What Difference Do You Want to Make as a Writer?

In Worlds of Wonder, David Gerrold says, “As a human being, you make a difference. Simply by existing, simply by being in the room you make a difference. What kind of difference do you want to make as a writer?”

This is a time of flux for me, and I no longer know what difference I want to make as a writer or what I want to say.

The first book-length piece I wrote was a fictional autobiography (sort of). I had a lot of matters I needed to work through and thought it would be a good way to do it. The writing helped, as I’d hoped, but the book was so bad I don’t consider it one of my finished novels, but I do consider it my apprenticeship.

The first real novel I wrote because I wanted (needed) to make some money. Silly me! I didn’t know at the time how few people ever made a living off their books. I also wanted to talk about the Vietnam war, and get rid of a lot of misconceptions that had arisen about why it happened and what it was supposed to accomplish. Most of those parts ended up being deleted in the rewrites, and the book became more about mind control and less about Vietnam.

The second novel I wrote because of Albert Zuckerman’s book How to Write the Blockbuster Novel. I wanted to write a blockbuster novel and make a ton of money and to expose some of the experiments that had been perpetrated on humans. In many ways that book is my best work, but so far, it hasn’t reached anywhere near the readership I had hoped for.

The third novel I wrote because I read The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler and I wanted to write a mythic journey story. And debunk a lot of the Hollywood myths about the mafia. And make a lot of money.

The fourth novel I wrote to present a different way of looking at the world and to debunk UFO myths. And to make money, of course. This was actually the first book I conceived after I finished my apprenticeship. It just took me five years to get the whole thing worked out and to finish the massive amounts of research necessary.

My current novel — more of a work-in-pause than a work-in-progress — was supposed to be my declaration of independence from the dictates of the publishing industry and my efforts at making a living by writing. It was supposed to be a silly story, and when it started turning into something deeply metaphysical, I lost my way. And so it sits, waiting for me.

The thing I’ve always said to people via my books is: “Beware. Nothing is as it seems. You are being lied to, and have always been lied to,” but I’m not certain I want to continue with that theme. Don’t know where I am going with my writing. Can you get anywhere if you haven’t a clue?

I’ve never really had any interest in writing the great American novel (or the great global novel), but for some reason lately, I’ve been getting the feeling that I want to get so good at both storytelling and writing that I will not be ignored. I have a hunch I am at still at the beginning of my journey as a writer, though I have no idea where I will end up. I’m hoping I will be the hero in my own journey, transformed into a powerful writer who can make a difference, even in a small part to people who might someday read my books.

Meantime, I’m sticking with blogging. That’s part of my journey, too.

What about you? What difference do you want to make as a writer?


Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

6 Responses to “What Difference Do You Want to Make as a Writer?”

  1. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    I read somwhere that everything that anyone writes is in some way autobiographical. Even the choice of subject fits into this.

    I suppose my first novel, Disco Evil, was about growing up and taking responsibility for what you say and do. Also, there weren’t that many vampire novels around at the time so I thought a vampire novel would suit. It was also about giving a lot of power to someone out for revenge.

    My second novel, Ghost Dance, was based on the journey. A young man who had inherited the werewolf curse must travel from Australia to Germany in order to be cured. On the way he has a number of exciting advenrtures. Within the book is also my concern when it comes to overpopulation and how the world seems to be ignoring this threat. I let my villain propose a solution that really wouldn’t work. Personally, apart from people taking responsibility, there isn’t a solution. Also, since I love history, I wanted to throw in world events that touchewd me and hopefully the reader.

    My third novel, Desk Job, was based on what I knew first hand about working in an office situation in the 1990s. Since a LOT of people who read throughout the world work in offices, I thought this idea has some commercial pull. It was also my salute to Lewis Carroll and his Alice books. He had Alice in Wonderland. I had Sarah in Office-land, I wanted to write about the absurdities of life and I thought this was the perfect place in which to do it.

    I don’t have out-and-out villains in my books. I don’t have out-and-out heroes. The villains are villains for the moment because of some bad choice or series of bad choices. The heroes are heroes because they are struggling to put things right and maybe this go around they have the right angle in which to do so.

    My sorcerer villain in Ghost Dance thinks he is doing the right thing with his plans to wipe out a third of the world’s overall population. To himself he is this bold hero doing his best for the two thirds that will possibly survive.

    In my novel, Desk Job, the human praying mantises have been hurt in the past and are out to protect fellow female creatures and also to destroy males that cross the line.

    Though these books are fantasy, there is something autobiographical about them and I don’t mind that at all.

  2. rami ungar the writer Says:

    I do hope I make a difference to someone, someday. In the meantime though, I’m happy when someone tells me they’ve read my latest work and that they liked it or that they thought it was scary or that I crammed too much into one short story. It means I at least have a readership.

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