Dean Koontz (born in 1945) is the bestselling author of such novels as Watchers, Intensity, and Odd Thomas.
Here are six wonderful quotes from Mr. Koontz to inspire your writing!
1. Writing a novel is like making love, but it’s also like having a tooth pulled. Pleasure and pain. Sometimes it’s like making love while having a tooth pulled.
Isn’t that the truth? I can’t tell you how many days I feel both pleasure and pain as I work on my latest novel. When you get in the zone and the characters start taking over and you suddenly begin speeding through pages and pages of content, writing is pure pleasure. It’s the best. On the best of those days, writing can become an out of body experience!
But then of course there are days where it takes twenty minutes just to write a decent sentence. Where nothing is gelling. Where you think you’re the worst writer in the world. Sometimes both of these things happen on the same day. But that’s the glory of writing. If it were super easy, everyone would do it. It’s the mix of the pleasure and pain that makes it worth doing always.
2. Books were this wonderful escape for me because I could open a book and disappear into it, and that was the only way out of that house when I was a kid.
Sometimes when you write fiction for so long, you almost forget the kind of effect your work can have on your readers, especially children. I remember so many days spent indoors when it was raining or snowing outside curled up with a good book. And even though I didn’t travel much as a kid, books could take me to amazing places, both real and imagined. I was always enamored by how transporting a book could really be.
Don’t forget about that power in your writing. Don’t lose sight of the tremendous ability you have to transport hundreds and thousands and millions of readers to new places. Keep in mind many of your readers are having a hard time and just want to escape. Let your book be that escape. Let that person reading your book feel really good for a few hours, and maybe a little bit less alone.
3. Every book has some real life in it. I was never pursued by an evil twin clone, but everything else in MR. MURDER was pretty much out of my own life.
They say to write what you know, which I believe is only halfway true. Yes, your writing might come easier and the ideas might come faster if you strictly write what you know, what experiences you’ve had in the past, what people you’ve come in contact with. But that can become dull after awhile, especially if you have ambition to write more than one novel. You want to think outside the box and go to new places. You want to take chances as a writer and not just do the same old thing.
At the same time though, no matter what novel you’re writing or what genre you’re attempting, it’s important to bring some elements from your life into the work itself. Even if the protagonist is nothing like you, and the setting is somewhere you’ve never visited, it doesn’t hurt to sprinkle in some details of your own life in places throughout the narrative, when it comes to supporting characters or plot twists or dialogue or whatever. Always use a little bit of yourself and your life, that’s perfectly fine. Just don’t use only what you know and what you’ve been through.
4. I never discuss a novel while I’m writing it, for fear that talking about it will diminish my desire to write it.
I get it, I understand. You’re writing a novel, you’re working hard, and you want to tell everybody about it. You want to tell your parents, your partner, strangers on the street. Anyone who’ll listen. Writing is done all by yourself, after all, and you feel it’s helpful and motivating to tell other people, writers and non-writers, about the latest project you’re working on!
Don’t. I’m telling you. Dean Koontz is right in that it’s best not to discuss your novel while you’re writing it. Once you finish the first draft, then fine, go nuts, tell everybody you know about it. But it’s true that if you talk to people about your novel while you’re drafting it, it’s possible your desire to write it might diminish. This is especially the case if you get a lack of interest from the people you’re talking to about it. A shrug of a response. Somebody saying, “That sounds kind of stupid.” All it takes is a single person putting doubt in your mind to throw you off course.
So let the first draft be a secret. Keep that first draft only to yourself!
5. Some days I’m lucky to squeeze out a page of copy that pleases me, but I get as many as six or seven pages on a very good day; the average is probably three pages.
There’s something I find helpful and normal about Koontz’s writing process, and there’s something I find a little wacky. He’s talked in interviews about how when he’s drafting a new novel he works ten hours a day on it, seven days a week. That is crazy. I can’t even imagine sitting in front of a computer for that long, let alone working on my newest novel all that time. I aim for 2,000 words a day when I’m writing a new novel, and to do that I often need two to three hours. Sometimes four on my most trying of days.
But ten hours? Huh? What confuses me even more about this is Koontz apparently gets as many as six or seven pages on a very good day of writing, the average being closer to three pages. So — wait. He writes for ten hours and gets three pages? The only thing that makes sense about this is that maybe Koontz revises as he goes along, writing a page of content and then spending lots of time revising that page until he gets it to his satisfaction.
You should absolutely aim for a minimum of three good pages of writing every day when you’re drafting a new novel, preferably more. But don’t feel like you need to write for ten hours a day seven days a week. None of us has time for that, honestly. Three hours, even two hours, is often enough.
6. If I drive myself to the brink of my ability, then I don’t get stale or bored.
As soon as you find your work becoming stale or boring, you’re as good as dead as a writer. If all you do is write stories that are super safe and similar to each other, you have to eventually ask yourself why. Are you afraid to take a chance? Are you scared to attempt a new genre?
Now’s the time to experiment and try different things. And not just that — you want to always be driving yourself to the brink of your ability. If you’re not good at writing description, attempt more description in your latest novel. If you’re terrible at dialogue, write lots and lots of dialogue. If there’s one idea out there that truly frightens you, that intimidates you, make that the next book you write.
You want to constantly be growing as a writer. If you write the same kind of thing over and over, and don’t step outside your comfort zone, you’ll never improve, you’ll never have much success. The work will begin to grow stale, and you’ll become disinterested in the writing process. And your readers will see it!
So surprise your readers, and yourself. Make a conscious effort to push yourself to the brink of your ability, and there’s no telling how much success you’ll be able to achieve.
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