I always knew I’d be an English major. I was, oh, twelve when I decided this. See, I loved reading. And I could tell a good story (well, I thought I could and my best friend agreed). I wasn’t too sure what I’d do with an English degree. I had a vague idea that I’d be a lawyer.
Yeah, that didn’t happen. But I digress.
When I was in eighth grade, my best friend and I teamed up to do a comic. She drew, I wrote. And I started thinking, “Hey, I’ll write a book and become a best-selling author.” So I wrote some really bad fantasy fiction (today they’d call it urban fiction) with a character who was a complete Mary Sue.
Yeah, didn’t become a best-selling author with that one. Again, I digress.
Fast-forward about ten-ish years. I was married and the urban fiction of my youth was a distant memory. And The Hubby, God bless him, asked, “Why don’t you write a mystery? You like to read them.”
And a light bulb went off. And I wrote the start of a cozy. Life happened, I put it in a drawer. Eventually, I lost a job and The Hubby said, “Why don’t you finish that book?”
Well, I was unemployed and really – how hard could it be? I could tell a story, right?
(I will pause while all the writers who follow this blog laugh hysterically.)
Good, you’re back. Nervous, but proud, I took my finished manuscript to this group called Sisters in Crime. And my education in mystery writing started. Things I wish I’d known:
- You can’t start a story with chapters and chapters of set up. Well you can, but it’s dead boring.
- If you’re going to write a mystery, at some point you have to learn to plot – or apply the principles of plotting to your raw draft.
- It’s not just about being able to push a noun against a verb.
- There’s a lot to learn when you first start out. And as soon as you think you’ve learned it all – there’s a whole new set of things to learn.
- Being an author is only partly about the writing. You have to learn to market yourself and the book. Don’t like it? Don’t expect to sell a lot of books.
- As soon as you think you’ve figured out how to market your current book, everything changes and you have to start all over when it comes time to market the next book.
- But as hard as this sounds, you don’t have to do it alone. The writing community, and the mystery-writing community in particular, is full of wonderful, generous people who will help you learn how to plot, write a character arc, drop a red herring, market your book, cheer you when you succeed and prop you up when things aren’t going so good.
Come to think of it, had I known all this I’d never have started writing. Well, had I known everything except #7. But if I’d never started, I wouldn’t have gotten to the most important thing I wish I had known:
It is all totally worth it.