I think most writers, at one time or another, have met someone who said, “When I retire, I’m going to write a book.”
They make it sound as if all they need is more time and they, too, will be able to accomplish what I or other published writers have accomplished. And maybe some of them will, but I’m betting most might start a book and that’s as far as it will go.
Because most of them don’t realize that writing isn’t easy, at least not for most of us. It takes more than time, more than simply being able to write a decent sentence and spell words correctly. Writing is more than TELLING what happens, it’s storytelling as was practiced long ago (and is still practiced around a campfire), where the storyteller pulls the listener into what is happening. It’s using words to create a world, time, and people that come alive for the listener.
For me the most difficult part of writing is making sure everything in a story makes sense, is logical, and accurate. It means I can’t simply end a mystery by saying the villain was crazy and that’s why he or she did all of those terrible things, or end a romance with a hero who’s been a cold, domineering male, suddenly saying he loves the heroine and they’ll live happily ever after. I have to give my characters motives for what they do. I need to show the reader a character’s personality, not simply tell the reader someone is good or bad, hot tempered or calm and collected. And if I’m writing a mystery, I need to figure a way to make several people look guilty (whether they are or not) so the reader doesn’t immediately know whodunit.
I have a feeling most of these people who are “going to write a book someday” have no idea how much research goes into writing. I remember one told me she was going to write a historical because no one really knew what happened back then. I don’t believe she ever wrote that book, but if she had, I’m sure she would have been surprised by how much readers do know about each and every period of history. Same with Scifi books. A writer can create a new world, but it better be logical. Vampires. Werewolves. Those readers have expectations, and they’ll let a writer (and a publisher) know if the writer gets it wrong.
The more real a writer makes a story, the more it draws the reader in. Make a big mistake (I almost put a silencer on a revolver once), and the writer loses credibility. The reader begins to doubt other parts of the story.
So yes, I’m sure some of those people I’ve met who’ve told me they’re going to write a book after they retire will give it a try. So far I’ve only received one announcement regarding where I could buy a finished book. Maybe the others are slower writers…or maybe they discovered writing wasn’t easy.
Hmm, maybe I’ll try being a surgeon after I finish this next book. What do you think?