Why is Writing Important?

With such a staggering number of books on the market and more to come, why is writing important? Only a small percentage of writers have ever made a living at writing (and most of those were people who wrote books on how to make a living at writing), and that percentage seems to be shrinking. More than 80% of books sell fewer than 100 copies. Maybe 50% sell only about ten copies or so. So, why write? The wonder of writing fiction is that a story born in one mind grows to full power in another mind. But what if you don’t have readers, or at least not many? And why take the time to learn the craft since some of the books that do sell are poorly written tripe?

If nothing else, this conundrum that writers face today makes us focus on what we get out of the writing process itself.

For me, writing is something that connects the parts of my life, even though I don’t always write. I once quit a job to write a novel, but found I had no intrinsic talent. I was young and didn’t have the wisdom to know that there are two types of talent — the intrinsic kind that’s called talent, and the learned kind that is in itself a kind of talent, the kind that that comes from trial and error. Even if I had known about the second kind, I didn’t have the patience to write the million words it supposedly takes to learn how to write, so when life got in the way, I let it. Other things simply were more important. (Some people believe you have to have a passion for writing, that it has to take precedence over everything else, but writing is not always “life” nor is life always “writing.” If one does not live, one has no reason to write.) Years later when my life had pretty much come to a standstill because of various misfortunes, I took up writing again, but when my life mate died, I lost the desire to write fiction. Perhaps one day the desire will come back along with a different focus and possibly a different talent.

Writing for me is also an emotional outlet and a way of discovering why I feel the way I do. While struggling to deal with the death of my long-time mate, I poured out my heart and my soul and my grief into journal entries, letters to my deceased mate, and blog posts. I don’t know if I could have survived without that outlet. A book compiled of some of the best writings of that time, Grief: The Great Yearning, has now been published, yet when I wrote during this time (except for the blogs, of course), I had no expectation of my words ever being read. I wrote for me.

Reasons for writing are as varied as those who write. For example, in a recent online discussion, horror writer Rob M. Miller said, “I write because I have something to say, and I want it to be heard.” Even if there was a chance he wouldn’t be heard, he would still write because, as he says, “I write to self-explore my mind, to self-medicate, to share my worldview.”

I like those reasons for writing. Too often when I ask writers why they write, they say they only want to entertain, which makes me cringe. If entertaining others is the only reason for writing, then why bother? The “others” can find a lot more entertaining things to do than to slog through someone’s unseasoned prose. But if you’re writing to share your worldview or to explore your mind, then your writing actually has value. Of course we want people to enjoy what we write, but entertainment can’t be the only reason to write, unless it’s for our own entertainment. Writing is a good way of passing the time. It’s better than watching television and it could change someone’s life, perhaps our own.

What is your goal for your book? What do you want readers to take with them?

I would like readers to take with them a slightly different way of looking at the world, perhaps seeing it in a better light or a maybe just a more truthful slant. And if not that, I’d like them to feel good about having spent time with my characters. The best compliment I ever received was from someone who said he didn’t want the book to end.

Here are some goals other authors have for their books. The comments are taken from interviews posted at Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

From an interview with Jerold Last, Author of “The Ambivalent Corpse”

I try to write books that are fast moving and entertain the reader, while introducing the readers to a region where I’ve lived and worked that is a long way from home for most English speakers. Montevideo, Salta, Machu Picchu, and Iguazu Falls are characters in these books, and the novels will have succeeded for me if some of you say that you’d like to visit these places because they seem so vivid and real.

From an interview with Polly Iyer, Author of “Hooked”

My goal is a good read. I always have issues in my books; otherwise, they wouldn’t interest me. I like to dig deep in my characters’ pasts in order to explain why they’re the way they are. Sometimes, in doing that, I get into some heavy subjects, but that’s okay.

From an interview with Qwantu Amaru, Author of “One Blood”

This is a great question. At its heart, One Blood is a book about the danger of belief. We believe things so blindly that sometimes we find ourselves in situations where that belief is challenged and we react badly. I would like readers to question more and follow less. Find their own paths and if they must believe in anything, believe in themselves.

From an interview with Benjamin Cheah, author of “Eventual Revolutions”

For this book, I want people to recognise that they have free will, that they can choose to make their lives better. It’s not easy, it requires a lot of work, but it’s possible.

From an interview with Alan Nayes, Author of “Smilodon”

My goal—and it’s the same with all my books—is to write the most entertaining story I know how. If the reader finishes one of my novels and can say he/she was entertained, then I did my job and I’m happy. In SMILODON, I did add a brief statement about the big cats of the world, but that was only to remind readers we are reaching a point when some of these magnificent animals may vanish forever, unless some action is taken to protect them and their environment.

So, what is your goal for your book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

(If you’d like me to interview you, please check out my author questionnaire http://patbertram.wordpress.com/author-questionnaire/ and follow the instruction.)

My Topsy-Turvy Writing Life

NaNoWriMo is good practice for me, this writing without stopping to think.

I’ve always been a slow writer, but I can also see that the way I wrote and the reason I wrote created the slowness. I used to write at night when all was quiet, then the next morning I would read the work to my mate. The piece had to be cohesive, well written, and most of all entertaining because that is why I wrote — to entertain us. That way of writing taught me to pull someone immediately into a scene, to make characters come alive in a few words, to add a hook or reward on almost every page.

I had my reward in his smile. Whenever I saw his lips curve in a secret little smile, I knew I’d hit the scene perfectly.

He and his smile are gone from my life. I’ve had to find a different way of writing and a different reason. For now, meeting the challenge of NaNoWriMo is reason enough. The very nature of the challenge is helping me find a new way to write. Instead of searching for the perfect word, I write any word that comes to mind, trusting that during the rewrites I will find the right one. If no word comes to mind, I leave a blank space and continue with my train of thought.

I also have no need to write a coherent story from beginning to end for there is no one to follow along as I write. I jot down whatever scene is foremost in my mind. I also write in the morning since it’s quietest here then. Also, by writing in the morning, I can come at the task in an oblique way before excuses begin to get in the way.

Some of what I’ve written will need little revision. Other bits read more like notes for a novel than a fleshed out scene and will need to be completely revised. Other parts are redundant and will need to be junked. But I am keeping up with my word count (probably because I am leaving out the hard bits, like descriptions and sensory details), and that is an important achievement.

I’m getting into the rhythm of this topsy-turvy life. From being one of a couple to being alone. From living near the mountains to living near the desert. From writing at night to writing in the morning. From writing beginning to end to writing whatever scene catches my attention.

I’m still writing the same type of book, though — a non-literary literary novel. The way I understand it, a literary novel is a story that addresses the major themes of life, and the way it is written — the choice of words, the sentence structure, the imagery — is more important than what is written. I fail in the second part — I strive for a simple, easy to read style that doesn’t detract from the story — but I do address major themes, especially in this work. Life. Death. Love. Grief. Relationships. The meaning of life. All while telling a good story. At least, that’s the plan.

I’m hoping someday you’ll be able to tell me if I succeeded.