Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Writing is Murder--Even When You're Not Writing Mysteries

I just finished writing a 346-page insurance licensing workbook, after developing and outlining the material. Boy, am I glad THAT project is over!

Here is my take on the pros and cons of writing 150,000 words of text versus fiction:
  1. Writing text requires more outlining and less plotting; with fiction it's the other way around. In a mystery novel I get to choose who lives and dies; in an insurance workbook, if I kill someone off, I have to worry about negligence, legal liability, and getting sued.
  2. Writing text requires a whole lot less imagination than writing fiction does. In fact, making things up when you're writing an insurance text is actually NOT a good thing. The readers want the facts; if I make something up, they'll flunk the exam--which is contrary to the purpose of writing the text in the first place. On the other hand, if I dream up a creative way of poisoning an ex-husband in my mystery novel, readers will gobble it up. (Yes, the pun was intended.)
  3. Writing text requires less rewrites--so long as your outline is good. I haven't figured out the rhyme or reason behind the number, and type, of rewrites in fiction...
  4. Writing text requires just as much line-editing and copy-editing as fiction, but it's WAY more tedious. I don't mind reading the same murder or sex scene 2 or 10 times. But reading the same paragraph about workers' compensation insurance law 2 or 10 times? Ouch!
  5. Writing text does not elicit the same level of emotion that writing a mystery or romance novel does. I've never heard someone gush, Ooh! I just LOVED that part where you defined the theory of indemnity! But when someone confided, I LOVED that Jack Kendall--he's a hottie, my heart went pitty-pat.

Yes, I'll probably make more money from my 346-page insurance workbook than I will from my first mystery novel. And yes, a [hopefully] large number of people will advance their insurance careers because of the non-fiction text and it's unlikely that reading my mystery novel will provide any more actual benefit than a couple hours' of escape and enjoyment. But nothing will ever compare to the Jack Kendall-hottie comments I received from the members of the Red Hat Reader's Book Club or the feeling of seeing actual "fans" in the bookstore at my very first book signing/reading.

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