Friday, September 2, 2011

Adventure versus experience

I'm editing a very long novel for a novice writer. He's had a most interesting life and has written a novel about it. Unfortunately, an interesting life with interesting experiences doesn't necessarily make for good fiction. Like many people, he's probably heard quite a few times that his stories are fascinating and they'd make a good book. The first is true, the second is not. Why? Because there's a difference between experience and adventure, a difference between interesting and dramatic.

It is possible to make a great novel out of an interesting life. You go deep into characters, you create conflict and tension, you have a protagonist who is desperate for something and willing to spend his life, or a portion of it, trying to get it. But just writing your own life with someone else's name on it isn't enough.

My client doesn't have big aspirations for his book. I think he wants to have recorded his experiences and it was probably a lot more fun to do so with fictional characters than himself. While I learned a lot writing my memoir, I have had way more fun writing fiction. So I don't blame him.

I'm polishing his writing to be more readable and he's pleased with the result. He can self-publish some copies that may be of interest to others who shared his experiences. And it's a very worthwhile creative endeavor. There's a place for that kind of writing in our world and I applaud his intentions. 

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