Friday, December 7, 2018

Style Over Habit

Do you sometimes change your work habits, or is it better to keep things consistent?

As folks retire and frontlists free up for a host of reasons, we authors maximize our value in the supply chain by writing enough books with our names on them to create demand. To accomplish that feat takes volume, which we can't produce on our own, so we need the industry, far more than it needs us.

That's the author's market position in publishing.

How badly does the marketplace need another book from me, and how quickly am I able to produce it is the only value criteria that applies to me. It is my only contribution to the supply chain as an author. Now that I've tied my author's output to the fortunes of Bronzeville Books, I'm fairly certain I'll have to go beyond a daily word count metric to stay on goal. This is a matter of style, as in life, play, and work style. 

Here are a handful of work style principles that help me:

Write to keep the workbench clear. It's easy to get caught between left and right brain functions. Honor the present moment with focus, otherwise, my next writing session may be an editing session and I'll waste time creating usable output. Good writing is, now and forever, good business.

Be practical, always. Consider there are numerous book project milestones that need a final manuscript deliverable that doesn't involve the quality of the prose. Respect all linked processes with clear decision making. Sometimes you're writing for your fans, and sometimes for the folks who need to write the back cover synopsis.

On research, once I've begun chapter 1, without existing context in the work in progress, it isn't research, it's trivia. If I'm researching trivia while I should be writing, my output must not be very interesting. Go back and read until it gets boring, and cut, then keep going.

On business, protect your brand before you protect your wallet, but never sacrifice your wallet to save your brand.

On money, good after bad is acceptable only if the learning experience is worth it.

On life, and work, don't be afraid to open the spigot and let the water run clear. The good lies just beyond the bad, in anything.

What's in your work style? Share in the comments below.


For those interested in the works to which I frequently refer, check out these titles at your local bookseller, your local library, or online where you enjoy purchasing your print and e-books. As always, thanks for your support and encouragement.


Thursday, December 6, 2018

Don’t Go Changin’

Do you sometimes change your work habits, or is it better to keep things consistent?

From Jim

Until my current work in progress, I always followed the same four-stage routine. Reasearch, outlining, writing, and revision.

1. Research.
I love the reasearch stage. It’s an opportunity to learn lots of new things about the era (early 1960s). But it also gives me new ideas for the plot. A good example is the weather in Los Angeles in February 1962. By chance, as I was researching newspaper stories for CAST THE FIRST STONE, I discovered that Los Angeles was swamped by rain during the period my story takes place. I hadn’t planned on using weather in the book, but finding out how wet that month was gave me lots of ideas. The same thing happened for an eclipse in HEART OF STONE. I staged an eclipse party in the book.

The research usually runs parallel to the promotional activities of the previous book. Part of my time is devoted to writing blogs, arranging signings, and travel.

2. Outlining.
Here is where I diverged from usual practice on my work in progress. I had always outlined the story before starting the actual writing, but for once I launched into the project without a clear idea of where it was going. And I paid the price.

3. Writing.
Normally, once I’ve planned out my plot, I embark on a four-month sprint to complete the first draft. I budget for 800 words per day over 120 days. That gives me more than 100,000 words in little more than one season of the year. My current work in progress has taken six months, and it ain’t done yet...

4. Revision.
All the steps are important, but revision is where I make the book a book. Before my Ellie Stone mysteries are ready for the printer, I usually do five complete revisions. My publisher does another two. I haven’t started the revision process on my work in progress because—thanks to no outline—I haven’t finished the first draft yet. 

For my work in progress, I painted myself into a corner and had to go back twice to rewrite everything. It became a painful experience of jigsaw pieces. I changed the plot, switched characters, and even moved the dates of the story.

I expect I will get the book done and eventually be satisfied with it. But it will take twice the effort and frustration to get there.

