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[GUEST POST] Richard Knaak (DUTCHMAN) on Why He’s NOT Writing the Great American Novel

rkRichard A. Knaak is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Legend of Huma, WoW: Stormrage, and nearly fifty other novels and numerous short stories, including works in such series as Warcraft, Diablo, Dragonlance, Age of Conan, and his own Dragonrealm. His works have been published worldwide in many languages.

In addition to the release of The City of Shadows novels by Permuted Press — his most recent novels include The Gryphon Mage — the latest in the Dragonrealm — and Dawn of the Aspects, part of the bestselling World of Warcraft series. Forthcoming works include his first novel in the popular Pathfinder series, and, The Horned Blade, the next novel in the Dragonrealm.

Currently splitting his time between Chicago and Arkansas, he can be reached through his website:, where more information on this trilogy can be found. While he is unable to respond to every e-mail, he does read them. Join his mailing list for e-announcements of upcoming releases and appearances. Please also join him on Facebook and Twitter.

NOT Trying to Write the Great Novel

by Richard A. Knaak

That’s what it says, yes. I am definitely NOT trying to write the Great Novel, be it fantasy, mystery, or any other type of fiction. Neither should you.

Don’t get me wrong. I am always trying to write stories that entertain people. I enjoy telling tales, whether in a world of my own creation — like the Dragonrealm — or in that of some set universe, say Krynn in Dragonlance, Azeroth in World of Warcraft, or, more recently, Golarion in Pathfinder. There are, of course, many who would say that you can’t write even a decent novel in such settings, anyway, but there are also millions who would argue that point. Taste is subjective, after all, which is a part of the point I hope to make below.

I have been publishing for over twenty years, with nearly fifty novels and roughly two dozen shorter pieces, not to mention manga, comics, etc.. I can safely say that each of my stories — be it The Legend of Huma for Dragonlance, for instance, or one of my own novels, such as Frostwing — has its particular fans. I continue to receive comments about stories I wrote early in my career. If anyone reading this is one of those who enjoyed something I wrote, I thank you.

I would still write even if it were just for my own sake. I know many other authors who think the same. However, much too often, I’ve also run across budding writers who believe that they MUST create the next Canticle for Leibowitz or Gone With the Wind or give up entirely. I’ve listened to them speak about going through their twenty-fourth rewrite or how they’ve abandoned a story because it just wasn’t “mind-boggling” or “monumental” enough.

As I mentioned above, taste is subjective. Many of yesteryear’s “literary” choices are now forgotten. Many of yesteryear’s “popular fiction” are now classics. In my opinion, one of the best cases in the history of publishing would be the works of Charles Dickens. Despite his stories also pressing social causes of the day, Dickens’s work was still considered popular fiction when it was first released. Now, though, stories like A Christmas Carol are considered literary classics.

The simple fact is that the best chance you have of actually writing something that lasts — something akin to that “great” novel — is to write what you enjoy. That’s all. Let the stories flow from you as they demand. There will always be rewrites and edits, yes, but if those stories are meant to be, they will be. You must enjoy what you are writing or it will show — and if it shows, the writing will suffer. If you succeed in publishing a novel that — congratulations — becomes a worldwide bestseller, do not let that become a burden on your next work. Take it as a fresh start, even if it should be a sequel to that bestseller. If you allow the burden of success to grow too great, either what you write next will likely suffer or it will not come to fruition at all.

And bear in mind that if, after your “great” novel, you do succeed in sending forth your next creation into the world, there will be comparisons to your previous epic. It will happen, even if there is no connection other than your name. Many of those comparisons will very likely be critical of your later work, but if you allow those criticisms to overwhelm your writing — as opposed to taking them with the proverbial grain of salt — you may find that suddenly there will be NO more stories waiting to be written by you. Not one.

I’ll be the first to say admit that having someone say “I loved this book by the author, but not what he did after” is never easy to take, but even worse to me is someone saying “I loved this book of his. Wonder why he never wrote much else?” I’d rather hear the first about me, because I know that it means that I continue to love telling stories enough to keep writing them. Perhaps not all those stories will be seen by others, but they will live because I continued to put them down in some form or another. They’ll be there, if only perhaps for my own entertainment.

And for me, that’s the GREAT part. I’m still writing. Still doing what I love.

May it be the same for you.

About Kristin Centorcelli (842 Articles)
Kristin Centorcelli is the Associate Editor at SF Signal, proprietor of My Bookish Ways, a reviewer for Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, and has also written for Crime Fiction Lover, Criminal Element, and Mystery Scene Magazine. She has been reviewing books since late 2010, in an effort to get through a rather immense personal library, while also discussing it with whoever will willingly sit still (and some that won’t).

3 Comments on [GUEST POST] Richard Knaak (DUTCHMAN) on Why He’s NOT Writing the Great American Novel

  1. Diablo is one of my favorite video games, so when I heard about The Sin War Trilogy I had to read it! I read through it last year, and thought it was great. Since then I’ve been wanting to read more of Richard’s work. In particular, I’ve been wanting to check out his Dragonrealm novels.

  2. Joseph Lemon // April 25, 2015 at 7:38 am //

    I would suggest king of the grey and frostwing… haven’t had a chance yet to read the dutchman… but the way the world of the grey is delivered has been very enjoyable.

  3. Darren C. // April 27, 2015 at 10:58 am //

    As a semi-pro SFF reader, I wholeheartedly agree with Richard Knaak’s attitude about writing. I want someone to tell me a story that I can latch onto and just enjoy. Can I relate or connect to the characters? Does the writing flow well? Does it have an engaging style? Do I feel like I am being rewarded just by reading it? Mostly, Do I care about how it ends?

    I pick up many a novel these days, and sometimes I set them down for good before finishing. I often ask myself “Do I care how this story turns out?” If the answer is “No”, then I’m on to the next one. If an author is just trying to impress me, I can move on quickly.

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