Nature photography, political rants, and Martyman laughs from the ten-time award-winning author of "Cool Creatures, Hot Planet," "Endangered Edens," and the "Time Is Irreverent" series.

The tools of a professional writer

Want to be a professional writer? First you must have the tools of the trade: the Chicago Manual of Style, a laptop computer (mine has backlit keys, so I can write at night by candlelight), lots of coffee, and a red writing chair. In my case, this is actually my second red writing chair, as the leather seat of my first one wore thin and gave out after I wrote my first two books. This new red chair is better quality than the first one, so it should last longer, but does it have any successful books in it?

About fifteen years ago, I had an idea for a science fiction book. I wrote a few pages and realized that writing good fiction was much more difficult than I thought it would be. I saved the file, and switched to nonfiction. Now that I’ve accomplished my nonfiction goals with both “Cool Creatures, Hot Planet” and “Endangered Edens,” I’ve decided to return to my original fiction idea.

All these years later, I still like the concept I came up with. Only now, I’m a more confident writer. I’ve also gotten much better at injecting humor and politics into my writing—and this book will have oodles of both. As of last night, I’ve typed the first 1,100 of the necessary 70,000 or so words. I’m stopping briefly to do some extra research and brush up on writing fictional dialog, but so far I’m encouraged.

Douglas Adams—who wrote successfully in almost exactly the same two genres of nonfiction and fiction as I am—is my inspiration. And since I’m not the kind of author who creates an outline first, I’m finding composing fiction more exciting than nonfiction. Other than having a beginning and a general idea of an end, I have no idea what will happen to my characters next!

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