By R.J. Harlick
Who is the first person who encouraged you to be a writer?
A tough question. Oh, I know, the story is supposed to be that some luminary, some important person in my life saw promise in my early attempts and instilled in me a desire to become a writer.
Sorry, guys, I can’t think of anyone. Sure, I had one or two English teachers in high school, who introduced me to the fun of writing fiction through class assignments. I always enjoyed these forays into creative writing more than I liked the analysis paralysis of Great Literary Works. But none of them saw sufficient spark in my attempts to say I had the makings of being the next Margaret Atwood and must become a writer. Or if they did, they never passed it onto me.
Nope, the only person who encouraged me to write fiction, was me, moi, myself and I.
I have always enjoyed writing, playing with words and found I often enjoyed the writing aspect of a job more than other aspects. I had this dream lurking at the back of my mind of one day trying my hand at fiction writing. So when the time came to give it a go, it was my decision alone, done in complete isolation from anyone else, even my husband. I didn’t know if I could do it, so didn’t want anyone else to know. When I hit the bumps a beginning writer invariably stumbles against, when I was uncertain about continuing, it was me, no one else, who told me not to give up. Keep trying. I wouldn’t know if I was any good at it until I got somewhere with it.
At some point, I did admit to various family members that I was writing a book. But apart from “That’s nice” and “Good for you”, there really wasn’t much more encouragement they could give me, because none of them were writers or had the foggiest idea of what it entailed.
But now that I think of it, there are two instances when strong encouragement came my way at the right moment in this early writing journey. One was from a workshop leader, award winning author Nino Ricci to be precise, who read the first 30 pages of my first novel and felt the story and the writing showed sufficient promise for me not to give up on it. The other came from fellow aspiring writers, who critiqued this first novel. Though they pretty well eviscerated my writing style, they insisted I should not give up, that the storyline was good and worth the effort of trying to get it into good enough shape for publication, which by the way it eventually did as Death’s Golden Whisper, the first Meg Harris mystery.
Speaking of encouragement. The need for it doesn’t stop once that first book is finally published. Every writer still needs a modicum of encouragement to satisfy themselves that this writing journey is worthwhile. But this encouragement comes in different forms. There is nothing like a glowing review to spur a writer on to that next book. Certainly, award nominations and awards help, as do good book sales. I also highly value the recognition that comes with an invitation to be a guest author at a literary event or conference. But for me the best encouragement comes from fans. Nothing motives me more to keep writing, especially when I’m dealing with a difficult scene, than receiving out of the blue an email or letter from a fan bubbling over with enthusiasm over my Meg Harris mysteries.
So keep in mind, that if you enjoy a book, don’t hesitate to let the author know. You will brighten their day and might even spur them on to write the next book.
By the way, my webpage has been updated with a sneak preview of the first chapter of Purple Palette for Murder to be published in October. To give you a sense of what it’s like in the Northwest Territories where Meg will be headed in this next adventure, I’ve also added some photos to Meg’s World.