The Knack of Writing Fiction
(With Deference to Dilbert - The Knack, https://youtu.be/TvGYIALoKRk)
by ND Richman
“How does a linear thinking, left-brained, techno-geek, automation engineering technologist get to write children’s fiction?”
I get that question a lot, in varying forms, and my responses have been limited to a shrug and a chuckle.
So tonight I snuggled into my writer’s chair, a worn and comfortable Lazy-Boy recliner, and with the aid of a tall rum and coke and several hours of deep thought came to the conclusion my creativity has always been there.
So where did it go for forty years? Was I lazy, unmotivated, or did I just not care?
Thinking back to my youth, I realized my creativity had been overwhelmed and held captive by my insecurity.
Insecurity is best conquered in small chunks, and for me, the chunks were a gift delivered by my career.
I learned how to troubleshoot industrial instruments, then the equipment the instruments measured and controlled, and then the processes the equipment ran. I learned how to write code that automated the equipment, and then integrated the computers used to run the code. I started with small programs of fifteen lines, progressed to large programs of thousands of lines, and then systems with hundreds of programs, thousands of instruments and rooms filled with computers controlling reactors, heaters, burners and distillation columns.
Writing has been a common thread in my career. I wrote memos, reports, studies, specifications, manuals, and procedures, and these documents grew in size with the complexity of the systems I maintained and designed.
I worked with technical writers who taught me the importance of organizing my thoughts, and taught me to deconstruct complex subjects into paragraphs a layperson could understand.
I’ve written so many technical documents over the years I can start one of several hundred pages with just a few hours of thought.
This may seem counter-intuitive. Technical writing is anti-creative. If you put fiction and technical documents together wouldn’t they annihilate each other? But, my left hemisphere didn’t destroy my right one; it brought it out of the closet.
In a blog article I once wrote, “a child’s creativity cannot flourish in an environment without borders.” A child needs the security of borders to express his or her creativity. Like a child, I needed logical borders to help me express mine.
Although the stories existed inside of me, the very idea of writing a book was a task too daunting for consideration.
I had no intention of writing a book eight years ago. I just wanted to interest my son in reading, and asked him to think of a concept, a writing style and characters that would interest him. He passed this information to me on a walk one day and I surprised myself after writing a chapter. I didn’t know how the story would end or where the middle would take me, but like a technical document, I only had to write the first chapter. The rest was inside me and it flowed.
Writing a fifty thousand word novel was simply a matter of knowing I could.
Like the steps of a program, a novel is a culmination of chapters. So, if the thought of writing a book is daunting for you, don’t. Write chapters, and see where they take you.
ND Richman is the author of the books in the Boulton Quest Series: Brothers, Bullies and Bad Guys and Sinners, Survivors and Saints and is working on the third book in the series.