Recently, a lady who once wrote pulp detective stories told me that, since she knew nothing of detective work, she went down to Center Street and sought information. The detective sergeant there gave her about eight hours of his time. She went through the gallery, the museum, looked at all their equipment, and took copious notes.
And the sergeant was much surprised at her coming there at all. He said that in fifteen years, she was the third to come there. And she was the only one who really wanted information. He said that detective stories always made him squirm. He wished the writers would find out what they wrote.
And so it is with almost every line. It is so easy to get good raw materials that most writers consider it quite unnecessary.
Hence the errors which make your yarn unsalable. You wouldnt try to write an article on steel without at least opening an encyclopedia, and yet Ill wager that a fiction story which had steel in it would never occasion the writer a bit of worry or thought.
You must have raw material. It gives you the edge on the field. And no one tries to get it by honest research. For a few stories, you may have looked far, but for most of your yarns, you took your imagination for the textbook.
After all, you wouldnt try to make soap when you had no oil.
The fact that you write is a passport everywhere. Youll find very few gentlemen refusing to accommodate your curiosity. Men in every and any line are anxious to give a writer all the data he can use because, they reason, their line will therefore be truly represented. Youre apt to find more enmity in not examining the facts.
Raw materials are more essential than fancy writing. Know your subject.
TYPE OF WORK
It is easy for you to determine the type of story you write best. Nothing is more simple. You merely consult your likes and dislikes.
But that is not the whole question. What do you write and sell best?
A writer tells me that she can write excellent marriage stories, likes to write them, and is eternally plagued to do them. But there are few markets for marriage stories. To eat, she takes the next best thing light love.
My agent makes it a principle never to handle a type of story which does not possess at least five markets. That way he saves himself endless reading, and he saves his writers endless wordage. A story should have at least five good markets because what one editor likes, another dislikes, and what fits here will not fit there. All due respect to editors, their minds change and their slant is never too ironbound. They are primarily interested in good stories. Sometimes they are overbought. Sometimes they have need of a certain type which you do not fill. That leaves four editors who may find the desired spot.
While no writer should do work he does not like, he must eat.