"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." - Vladimir Nabakov
Okay, now that we've gotten started, let's stop for a moment and decide what it is that is important to the success of your book. I have been quoted as saying that the one thing I am proudest of in The Game of Lies is its authenticity. I have also been quoted as saying that an author should be honest with their readers. Are these one and the same things? No, but I believe they are each critical to the success of a book, whether it is fiction or nonfiction.
When you read a book, what is the one thing that holds your interest?
I believe it is the feeling that what appears on the book's pages, the words, the images, the emotions, are real, so that the reader's imagination is stimulated to envision the people, places and events that occur within the context of the story. Maybe they are not real. Maybe everything about the story has been made up by the author, but the author has such control of his descriptive vocabulary, that the words speak and illustrate realism where there is none. The more credibility the author brings to his work on a subject, the more believable his writing will be. That is why fledgling writers are encouraged to write what they know.
If the book is nonfiction, there must be a substantial authority and legitimacy on the part of the writer to lend credence to the history, subject or experiences written on its pages. As in Decision for Disaster; Betrayal at the Bay of Pigs, where the author, my husband, retired CIA Intelligence Officer Grayston L. Lynch, was an actual participant in the Bay of Pigs invasion. By virtue of his access to events going on both in Washington and at Playa Giron during the invasion, his telling of the event is complete and believable in every respect. As you read Decision for Disaster, you find yourself involved, immersed in the politics, the preparation, the battle and ultimately the outcome.
The Game of Lies is fiction, but when you read it you have the feeling it could well be fact. The reason is that though the characters are fictional, their personas are based on, as in my case, a melding of real people who personify that character. The events, methods, means, settings, emotions, most every aspect of the story is real, or could certainly happen in real life.
My heroine, Alanna Reynolds relies heavily on my life's experiences for substance.
It was easier to write about a 5'4", blue-eyed, blonde, that was an international breeder of Thoroughbred racehorse, which was what I was, than to make her a 5'7", brown-eyed, brunette, fashion designer, because I have no idea what a person of that description feels like from the inside out.
And here is where being honest with your reader comes in. If you have a desire to write a story that falls far from your personal tree of knowledge, you still can write it. But, and this is a "huge" but, don't fake it, get out and research what it is you don't know and do it thoroughly. If you have an opportunity to experience what it is you plan to write about even once... do it.
For example, I did not want Alanna to be a gun-toting spy. As it turned out, she is a skilled martial artist, who practices a rare soft style of Shoalin Martial arts called Pa Qua. Not only did I not know Pa Qua, I didn't know the first thing about martial arts of any kind when I started to write The Game of Lies. I was very lucky. Believe it or not, in Lexington, KY, there was a martial arts school run by a Shoalin Grand Master named Sin The. It was through his generosity of spirit that I was able to not only experience, but actually learn this exquisite form, and therefore, be able to apply it in my writing with authority. That is being honest with your reader.
Okay, we've covered authenticity and honesty.
If you're one of my audience with that finished manuscript burning a hole in your hard drive, and who hasn't as yet found a good book doctor to give you an educated opinion on your work, give your book another read and see where it meets or falls short of the above. And then, check out our "Links" page for a listing titled Independent Editors Group for reliable help in editing your work.
If you are one of my fledgling writers, decide where you are authenticity/honesty-wise in relation to the story you want to tell. Will you be able to rely heavily on what you already know, or will you spend a lot of time getting educated? Don't be dissuaded if it is the latter. I needed tons of educating, and not only did I make some really good and very interesting friends in the process, but I had loads of fun.