So, as a result of this experience, I’ve come to the conclusion that I should never deviate from my usual process.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Whatever works

Do you sometimes change your work habits, or is it better to keep things consistent? 

by Dietrich

I write every day. I get up early and work until noon. That’s when my best stuff comes. In the afternoon, I like to go for long walks through the woods or along the ocean, five or six miles usually. The exercise and the connection with nature helps keep me sharp. 

When I complete a draft, I step back from it for a few days, sometimes switching to another project. So, while I do have daily writing habits that work for me, I’m open to new ways to change things up to keep from falling in the ruts. 

Like most people, I sometimes find myself rolling with life’s punches, having to deal with whatever it may be. One habit that works, I manage to set real life aside, getting myself into a mind frame where I can give my writing one-hundred percent. And I’ve got a great studio set up with a nice view of a forest. A private place where I can get some writing done. I play music to help get in the zone and to tune out the white noise of day to day living in the city. Music helps me to crank out the day’s pages no matter what’s going on around me.

Another habit, I like to pen my first drafts. It gives me a nice contact with the story. Second drafts get typed on a computer. It’s far easier and neater to edit this way. And it’s a breeze to look up facts while I’m at it, although there is social media to deal with, discipline versus temptation.

When I’m working on a story, I avoid catching the news or anything else that’s negative or depressing. Let’s face it, the papers and newscasts are full of that. And even when I don’t catch it, I still find out what’s in the news, because someone’s always eager to share what’s going on. And yet, there are those nuggets in the news that sometimes trigger story ideas.

I also like to keep a notepad handy, jotting down anything I can use later in a story. Ideas come to me at the oddest time, and if I don’t write it down right away, it will likely be gone.

Usually, I read a book or more a week, and I’m also a bit of a film junkie. There’s just a lot of good storytelling out there. And I love other art forms, studying paintings, photography and sculpture. Attending concerts and performance arts.

I’ve often been curious about the writing habits of those whose work I’ve admired through the years. The ones who drank away the days and wrote through the nights. Others who drank at night and wrote during the days. The ones who wrote standing, the ones lying down. Some faced walls, some wrote naked. The ones who wrote in crowded places, others in isolation. Most of that wouldn’t work for me, but I think it’s important to find and adapt whatever does work best for each of us.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

A regime that goes with the flow

By RJ Harlick

Do you sometimes change your work habits, or is it better to keep things consistent?

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m into a writing routine. I know myself too well. If I didn’t follow a schedule, if I wrote when the writing muse struck, I would start all sorts of ‘the best ever’ projects, but would never finishing anything.

When I started out on this writing adventure a good twenty years ago, I was a management consultant who worked at home. I followed a daily schedule, heading to my office after breakfast and pretty well staying there until late afternoon, apart from the occasional foray to the kitchen for coffee and lunch and to walk the dog. 

Writing I treated no differently. Instead of doing work for a client I worked for myself and spent the time I wasn’t consulting writing my first novel, Death’s Golden Whisper. When it was published, I stopped consulting to concentrate on what I enjoyed far more, writing the Meg Harris mystery series. And I continued the same regime. To my office after breakfast and working until the dinner time. I wrote five days a week and took the weekends off.

But over time, the regime has changed along with my writing location.

At some point I realized I didn’t need to sit at a desk. I could write anywhere.  I decided I wanted a far more comfy spot than an ergonomically, but inflexible desk chair and I wanted a view, something pleasing on which to rest my eyes for those times when I was trying to figure out what in the world Meg should do next. So I settled on the chesterfield on the second floor of our city townhouse that had a magnificent view of the river. With a larger seating area I found I could spread out and change position easily instead of being locked into the rigid posture a desk chair forces on you.

