Although it could be that there isn't any secret subtext in the Koontz' book and we just wanted an excuse to post this photo.
Courtesy of Mr. Koontz and his , we learned that a writer has to plant his or her butt in the chair and actually write. This is the part of the process we struggle with; it's much more fun to plant our widening butts in the chair and eat cheesecake. Even though DK's success rings the register at 25 million dollars a year (or more), he still puts in the hours. Presumably a centimillionaire, he's at the word processor daily, making magic.
We have considerably fewer financial resources than him. However, we're willing to bet that we've eaten considerably more cheesecake than this wealthy, wealthy man. We also suspect, when he's in the twilight of his career and richer than Midas, he'll still be at the word processor, writing his next novel. As he shouts at Gerda to bring him his Malt-O-Meal, we'll be at the Cheesecake Factory, enjoying a slice of their GODIVA® Chocolate Cheesecake.
Truly, at that moment, who will be the richer?
You'd be mistaken to think the Best Selling Fiction book didn't offer more advice and in an entertaining fashion. From the start, we learned we needed to put care and craftsmanship into our work. We were advised to remain humble -- we're, like, the best writers ever at being humble -- and we were admonished to concentrate on our storytelling. Also, DK believes that all writers should be open to change.
So far, so good. Nothing startling but some solid advice. We soon discovered that writers need to “read, read, read” as well as “write, write, write”. We found out that exotic titles can excite the imagination and that a strong title is a good thing. We were not surprised to discover that the plot of a story is important and we were not shocked to learn that it's a good trick to catch a reader’s attention from the get-go.
Again, there was nothing wrong with any of this...but nothing that shouted "This is it! This is how you move up to Best Seller!", either. Since so much of what we read just seemed to be basic, common sense, we wondered if people maybe didn’t know this stuff back in 1981. Was there a school of thought that suggested that writers shouldn’t read or that most novels didn’t require a plot? Was there a famous writing instructor who insisted, adamantly, that no one cared about titles or that it was an amateur move to grab a reader’s interest?
We also wondered if we should have used this space to suggest that it was going to be easy to write a best selling novel. A bit impatiently, we started skimming through the book. There was more advice to follow.
Put action in your book? Yes! Too much action? No! Create believable characters? Check! (Also, the hero needs to be kind to animals and brush his/her teeth regularly. Not kidding.) The villain's motivation? It needs to make sense. The hero's motivation? It needs to make sense.
Do some research. Punctuate properly. Put a little style in your writing. Oh, and science fiction and mystery are “literary ghettos” but some writers can still make a buck if they enter the ghetto cautiously.
Toward the end of the thing, DK goes into contracts and advances and agents. Some of the info is understandably dated and some of it is simply depressing. For instance, the book advance he quotes for a new writer is still accurate today. Throughout the book, he samples freely from his own work, he provides his thoughts on other writers (he likes Stephen King but King failed to end THE STAND properly; he likes Ken Follett but Follett did lazy plotting on THE KEY TO REBECCA ), and, at the end of the day, we feel that his advice is certainly worth more than the money we spent on the book.
But we still hadn’t found the key that would turn our next project into a Big Money Success. Nor will we. In zipping through the incidentals, we missed this: “I cannot give you a magic formula that will guarantee you success as a novelist.”
Ah. Well, yes. Of course. It all goes back to giving your book a good title, doesn't it? How to Write a Decent Novel That Might Someday Sell Well wouldn't exactly grab the crowd now, would it?
It would still be worth our twenty-five cents, though.