I don’t often comment on the ways and means of my craft of writing. Other authors sometimes make a way of life out of telling other people how to write. That’s okay, but not for me. I’m usually too busy trying to improve the quality of my own work to spend much time telling others how they should do it.
Today though, I thought I’d spend a few minutes setting down, not so much how others should write, but how I do it and what the experience is like for me. If you’re an aspiring writer I invite you to ponder the issues I’ve come across and see if my experience can help you. If you’re a reader who’s more inclined to just absorb these words for entertainment value or to get a glimpse into the writing life, you’re welcome to do that as well.
You’ll notice I’ve entitled this piece “The Practice Of Writing.” That title gets at how I view the experience. You know how doctors and lawyers and some other professionals like to refer to their work as “My Family Law practice” or “My Otolaryngology practice?” They’re getting at something I believe is important. Their specialties and mine are really matters of practice, practice, practice. Writing, like law and medicine, is one of the most complex crafts that anyone undertakes in the world today. Law, medicine, and writing are such difficult and complicated subjects that all any really serious person can hope for is, over a lifetime, to get a good solid grip on one small fraction of what’s going on in their profession and use that to the best of their ability.
So it is, with my writing. I’ve keyed on stories that are basically adventures, either in the realm of science fiction or in the world of mystery. And in these arenas I keep practicing and practicing. Each story I release is the product of what I learned in writing the previous one, plus some new insight I’ve come up with for the new effort.
I suppose one could practice and practice and still never get good at something, but I’ve got the sense that all my practice has led me nearer to the goal of the perfect story. A reader emailed me just recently to say that he thought my science fiction murder mystery, “The Treasure Of Purgatory Crater,” was the best adventure story he’d ever read.
Wow. That sort of praise can go straight to a writer’s head. However, that same reader also quibbled that I should have had the Sheriff in my Peyton McKean mystery, “A Dangerous Breed,” use a different kind of pistol.
It just goes to show that I should keep in mind the old phrase, practice makes perfect. My tales aren’t perfect yet, and maybe they never quite will be, but I’ll keep trying.