I also varied my writing location between our city townhouse and our wilderness log cabin. Overtime I gradually increased my writing time in the country. I found my creative juices ran more freely in the wilds of Quebec than in the concrete and asphalt of Ottawa. So for the last three or four books, I would spend at least three days a week alone at the cabin writing the first draft. These were long intense days with only short breaks for nutritional needs and dog walking. For the last two days of the work week I would head to town to join my husband.  Depending on my mood, I would continue writing, but often I would take a break to go for a bike ride, attend yoga classes and spend time with friends. I find when I am creating it is more difficult to spend an hour here, an hour there on my writing. I need stretches of time to get into and stay in Meg’s world. Hence the long dedicated days.

Come the weekend, I would head back in the country for endless tramps through the woods with my husband and dogs, canoe paddles on the lake or in the winter skiing our numerous trails. But come Monday I would be back furthering Meg’s adventures.

For the most part I follow this routine when I am in creation mode, i.e. writing the first draft. Once it’s finished and I’m in revision mode, I can do this equally well in the city or at the cabin, so I cut my working time at the cabin to one or two days, but increase the number of days writing to four or five. These, however are much shorter days and because I can more easily go in and out of the editing phase I can intersperse my days with other activities.

You’ve likely noticed by now that I never mention going beyond five days in a week. From the start, I decided I would not write on weekends. I wanted to devote this time to doing things with my husband. I also found I need the break from writing. I need time away to recharge my batteries, before continuing my adventures with Meg. It allows me to sit back and see the story for the words and make appropriate adjustments. I find writing fiction a very intense occupation. It completely absorbs my mind. Even when I am not writing, I am thinking about Meg and her latest adventure. I only let go once I’ve hit the send icon and my final version of the manuscript is zipping along the wires to my publisher.

Another adjustment I noticed along my writing journey was the timing of my most productive work. When I started out, it was the morning. Now I find my best writing is in the afternoon. Go figure.

As I continue along this writing adventure I doubtless will make other subtle changes in my work habits as I adjust to other forces in my life. But one thing I am fairly certain of is that I will continue to stick to a regime.

You can find me
at my website
on twitter @RJHarlick

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Best Laid Plans - by Brenda Chapman

Question: Do you sometimes change your work habits, or is it better to keep things consistent? 

An interviewer once asked Somerset Maughen if he kept a strict writing schedule or if he waited for the Muse to strike him before he sat down to compose, to which Maughen replied, “Oh, I wait for the Muse to strike. Fortunately, she strikes every morning at precisely nine o’clock.”

The prolific Stephen King also professes to a regimented writing schedule and has claimed to write 2000 words a day. He said, “The first draft of a book — even a long one — should take no more than three months, the length of a season.” He recommends taking no days off from the keyboard … not even Christmas.

I wish that I could tell you that I’m as disciplined as these famous two writers, but that would be a complete fabrication

I wrote my first seventeen novels and novellas while working fulltime for the federal government. Many days I came home too tired to work on a manuscript so I’d store up my ideas until the weekend or holidays. Sometimes, I’d have enough left in me at the end of a work day to compose after supper and would write until bedtime. Bottom line: I had no schedule.

Two and a half years ago, I retired from the government and began writing fulltime. However, falling into a daily writing routine has not come easily.

I had the best of intentions: Get up bright and early every morning and start writing with a cup of coffee at hand. Put in four, five hours at the computer  without a break in concentration. The reality was that I’d get up with that cup of coffee, watch the news, work out, ride my bike to the store to pick up supper, check out the garden — pretty much anything but write. I’d get in some time at the computer in the afternoons but even that was hit and miss.

Yet after the first year of freedom from the nine to five job, I managed to corral my weekdays into a flexible routine that works for me. I still do all the morning chores and trip to the store when needed, but I now settle in at my desk around ten o’clock and put in an hour or so before lunch. After I eat, I complete the Toronto Star crossword puzzle online and catch the first ten minutes of the news, and then … back to my office to write for a couple of hours. Sometimes, I’m still writing at four o’clock. Sometimes, I write for a few hours after supper. I aim for a minimum of five hundred words but often am closer to a thousand. Sadly short of King’s daily output but I seem to have achieved a workable balance.

