You do have a leash, finally, as a writer. You’re holding a dog. You let the dog run about. But you finally can pull him back. Finally, I’m in control. But the great excitement is to see what happens if you let the whole thing go. And the dog or the character really runs about, bites everyone in sight, jumps up trees, falls into lakes, gets wet, and you let that happen. That’s the excitement of writing plays—to allow the thing to be free but still hold the final leash.
There is poetry in fiction. If you cannot see it and feel it when you write, you need to step back and examine what you are doing wrong. If you have not figured out how to write a simple declarative sentence and make it sing with that poetry, you are not yet ready to write an entire book.
I think my first general rule is that most of my experiences are not that interesting. It’s usually other people’s experiences. It’s not that entirely conscious. Somebody tells me a story or, you know, repeats an anecdote that somebody else told them and I just feel like I have to write it down so I don’t forget — that means for me, something made it fiction-worthy. Interesting things never happen to me, so maybe two or three times when they do, I have to use them, so I write them down.
Characters who are absolutely sure about what they do, who plunge ahead without fear, are not that interesting. We don’t go through life that way. In reality, we have doubts just like everyone else.
Bringing your Lead’s doubts to the surface in your plot pulls the reader deeper into the story, and this is an excellent way to coax the reader to lose himself in the story world you’re about to create.
Fearlessness and unflappability, however, are important for any writer. The minute a voice says, “Don’t go there,” you may find that rejecting that advice will lead you to the most important writing adventure of your life.
Honestly, when you start talking about genres, you’re talking as much about the business side of writing as anything else. Certainly there are elements of reader expectation that play into various genres, and those are important, but it also becomes about packaging, placement, audience….In the end, I’m not a fan of labels. I think the best fiction blurs the boundaries between genres, stretches and breaks them.
Ultimately the first, best step in getting your work noticed is to write good work. If people don’t engage in your writing, no amount of serialization or free downloads is going to matter. You have to write something worth reading, and often it takes time to get at that level.
A woman journalist in England asked me why Americans usually wrote about their childhood and a past that happened only in imagination, why they never wrote about the present. This bothered me until I realized why – that a novelist wants to know how it comes out, that he can’t be omnipotent writing a book about the present, particularly this one.