Learning from the Masters ~ Dean Koontz

In my opinion, Dean Koontz is one of the most under talked about and prolific writers of our time. He has published over 105 books throughout a variety of genres and continues to write at the age of 74, claiming he will die at his keyboard.

Although I have read no where near enough of his books, I admire his writing, personality, and passion for the craft. Hopefully by the end of this, you will have a new author to look into or your love for Dean Koontz and his work will be magnified.

Disclaimer: The information used and found in this article is pulled from a multitude of sources and I will cite when words are not my own. All resources will be credited at the bottom for your further reading and investigative pleasures.

Throughout Dean Koontz’s writing career, he has faced rejection, self doubt, and the occasional poor guidance from those in the industry. But, his belief in writing and the power of language has transformed his career into something that has been highly successful.

His Motivation and Why

Dean Koontz grew up in a poor home with an abusive alcoholic father. During those times, books became his refuge. They offered him insight into the lives of other people and allowed him to escape and cope with his own situation. That is where his love of the written word began.

Later, as a senior in college, he became interested and invested in story telling in longer forms. This interest led him to the next stage of his passion for writing – the love of the English language.

Dean Koontz fell in love with the English language, the way it could transport a story with a matter of words. It impacts not just how you tell a story but in what language and what words you use to tell it. He decided to use that love to try and write stories better: with more emotion and involvement of language.

Motivation for him is a layered being. All of these things build upon the other to create a deeper and more complex identity of “motivation”.

His Writing Process

Possibly one of the hardest working writers, Dean Koontz repeatedly says that he wakes up at 5 am, is in his writing chair between 6 and 6:30, and writes till dinner, often skipping lunch. He does this six days a week.

His rationale for such long days makes sense, though! He says that long writing sessions are better for him than three or four hour sessions. Long days allow him to “fall into the story” and let the rest of the world melt away.

During these long days, he not only cranks out new pages, but he meticulously edits the ones he has; often writing a page 30 to 40 times before becoming satisfied with it and moving on.

Dean Koontz attributes his long days and obsessive editing to his lack of writers block. In a recent interview with Harvard Business Review (link below), he says that, “With my pace, I find that when I get to that moment, I have two or three ways to resolve it even though I wasn’t consciously thinking about them. Writers I know who don’t work this way, when they bump up against a problem, they can’t get around it.”

Dean Koontz will begin his stories with a premise and a character. After letting go of outlining his stories, he claims that his writing career has flourished. Instead, he starts with an idea (a premise and a character) and doesn’t worry about where the story is going. The pieces begin to fall into place and lead him where they want to go.

His Tips for Writers

His first tip for writers is -> “Dont’ scope out the market.” Don’t look for the books that are hot and selling. By the time you get it written, the market will be looking for something else. Instead, write what you love.

Be positive about yourself and don’t let people tell you that you can’t be a writer. Self doubt is inevitable but let it push you forward instead of tear you down. It is important to persevere and keep writing because, “What if they’re wrong?”

In my own words… don’t prove the naysayers right, prove them wrong.

Another gem of wisdom from Dean Koontz is to adopt your own writing style. When you read how to’s and tips from other authors, they might be completely opposite of your creative style. This will not help you, but instead hinder you. Find what works for you.

Extra! Extra!

There are so many wonderful things that I want to tell you about Dean Koontz after researching and reading about him. But, none of them fit the way I wanted them to in the sections above. So here is where you get to learn more about Dean Koontz in a randomized way.

Creativity: He was asked by a fan about what he does for creativity. His answer was essentially to follow your interests. Dean has lots of interests and reads a lot which allows him to use that knowledge in his stories. The more that you learn about the real world, the more you will be inspired to write and the more ideas that you have. “Make your life as rich as you can, filled with as much knowledge as you can.” The ideas will come to you after that.

Commitment: A different fan asked him how he was able to stay committed to one novel at a time. He told a story about how he had gone to an author event and described to a friend how he had 5 books, nearly finished but lacking the ending. Koontz attributes this to self doubt saying that “you don’t want to finish it because you are afraid people won’t like it.” Don’t be afraid, beat that self doubt. “If they don’t like it, that is their problem.”

Comedy: Koontz writes many dark elements into his stories and has a good understanding of evil. Although he enjoys writing about it, writing funny scenes and comedy into his books is easier and usually results in a good writing day. He is a fan of quick wit and funny dialogue. Dean Koontz also says that this element is important because of the complexity of people. Humans are filled with darkness and evil as well as humor and happiness.

Reading: Dean Koontz is a big fan of reading science fiction but also reads contemporary fiction, classics, nonfiction, and fantasy. After reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, he proceeded to read and reread all of Dicken’s work. He also enjoys many James M. Kane novels and the author James Harrison. I read, that he reads 150 books a year. If we ever sit down for coffee, I am going to ask him how he manages to read that many books a year AND work such long days at his writing desk.

I really enjoyed reading and learning about Dean Koontz. He is a fascinating writer and human being. I have many of his titles on my shelf to be read and Winter Moon is in my top ten books list. What books do you enjoy by Dean Koontz? What did you learn about him that might impact your writing?

Happy reading and writing!

Sources and Links

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