I usually write on the weekends, fitting it in here and there. If I get invited somewhere or a friend calls out of the blue, I set aside my writing and plan to write at a different time or I take the day off. If we’re travelling, I usually leave the writing at home and come back refreshed and ready to put in some extra time.

While I see the value in consistency, and I’m aiming to get there, I will never be completely regimented. Much like my messy desk, I seem to work best surrounded by a bit of chaos and distraction. Still, the idea of writing a book in three months holds a certain allure ...

 An unretouched photo of my desk this morning. I imagine the inside of my brain looks similar.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Sacrificing to the Gods of Writing

What obstacles, if any, did you encounter on your road to becoming a writer? And how did you overcome them?

by Paul D. Marks

Starting out to be a professional writer is scary. There are a lot of obstacles to overcome. Different ones for different people, though there are many that we all have in common. I’ve always done some type of writing of one kind or another, starting with poems and songs, non-fiction and then screenplays, writing for radio, short stories and novels. Each one had its own set of issues and concerns. I never sold a song or poem, but bands have performed some of the songs.

To begin with, I had to learn to read and write English that could be understood by others. That sounds silly, but try reading things that some would-be writers write and you’ll see what I mean. But the lack of decent writing skills is really for another post. Luckily I learned these things in school and was able to improve those skills over the years. And this will sound silly, but I had to learn to type. I took a typing class in high school. I was bored, but there were a lot of girls so I liked that. After high school I didn’t use it for a while, but eventually I started to write and the typing skills I learned came back very quickly. And I’m a pretty good typist when I want to be. But often when I’m writing I’m just flying so I don’t care about typos. They can always be fixed. But I can touch type and that makes life a hell of a lot easier for someone who wants to be a writer.

Here are some things we all have to deal with at one time or another:


We’re all scared of rejection. Some of us handle it better than others. For some that fear either keeps them from finishing something in the first place or sending it out if they’ve finished it. If you send something out and it gets rejected it’s as if someone says your baby is ugly and them’s fightin’ words. Still, it’s something we have to deal with. It’s okay to be scared. It’s not okay to let it paralyze you into doing nothing. When I was starting out and got rejections it only strengthened my resolve to “show them”.

When I started out I don’t think I realized how much one had to sacrifice to be a writer. I don’t know about other people but for me it’s extremely time consuming. And I was very driven to be successful. That meant spending a lot of time at the typewriter (in those days). And that meant sacrificing other things I wanted to do sometimes, including hanging with friends. And I know it damaged some of my friendships. People who aren't into writing don’t understand the dedication it takes.

Sometimes I might want to procrastinate, so I would go out with friends. I’d even clean my apartment. Women I dated often commented on how clean my apartment was “for a man.” Well, it was less painful to do that than sitting down at the typewriter and opening a vein, to quote Hemingway.

I know a lot of people who want to be writers. They have an idea, it’s the greatest idea in the world. It will make millions. But they don’t have the discipline to put their butt in a chair and work on it. And ideas are a dime a dozen. They’re everywhere.

So, we have to sacrifice many things to the Writing Gods to overcome these obstacles. And the things we need to learn early on are discipline and motivation. I think I’ve touched on discipline above, but we also need to be motivated. We need to want to say something and have something to say. And if we believe that enough, we should be able to find the discipline we need and make those sacrifices.

I also had to learn how to focus on the job of writing. It has its moments of glamor and fun but the actual writing part is often sitting in room by yourself trying to create something out of nothing. As I’ve probably mentioned here before and definitely in other places, when I started writing I had romantic visions of Hemingway and expats on the Left Bank, sipping absinthe and talking about things that matter. So I tried drinking and writing, but I just wanted to play. And then I tried hanging out at Joe Allen’s a bar in LA, but that wasn’t writing. So I quickly figured out that I need to be in my home office in a chair, working on projects.

