So You Want to be a Fiction Author

Stop wanting to write a book. Don’t aspire to be a fiction author. Saying or thinking that way is like wishing you could play football or dance or any number of things in life. You’ll never learn how unless you do it. Pull out that keyboard tray and write. Writing is a creative endeavor. Let your imagination run wild. It’ll be the world you make.

Sitting down to write is actually the easy part. Writing is like a journey. But you wouldn’t go on a trip without planning where you’re headed. And writing a book requires some of the same planning. What are you going to write about? Will it be a crime novel? A fantasy world? Maybe something supernatural appeals to you. Whatever it is, you need to read books by successful authors in that genre.

And don’t just read them. Analyze them. How did they do it? What is it about their book that appeals to you...or doesn’t. How did they meld their characters and plot into a seamless flow? Themes? Does love conquer all? Good versus evil?

While you are reading and studying them, never forget that there is no one correct way to write fiction. Michael Connelly writes his best-sellers different from how John Grisham, Andrea Kane, Meg Gardiner, Michael McGarrity, or James Hayman wrote their novels. But what worked for each of them may not be your cup of tea. You’ll have to find out on your own what’s best for you. You have to chart you own course. 

Unfortunately that’s not all there is to this craft. There’s a lot more beyond reading and writing. There are rules to follow and rules to break. Don’t be afraid to step off into the unknown. It’s what will make readers take notice. Maybe one of the main characters dies or doesn’t get the girl. Happily ever after doesn’t have to be the rule you follow.

You’ll need to develop a thick skin. Reviews can be positive or negative. They are one person’s opinion. All of us, even the best authors, receive negative reviews. You can’t let negativity affect you. Likewise don’t let starring reviews go to your head. Those overnight successes you read about in Writer’s Digest or on some blog aren’t really overnight success stories. If you’ll look deeper, you’ll find that they labored for a long time before they became a success. A great example is John Grisham. His first book was A Time To Kill, published in a limited quanity (5000) by a small press after being rejected by 28 different publishers. He bought 1000 copies of it himself when it first came out. Now he’s considered a demigod at the top of his craft. 

Back to writing. The more you write, the better you’ll get. Think of it like its practice. Every athlete or actor or dancer practices and practices. Now do it.

Alan Behr served as a law enforcement officer and criminal investigator for seventeen years before earning a law degree from Baylor University. After obtaining his law license, he worked as a prosecutor and criminal defense attorney for twenty-two years. His personal and official travels took him to several European and Middle Eastern countries, Alaska and almost every island in the Caribbean. He has lived in Berlin, Germany while working with US military forces. After retiring from government service, he has authored two crime novels - Price of Justice and Cornered - under the pen name of Alan Brenham. He is presently working on two more novels. Alan and his wife, Lillian, currently live in the Austin, Texas area.



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  1. Thanks for sharing your experience as an author and offering such great advice to aspiring writers!


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