“Why Write Fiction?”

Passion is the reason I write fiction. Why else would I do it? It’s one of the loneliest jobs in the world. The payoff is not instantaneous. It’s not even short-term. It took me several years and a number of false starts to finish a novel I was proud to put my name on. And I still have those nagging doubts about it.

People who don’t write fiction don’t understand what makes us want to torture ourselves. We sit in front of a computer screen for hours on end, making up stuff we believe other people will want to read. Are we crazy? No, we’re just driven by a passion to write.

Beyond passion, I write fiction as a form of self-expression. I used to be a newspaper reporter. That was a fun job, but I was writing the real news. I could crank out a 1,500-word piece on deadline summarizing the major points of a white paper on public education financing, complete with quotes and context. Writing fiction is a lot harder. A critic might say, “But you’re  just making it up. How hard can it be?” It’s plenty hard. You don’t have any real events or real people to draw upon. It has to come from deep inside you. There are no characters on your screen. There’s no story. There are no unexpected twists and turns. There’s no theme. It’s just you and a blank screen.

In fiction writing, you get to express your thoughts, your ideas, your dreams, your fears and your frustrations, and, even your secrets. You get to create appealing, but flawed characters, who stumble and fail, but persevere to reach their goals. You get to take a story in any direction you wish. You get to choose whatever genre you like. You’re in control.

When I left the newspaper business, I missed writing, so I joined a writers’ group and I was on my way. At least that’s what I thought. I discovered that calling yourself a fiction writer and learning the craft of fiction writing are two different things. I wanted to be a fiction writer. I just didn’t know how.

Thanks to the Internet, there are abundant free resources for beginning writers. All you need is a search engine and some motivation. You can teach yourself the craft of fiction writing without investing in expensive workshops or an MFA. It will take time, but you will learn the craft if you dedicate yourself and keep an open mind to what others have to share with you.

Okay, so you have the passion. You’re willing to put in the time to learn the craft. The final ingredient for success is commitment. You have to be willing to sit down and write on a regular basis—whether it’s every day or three or four times a week. You can’t “dabble” in fiction, any more than you can dabble in becoming a doctor or a lawyer.
Fiction writing is a lifetime commitment. You may not succeed with your first novel. You may not even succeed with your fifth novel. But you’ve got to keep writing.

One more thing: if you want to write quality fiction, you must read quality fiction. As much of it as you can, while still finding the time to write. Pay attention to how good writers develop characters, plot a story and create themes that resonate. Re-read novels that you especially liked, focusing on the writing.

I’ve shared with you why I write. Why do you write?

Visit Chris at his blog: http://cgblake.wordpress.com/

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Chris Blake

About Chris Blake

CG “Chris” Blake is an author and editor with more than 30 years of experience as a journalist. A former newspaper reporter, Blake is drawn toward stories about family dynamics. His personal “Holy Trinity” of authors consists of Anne Tyler, Alice McDermott and Alice Munro, but he reads widely across many genres. Blake published his first novel, Small Change, in 2012. Family secrets are at the heart of Small Change. The Sykowskis, who live in the Chicago suburbs, and the Crandales, from rural Iowa, meet at a Wisconsin lake resort. The two families grow close over the years until a stunning secret threatens to break their bonds. He is working on a second novel, A Prayer for Maura. Blake maintains a fiction writing blog, A New Fiction Writer’s Forum (http://www.cgblake.wordpress.com). By day, Blake is an association management executive for two higher education associations.