And these days with the internet there are certainly distractions that you don’t even have to get up to procrastinate. I love looking things up – research – jumping from hyperlink to hyperlink. I love looking at rock videos and other things on You Tube. And sometimes I do get distracted. But ultimately I return to work and do what I need to do. So you need to maintain focus and shut out the outside world – figure out how to do that for you.

Dealing with stupid people
Another obstacle to overcome is dealing with petty and stupid people. People who want to change your voice or don’t see your vision. People who don’t know who fought on which sides in World War II. People who tell you that your story doesn’t work because people don’t take trains anymore. Don’t do what I did on several occasions and tell them what jerks they are to their faces. It’s not good for your brand. Fight for what you believe in in your work and compromise on other things. Learn to compromise!

I think one of the biggest obstacles that I had to overcome was life experience. Many people go from grade school (or whatever it’s called today) to junior high (or whatever it’s called today) to high school (or whatever it’s called today) to college (or whatever it’s called today) to graduate school (ditto) and then want to be writers. But what do they have to write about? Maybe that’s why there’s so many retreads out there? It’s good to have lived a little bit of life outside of school to both give you something to write about and perspective on it.

So that’s my two cents on the subject. What about you?


And now for the usual BSP:

I’m honored and thrilled – more than I can say – that my story Windward appears in The Best American Mystery Stories of 2018, edited by Louise Penny and Otto Penzler, which just came out this week. I wrote a blog on that on SleuthSayers if you want to check it out: .

I’m doubly thrilled to say that Windward won the Macavity Award at Bouchercon in September. Wow! And thank you to everyone who voted for it.

And I’m even more thrilled by the great reviews that Broken Windows has been receiving. Here’s a small sampling:

Kristin Centorcelli, Criminal Element

"Although it’s set in 1994, it’s eerie how timely this story is. There’s an undeniable feeling of unease that threads through the narrative, which virtually oozes with the grit, glitz, and attitude of L.A. in the ‘90s. I’m an ecstatic new fan of Duke’s."

"Duke and company practically beg for their own TV show."

John Dwaine McKenna, Mysterious Book Report:

"This electrifying novel will jolt your sensibilities, stir your conscience and give every reader plenty of ammunition for the next mixed group where the I [immigration] -word is spoken!"

Betty Webb, Mystery Scene Magazine:

"Broken Windows is extraordinary."

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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Writing (but not a book).

Life - What obstacles, if any, did you encounter on your road to becoming a writer? And how did you overcome them?

By Catriona

This spring, my sister, niece and great-nephew came to visit and I dragged them to the railway museum in Sacramento. I always try to make guests go there; it's one of the best, most interesting, most well-conceived and executed specialised museums I've ever encountered. But a typical conversation goes like this:

Guest: What will we do today?
Me: Let's go to the railway museum in Sacramento!
Guest: Trains? Really?
Me: It's great!
Guest: I didn't know you liked trains.
Me: I don't! Particularly. That's how great this museum is.
Guest: So . . . Napa?

But with a twenty-month-old baby boy in tow, I carried the day. He loved it. He stood in front of every train and delivered the same thoughtful analysis - "Choo-choo". Or rather, every train except one. There is a train in the museum that's so huge a little boy of not yet two literally couldn't see it. He could see the shiny black wall in front of him, reaching to a dwindling point on either side of him and up into the sky above him but he couldn't perceive it as a train. He didn't mind. There was a cute little steam engine on the other side of the room. He could see that and knew exactly what he thought of it. "Choo-choo."

The first obstacle on my path to being a writer was much the same. My house was full of library books when I was a child. And I read every day from the age of four. Books were treasure. Books were miracles. Like beaches and stars. 

By age seven, I knew better. Books had another name on the front as well as the title and I knew what the name was. The author. I now knew that books were written, like paintings were painted and music was composed. But somehow, at the same time, the idea of people doing the writing was unthinkable. However something as perfect and thrilling as a book was made, it was nothing I could ever understand. I could no more imagine the process than the baby could see a monster train six inches from his nose. 

