Vonn McKee knows the kind of writers we are. She also knows ways we could be different. In this article, Vonn talks a little about her own journey and the two things she found most helpful in becoming a writer. And then she challenges us to maybe think outside the box to find something new for ourselves. She is also reigniting my desire to pull out those old Zane Greys I haven’t visited in a while.
Enjoy this article. Let us know if it makes you long westwardly. Better yet, let us know when you’ve climbed up on the horse.
And until next time, read like someone is burning the books.
By Vonn McKee
When I decided to become a writer, I did the thing that many prospective authors do. I googled “How to Become a Writer.” I was stunned at the avalanche of Internet article lists: “27 Tips for Becoming a Writer,” “365 Days to Becoming a Writer,” “The ONLY Thing You Need to Know to Become a Writer.” A quick visit to Amazon revealed enough “How to Become a Writer” books to fill a suburban library.
And here’s the surprise: most of them were written by authors I had never heard of. These guys were apparently selling more books to writers about being writers than they were to the actual reading public. What a brilliant scheme!
I confess that I did read some of these how-to’s. Often, the advice was conflicting from one book to the next. Some tips were downright bizarre: “Take a huge bowel movement every day. If your body doesn’t flow, then your brain won’t flow. Eat more fruit if you have to.”
Obviously, I couldn’t follow all of this advice or I would never get anything written. (For one thing, it’s really hard to balance a laptop when you’re on the privy.) There were, however, a couple of closely related truths that hit home. I’ll share them with you, along with the disclaimer that this really is NOT a “how to become a writer” blog.
Find your voice. This is harder than it sounds. It involves a lifetime of reading, and then discovering which styles of description, dialogue and characters touch off your inner tuning fork. It also involves a lot of writing — experimenting, failing, erasing, starting over, honing. Having a nice wall to stare at helps.
Find your market. Write books like ones you’ve read and could never forget. It’s the stuff of your algebra class daydreams, who are your “people”, and how many pairs of running shoes (or cowboy boots) do you own. It’s who you are. Maybe, it’s who you wish you could be. There are others out there like you — and you know how to talk to them.
Because of my particular path, I chose the Western genre. I’ve released some short stories and have a novel in the works. Apparently, I’m trendy; The New Yorker published Stephen King’s Western short story, A Death, just this week. Fans of his will recall his Western/horror/fantasy Dark Tower series, which King described as his “magnum opus.”
I’m not a big shoot-em-up, burn-em-out kind of writer. I favor the historical fiction angle and typically write about everyday characters rather than gun slinging superheroes. I’m not above throwing in some anomalies. For instance, a Spanish opera singer stuck in a Western town accidentally shoots the sheriff (but not the deputy) in The Songbird of Seville.
I wrote a mystery short story called Noah Rains with the classic “there’s something out there” theme. I’ll go ahead and tell you it isn’t a bloodthirsty alien. Horror is relative: a story about werewolves that simply gives you a start will scare my drawers off. And you may blanch at the sight of clowns after reading It, while I think they’re just weird old guys wearing too much makeup.
Here’s the point I’m trying to make: if mystery/crime/horror is your market, consider jumping genres to explore new audiences. In the Western vein, Craig Johnson’s Longmire crime novels (and the subsequent television series) feature a flawed sheriff who is battling depression, drug lords and other everyday villains, not to mention running for reelection. Psychological thriller fans need look no further than Cormac McMarthy’s Blood Meridian. (Has there ever been a better moniker than the kid’s earless traveling buddy, Louis Toadvine?)
So take your ghosts to, you know, ghost towns. Mark a crime scene in Arizona sand rather than on an urban sidewalk. Let your hellish demons possess a steam locomotive or a miner’s pack mule. The Old West was a magical, mysterious place –– and might be the perfect setting for your next story.
If you would like to read more about Vonn Mckee’s books please click here.
Vonn McKee jokes that she is descended from horse traders and southern belles. She spent summers visiting her father’s family, who raised cattle and broke horses. Inspired by seeing her grandfather stretched out on a sofa reading Zane Grey novels (some of which were passed down to her), she owned a complete Zane Grey set herself by age eighteen. After years of working at everything from a riverboat waitress to country singer to construction project manager, Vonn is incorporating her experiences — and some of the interesting characters she’s met— into stories of the old West. Vonn McKee’s short stories are available on Amazon and Smashwords.com. “The Songbird of Seville” was named a WWA Spur Award finalist for Best Short Fiction. Visit her website http://www.vonnmckee.com/
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