my 7th novel and have failed in a dozen methods. I had read a dozen how to books and attended more seminars than I care to count. I tried each method so carefully laid out as the only way to write. I learn by failure.
Take, for example, the author who insists on outlining the entire plot then covers the four den walls with handwritten Post-It notes chronologically detailing each chapter, even each paragraph. Down she plops in the swivel chair and with keyboard on her lap. As she swivels she types out a remarkable novel. Her debut novel reaches the New York Times bestseller list. Her second book is a How to Write Your First Novel.
Does this mean every writer must run out to purchase Post-Its and a fancy leather swivel chair?
Perhaps, but what about the equally successful and acclaimed writer whose nimble mind conjures up a mystery, gives birth to a few colorful characters, and lays the puzzle at their feet to solve as they see fit? “Ridiculous!” the Post-It crowd screams from their swivel chairs. “You must have a plan, an outline. Yes, you must know the ending before penning the first words!”
Not necessarily so. When a bottle of wine and flowers show up unexpectedly on your desk, do you know who sent them and will the flowers lead to a relationship and romance and marriage? No! What happens will be determined by you; what you think, what you say, how you react.
So, you floundering authors without a proven method of writing consider this: What would make a compelling plot? What conflicts will your characters encounter? Then, perhaps most importantly, who are your characters?
A wise author once told me, “Unfortunately for you every story has already been told.” She let those words sink in then mercifully added, “But no one can tell your story like you.”
And no writer can create characters like yours. Think of the power. You can form these really interesting people then put them in difficult if not impossible situations. You know these characters so very well because, well, they live in your head. They talk to you. You know they hate eating sushi and are klutzes. They have a birthmark on their butt shaped like Triceratops. And when told they are “fired” they will punch the boss in the nose.
Unlike Ms. Hammersmith (she has the dinosaur birthmark by the way) I’m not instructing you how to write. I do however suggest you keep open to the possibilities and creativity of experimenting with different approaches. Learn by your failures.