What am I going to write? Or what am I going to write NEXT? Ever been in that mental state? A common state indeed...

Bob Mayer, a NY Times best-selling author of numerous books, posting on GENREALITY Blog, details his personal journey to arriving at military historical fiction as his genre...His thought process will definitely give writers some insight and tips on analyzing their way to topics that will get their juices boiling...something they can be passionate about!

Bob Mayer says:

For a long time I flailed about as a writer picking what to write. Just look at my career path. It was only this past year as I wrote myself out of my last contract and was not contracted for the first time in my career, that I stopped and took a serious look at ‘what to write’. At first I thought, well, I’ll use my platform as an ex-Green Beret and write military thrillers. But I had to be honest with myself and realize I didn’t feel it. After all, if I was that passionate about the military, wouldn’t I still be on active duty?

Then I thought: well, I’m the only male author on RWA’s Honor Roll. I can be the male romantic suspense author. But again, I didn’t have the passion for it. Also, that’s kind of counter-intuitive. Maybe there’s a reason the Honor Roll isn’t full of male authors? After all, men and women look at romance very differently. I remember 200 women hissing at me in Reno at Nationals when Jenny mentioned my character never said, “I love you” to the heroine in our first collaboration. What we finally figured out is that it’s two very different phrases when a man says it and when a woman says it.

So. My platform wasn’t working for me in those directions.

I met my agent for lunch and we talked about it. She told me the scenes she had really liked in my last manuscript. She talked about my platform: military, Green Beret, West Point, best-selling writer. She said it was very unique. I mentioned the male, romantic suspense thing and her enthusiasm was a bit lacking. Probably because mine was lacking.

I went home and pondered. Then I was emailing a friend whose father had also gone to West Point. And the words Civil War came up. I remember as a plebe at West Point one of the pieces of ‘plebe poop’ (yes, enough said) we had to memorize was: There were 60 major battles in the Civil War. In 55 of them, West Pointers commanded on both sides. In the other five, West Pointers commanded one side. I used to think to myself—maybe that’s why the war lasted so long. When the Ken Burns series on the Civil War came out, I used to watch it over and over again. I’ve walked pretty much every major battlefield of the war. I wrote the Gettysburg Staff Walk used to train officers at Fort Bragg in Special Forces.

I started getting excited.

That’s the key to it all.

I loved the HBO mini-series Rome. The way the two fictional characters, Vorenus and Pullo, caused pretty much every major event in Roman history from Caesar crossing the Rubicon to Augustus being crowned emperor. I thought it was brilliant writing and an intriguing way to look at history.

So I took that concept—two fictional characters causing major events behind the scenes—added in my fascination with the Civil War; threw in my platform as a West Pointer and a military expert and decided I would write military historical fiction. One of the key angles to it is that every time I watch specials on the war, it’s always historians they are using for their quotes. But a military person looks at a battle and war with a much different perspective than a historian.

I started emailing my agent about the idea and doing research. My agent caught my enthusiasm (I still email her every few weeks a short note just to let her know the enthusiasm is still there). When she emailed back and said it sounded to her like I was writing something like Lonesome Dove, I knew I had nailed it, because that’s my favorite book. And the more I researched, focusing on Ulysses S. Grant, the more fascinated I became. I kept finding out more and more things I hadn’t known and I started bringing to life two fictional families for my two main characters.

Here’s another thing: you have to figure out what you’re strong at as a writer and weak at. I’m a great plotter. I write great action. I’m weak with characters. By choosing to write historical fiction, my plot is kind of determined. So all that energy I used to put into plot, is now going into character. When I did the outline for this book, I outlined the characters first. So sometimes what you need to consider is compensating for what you’re weak at as a writer by writing a story that allows you to concentrate on it.

The bottom line though is enthusiasm. I firmly believe that an agent who reps a book she isn’t enthusiastic about, but thinks she can sell, is killing that book. An agent has to be enthusiastic. It starts with the author. Then the agent. Then the editor has to share that enthusiasm and so on.

This is the entertainment business. Emotion/logic. Emotion is more important than logic.

GENREALITY Blog http://www.genreality.net/