A work colleague of mine is a retired Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel. A cool guy, if he likes you and, besides having some of the most interesting stories I’ve ever heard, the man is one of those people who you wouldn’t take a second look at walking down the street in civvies, but he could kill you fifty different ways in the blink of an eye. Yea, pretty kick ass. Anyway, he has a lot of ex-special forces friends who try to write books about their experiences. While the stories are extremely accurate and realistic, most of these Special Forces writers’ books simply do not sell.
My buddy and I have discussed this point a lot since I’ve written Flight and one of the things we constantly come back to about this odd phenomenon is that many of these writers do not have an “entertaining story” and/or a “feel good” message to their writing. Both of which are important for sales. A good example of this is “Starship Troopers” from Robert H. Heinlein, one of the few Science Fiction books that is considered “required reading” on the United States Marine Corps Reading List.
Another common mistake I think many writers make is not being careful when they know too much about a topic they are writing about. When you know too much of any one field it is easy to start going into details that most readers are just not interested in hearing and before you know it your story dragging out into monotony. A good example of this might be an entertaining book on a hacker. Do I want to read pages and pages of code while I’m reading the story or get the gist of what the lead character was doing. Another example would be a story on a Tanker’s experience in War. Do I want to know all of the details only true Tanker on an M1A1 would know about? Would that knowledge add to the story I’m reading or my enjoyment?
This is something I am trying to be aware of in my own story. Destiny has some huge battle scenes I’m working on with modern day units. Dealing with all of the military units makes me want to keep the details as accurate as possible, but there has to be a point where I either allow some things to not be 100% accurate to keep the story moving and fun, improve my story to fit as much accuracy in or possibly turn out a boring climatic scene. I’m choosing to allow some things to not be 100% accurate to fit my story, but I am struggling to keep the units as realistic as possible and still have a good story for my readers to enjoy.
Anyway, have a great weekend and catch everyone on the flip side.