When I was a bit older - old enough to know that Daphne Du Maurier lived in Cornwall and Jane Austen wrote on a round table - I wasn't much closer to clearing the hurdle. At age ten, say, I knew that writers were real people. Just not people like me. No one I knew had written a book. And I didn't know any authors. (And those two statements were still distinct). I might not have been able to describe what made a writer but I knew it was something to do with being posh, confident, English (Agatha Christie had a lot to answer for) and most likely dead.

What made the difference, in the end, was a class in the school library when I was thirteen. The librarian talked us through the back of the title page - copyright date, printing history, publisher's address - and it hit me like a thunderclap. I finally understood that all a writer had to do was write words on a piece of paper (and I could do that). They didn't need to understand how make pages stick together at the inside or make covers be the same size front and back. 

Daft as it sounds now, that librarian that day in the school library sent me flying over the first obstacle on the writer's path. I believed I could help out the makers of books by providing the words and that someone else would do the mystifying bits.

Every time I see a cover design, read a royalty statement, listen to a discussion of meta-data and algorithms, or peek at a marked-up proof, I feel the same. I'll keep doing the easy bit and feeling grateful that someone else keeps all the pages the same size.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Life is like a... by Cathy Ace

Life - What obstacles, if any, did you encounter on your road to becoming a writer? And how did you overcome them?

I see my life as being in several parts; being a writer is one part, but it’s not my “whole life”, so I’m happy to talk about it as part of my life. However, if I was asked what part of my life I couldn’t live without, it wouldn’t be writing – so I suppose I should make that clear. My family and friends make my life worth living – my writing is the chocolate-covered strawberry on the cake (I don’t like cherries!).

I was fortunate to not encounter problems in my early life – such as learning problems, family background or social issues – that meant I wasn’t able to acquire the basic fundamentals to allow me to consider becoming a writer; I learned to read and write at the appropriate points in my life, and was encouraged to do so by my family, and teachers. I also had access to wonderful local libraries, so was able to become an early and eager (OK, greedy!) reader. Not everyone has those advantages. I was lucky. 

I’ll also tell you I earned my living by writing from the age of twenty-two. I worked in advertising and public relations, so wrote every day, to deadlines, about topics I’d have to research for clients, and working to a brief. It was fabulous training for the fiction writing I do now. 

That said, whilst I do see differences between what I did then, and what I do now, the “becoming a writer” part of this week’s question is tough to answer, because I faced no obstacles at all – being a writer just means you write. It’s becoming a traditionally published author of crime fiction that’s the difficult bit!

To that question – again, I was very fortunate. I self-published a collection of twelve short stories, then a collection of four novellas and sent them off to a publisher, who asked me to send them a manuscript for a novel, which I did, and it was published. It all sounds simple. And – compared with what many face – it was. I was in the right place at the right time, approached the right publisher with the right writing, using the experience I’d built over forty-five years as a reader and twenty as a professional writer. That’s all it took!

Nope – none of this “being an author” thing is easy. What I faced won’t be what others have faced. And whatever our individual stories and journeys, here are some things I believe are true for all: you’ll be a better writer for being a better reader; you’ll only “find your voice” if you think about what you want to say, and practice saying it. The world of publishing is changing quickly. The paths of those authors whose work I admire might not exist now, or in a couple of years’ time. So be flexible, and keep reading, and writing. I did, and I am. That’s all we can do.

BLATANT SELF PROMOTION ALERT! A collection of four novellas, featuring Cait Morgan, the WISE Enquiries Agency and DI Evan Glover has JUST been published! Please check out more information and buy links CLICK HERE

I'd be honoured if you'd consider reading my work.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Learning to be a Writer

The question we are answering this week is, “What obstacles, if any, did you encounter on your road to becoming a writer? And how did you overcome them?”

