Friday, July 30, 2021

Curiosity and Passion: The Writer’s Friends

by Craig von Buseck @CraigVonBuseck

As a writer of history and biography, I have found two essential keys to writing success—curiosity and passion. These two tools come into play from the choosing of a project until the submission to an editor or publisher.

Seeds of a Story

For me, the genesis of a project begins with curiosity about a story of interest. So much work goes into a writing project, whether it is an article, a nonfiction book, narrative nonfiction, historical fiction, or a biography. The writer must first find the story intriguing in itself or she may not want to commit the time and energy to finishing the project. If the write doesn’t have a passion about the story, it is likely the general public won’t either. 

This is where both curiosity and passion become indicators in the writer’s decision making regarding which projects to pursue.

Curiosity Leads Research

Once I become interested in a subject, I find that it is curiosity that pushes me to learn more about it. Every subject I have ever chose has questions attached to it that need to be answered. I find that I press on in my research until I discover the truth.

This is where curiosity and passion tend to act as a team. By seeking to answer the curiosity questions, I become more interested in the subject. This brings me to an inevitable crossroad. I may satisfy my curiosity by discovering that a story is nice, but not truly compelling. In this case my search comes to an end and I move on to another project. Then again, I may take the other path at this crossroad by learning that this is, as one literary agent once told me, “a story that needs to be told.” At this point, curiosity passes the baton on to passion and we are off to the races!

In my book Victor! The Final Battle of Ulysses S. Grant, curiosity drove me to find out if General Grant was able to overcome bankruptcy and throat cancer to finish his Personal Memoirs and secure his wife’s financial future before he died.

In my book I Am Cyrus: Harry S. Truman and the Rebirth of Israel, curiosity drove me to discover how President Truman’s Jewish business partner and lifelong friend, Eddie Jacobson was able to convince the president to meet with the Zionist diplomat, Chaim Weizmann, who eventually convinced him to recognize and support modern Israel. 

In my book Forward! The Leadership Principles of Ulysses S. Grant, curiosity led me in my quest to discover how General, and later President Grant overcame alcoholism.

Both curiosity and passion take turns sharing the lead in the research and outlining process. We call this “pre-writing,” and it is a vital part of the writing process. For a writer of history and biography, this process that take years—sometimes even decades. The waning of curiosity through the answering of the big questions is a signal that the research is coming to a close and it’s time to move from pre-writing into the actual writing process.

Passion in Writing Scenes

The process I use in writing my books is, as I have said, to do the research and outlining in the pre-writing stage. This includes the choosing of individual scenes within each chapter. Once the writing process begins, I allow myself to be led by passion. Instead of writing the story chronologically, I post the list of scenes within each chapter in a prominent place—either next to my desk, posted on the refrigerator, and usually in both places. The point is to have these scenes posted in a place where I see them often and, as a result, think of them often.

When I’m in the heat of a project, I try to write most mornings on the weekdays, then as often as I can on a Saturday. After a time of prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to guide me, I then choose the scene that I will work on that day. This is done more from the heart – what I am passionate about—than by the head. I read over the list of scenes and see which one causes my heart to leap a bit. That is the scene I work on that day. 

Passion in Finishing the Project

As is true in all things, passion often wanes as a project continues on. The scenes that are left at the end are usually not as exciting—which is why they are left for the end. Now passion changes from the excitement of the scene to the anticipation of completing the book. Once all the scenes are completed I go to work on writing the introductions, exposition, transitions, connecting material, and conclusions to make it a readable book. 

In the end, the passion to make the story known carries me through the more tedious work of editing and correcting the manuscript. As I tell my writing students, “the key to effective writing is pre-writing, writing, re-writing, and re-writing again. 

That passion is also a driving force for marketing the book that I have written, with the goal of making the story known to those who need to know. 

Beginning the Next Project

Once the book is on the market and I have done what I can do to make it known to the public, I go back to my old friends, curiosity and passion to find out what great story I will be telling next! I don’t know about you, but for me the life of a writer is a wonderful adventure!


Dr. Craig von Buseck is an award-winning author and the Managing Editor for His new books are Victor! The Final Battle of Ulysses S. Grant, a biography of the final two years in Grant’s life, and the companion, Forward! The Leadership Principle of Ulysses S. Grant. Learn more at

1 comment:

  1. I've found the same two elements--curiosity and passion--to be the driving forces in my own writing. If there's no passion in the writer, there will be no passion in the reader (if the ms even gets published).