Friday, April 5, 2013

A small HELLO from new GMTA author Dan Diehl

Since Kitty was generous enough to invite me - as a new GMTA author - to take part in this blog-fest I thought it only fitting that I should take advantage of the invitation and introduce myself and offer a few musings on my approach to the writer's craft. 

I have been a fulltime writer since 1995 and in that time I have authored or co-authored 21 books (which are now out in 10 languages other than English) and more than 170 hours of television documentaries for such networks as History, Biography, Nat Geo, and on, and on, and on.  I won't bore you with a litany of my published work but if you want to know more about my scribblings I suggest a detour to Amazon and an advanced search under the author name, Daniel Diehl.  That said, below are a few thoughts on writing as a working craft.

People have been led to believe that writing – as opposed to almost any other profession with the possible exception of painting pictures – is somehow magical.  According to most sources – most of which are my fellow writers – writing is ‘inspired’, it takes endless amounts of time (possibly augmented with alcohol, pot, insanity, or some other outside stimuli) to ‘get in the mood’ or to ‘be inspired’.  Playwright George Bernard Shaw once said of the Victorian romantic poet, Algernon Swinburn, “Algernon could only write once he had found his muse; unfortunately his muse lived at the bottom of the second bottle of port”.  Seriously, folks, this is all a lot of propaganda put out by writers to make their job look somehow magical.  The only inspiration a working writer needs to get down to work is a quick look at this month's electric and gas bills.

There is nothing magical about writing.  Being a writer is a job just like any other skilled trade or profession; you have to learn your craft through a lot of study and hard work and you have to practice for years to get it right.  Obviously it helps if you have a real flair for storytelling, in the same way that the difference between being a good cook and a great chef is having a built-in affinity for creative cooking.  But both the competent cook and the great chef had to start out learning how to boil water.
If writing is not magical it is certainly mythical – at least in the way non-writers seem to imagine it.  People think writers can work when they want, take endless vacations lying under palm trees and drinking tall, cool Cervesa beer.  Wrong.  Writing is done in private and if you are not a self-starter who can spend days and weeks on end shut off from the world you will never be a serious writer.

Writing is lonely, generally badly paid and most people who know them think writers are more than a little ‘weird’, but the fact is I write because I love writing.  I enjoy writing more than I enjoy anything else I have ever done.  Where else can you invent a world, or an entire reality, of your own choosing and then sculpt it and mold it – along with all of the people in it - into whatever shape you want?  The only other place I am aware of that you can shape your own reality is during a psychotic break from reality and while writing probably won’t ever make me rich it does pay a lot better than insanity.
While writing is a serious undertaking, the writer’s work need not be serious in tone – indeed, if you are writing fantasy or light fiction it is my humble opinion that your characters should never take themselves too seriously.   The characters in a fantasy/ sci fi/ light fiction novel probably don’t have much to say that is really important to life in general, so they need to have the capacity to laugh at themselves and the absurdity of their world.  At least, that is my view of fantasy literature.

I am not going to name the names of those who suffer from the malady of over-serious fantasies, because that would look like sour grapes, but in my humble opinion any writer who dips into the vast and fun-filled well of fantasy and can’t find a few jokes has probably had their funny bone surgically removed.  Fantasy is GREAT.  It is just designed to poke fun at itself and the whole real world on which it is based.  I think my three favorite living fantasy novelists are Terry Pratchett, author of endless dozens of DiscWorld novels, and the less known but just as weird Christopher Moore, author of such mind bending wonders as ‘Practical Demonkeeping’ and ‘Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove’ and Malcolm Pryce author of some of the weirdest Welsh fantasies ever to crawl out of a human mind.  On the favorite but no longer living list is my late friend Bob Asprin whose MYTH novels keep alive a ming that was truly a fun and almost childish sort of way.  These guys, along with dozens of other contemporary fantasy writers, really know how to have fun and I try to follow in their footsteps and hopy you do to.


  1. Well said, sir. You've made plenty of splendid points here. Pleased to make your acquaintance.

  2. Absolutely love the post Daniel! Thank you so much for sharing and we are very proud to have you at GMTA! :)