Truth may be stranger than fiction but it’s a hell of a lot easier to write

I’ve decided to take another crack at writing fiction.

Hmm. I’m already feeling some trepidation about having made that statement. So maybe don’t include my name on your Christmas ‘must’ novels list or be checking out Amazon right away.

OK. I am a writer. Well, mainly a journalist, but that’s ‘kind of’ a writer. What I mean to say is that people have paid me money for what I have written and they have done so since the 1970s. Some people still do. So, what I am saying is I do have some creds tucked under my belt.

But, aside from blogging, most of the writing I do is factual stuff, mainly of a feature nature. Fiction is different, and my attempts in the past have ended up frustrating me no end. I have friends who write fiction. Some of them have even written published fiction and I have the autographed copies of their books to provide me with both proof and envy.

And I have read tons of fiction in my life, so I know how novels and short stories work. In fact, I used to teach this stuff, as you might know. I know all about protagonists and themes and stuff. At one time I read a great deal of fiction. Then I went into a slump and devoted my leisure reading to such things as biography, true crime, travel, adventure and so on. I got out of fiction mode.

Then last year I decided to get back to fiction reading. It went OK, and I found some books I genuinely liked and even wanted to talk about. And recently I decided it was maybe my turn to try again. I mean, if somebody like Agatha Christie can turn out about 10 thousand novels, surely I could manage at least one.

I did try for an earlier novel beginning about five years ago. It was called The Road Taken (catchy, huh?). But, I then got frustrated with the way it was going which was, essentially, nowhere. And it all began to break down and I started harshly criticizing my style and my lead character and then the tale itself. That was after I’d written 20 chapters or so.

I ultimately concluded my protagonist was an asshole and I didn’t like him very much.

Even more dramatically, I concluded my asshole protagonist was essentially me

And that’s one of the areas where fiction always goes to hell for me. I end up wrting a roman a clef in spite of myself. I mean, I guess it’s natural because who do I know best? That’s despite the fact I often think I don’t know myself very well, as certain wives have been quick to observe over the years.

Oh, and sex. That’s difficult to do. No, I don’t mean doing real sex, I mean writing about it. And my sexy stuff in my novel just turned out to be clunky rather than salacious. I mean, I know what I like and I even have some idea about what females I’ve been intimate with like, but getting that onto a page is a different matter.

You might think, cool, writing dirty stuff could be a trip. Not so. What is intended to be steamy and even arousing ends up being either goofy or a bit disgusting. If I’m not turned on by my own sex scenes, you certainly won’t be.

And most sexually oriented writing is very crappily written. Doesn’t mean it won’t sell, but that doesn’t make a book – including that ‘one’ that is immensely popular at the moment, especially women, evidently – anything resembling a good book. I mean, I wouldn’t mind having written it, but I’d rather write a good provocative book.

Or a good ‘any’ book.

I’ll see how it goes.


12 responses to “Truth may be stranger than fiction but it’s a hell of a lot easier to write

  1. Good luck with that, Ian. I think it is very brave to be contemplating such a step, especially since you were considering in the towel on writing altogether not so long ago. Hope your focus on the novel, doesn’t preclude your daily does for us on this page.

  2. Me, I can’t imagine writing “features”.

    But I can always make stuff up. 🙂

    Feel free to let us read a line or ten!


    • Dear Pearl, when I have a line or two worthy of sharing, I shall gladly share with you. Feature writing is something I’ve done for so long now I could probably do it in my sleep. Actually I’d love to read a Pearl-written feature because I know you’d put your charming and witty spin on it. You’d actually be very good at it.

  3. Good luck! You know, lots of books I love have no sex scenes in them at all. Just sayin’

    • I agree about the lack of sex scenes. In fact, I often find them intrusive in disrupting a good story. Just finished reading Canada and nope, no smut worthy of mentioning.

  4. Another new adventure, eh? Best of luck with the fiction writing, and like Pearl, I do hope you’ll occasionally let us read a bit along the way. (And I agree with Jazz about some books being wonderful even though they have no sex scenes, too!)

  5. Bon courage, mon brave!

  6. Well, you have an audience waiting….

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