Terry Shames here:

I could take up the whole week answering this question, but I’ll try to keep the obstacles I encountered to a few.

1)    Myself. People often tell me they are amazed at my output. I feel like a slacker in comparison to some writers, but in comparison to myself when I was younger, I guess it’s pretty good. But having reasonable output did not come easily. It took me years to get over being….okay, what’s the word? Lazy? Not exactly; but close. I was always a a hard worker. I started working to buy some of my own clothes when I was 12. In high school I knew if I wanted to go to college, I’d have to pay for it myself, so I worked afternoons and weekends during school, and full-time during summers. I worked while I went to college. I have always had a good work ethic. But the kind of lazy I’m thinking of is the kind that lets me off the hook for working hard toward a personal goal. I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t have the rigor to really push myself to become good at writing. Which leads me to the second obstacle:

2)    Kidding myself. I somehow had the idea that when I got around to writing, all the words I wrote would be golden. When I finally decided to get serious about writing, I kept a cartoon on the door of my office. It showed two babes soaking in a hot tub. One says to the other, “I’d write a book, too, if I just had the time.” The cartoon was an admonishment to myself. When I was in my twenties and thirties I wrote a lot. I wrote half-books, half-stories, story ideas, twenty pages of books. Get the picture? I was fooling around. I told myself that if I actually wrote a book, it would be good. I just had to get around to doing it. I remember having a conversation with Roger Hobbs about his first novel, Ghostman, which won critical acclaim. He told me that he had written a few other novels, but that he didn’t think any of them were good enough to submit. What a concept! If only I had had the same understanding of quality when I was his age (he was twenty-six) I might have made things a lot easier on myself.

3)    Not doing my homework. What this amounted to was not having any understanding whatsoever of the publishing industry—and not doing the work to gain that understanding. Again, it was that particular brand of laziness that afflicted me. The first book I ever wrote was a science fiction book. When I had written about half of it, I chose a publisher at random, sent a  few chapters to them, and….wonder of wonders, they said they liked it, and asked me to send the rest. I was so terrified that I didn’t write another word for almost a year. And I never got back to them.  If I had done my homework, I would have known not to send anything until the whole manuscript was ready, or at the very least I would have been honest and told the publisher that I was only halfway through with the book. As it was, I squandered an opportunity to have the book judged fairly. I wish I could remember my thought process, but it’s clear in retrospect that I hadn’t paid enough attention to what it meant to work at writing and publishing.

4)    Or rather, this is 3) plus. Still not doing my homework. Finally I decided to dig in and really write. I wrote one book after another, got one good agent after another, and nobody could place the books. There are so many things I did wrong with this—so many obstacles I created for myself—that I’m still amazed that I ever managed to get over it.. Instead of working with an agent who had shopped my book, the next time I wrote a book, I looked for a different agent. I suppose to be fair, none of them had impressed on me that they would work with me to perfect my next project, but from my end I simply moved on. If I had bothered to find out about agent/writer relationships, I would have known to work with the same agent on the next project.


5)    The usual. I got over those personal obstacles by attending some mystery writing workshops, joining MWA and Sisters in Crime, and working with a very serious writer’s group. all of which taught me a professional approach to being a writer. The lesson, in short, is to write the best book you can write, have it critiqued, send the work to agents who are right for your manuscript. And you have to persevere.  By taking myself seriously, I finally I found a home for my books.

 There’s not enough room to write about the question of how much of my obstacle creation was laziness and how much was fear. But what I do know is that whatever the root of my problem, had I been more professional I might have overcome the obstacles sooner. I wish I could go back and tell myself that a professional approach might have short-circuited what became a years-long slog to being published. So bottom line? My biggest obstacle was myself.

ANNOUNCEMENT: The publishing date of my next Samuel Craddock novel, A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary, has been delayed. I will update readers as soon as the new date has been firmed up. Stay tuned!