Monday, April 15, 2013

Making Crime Pay

How did you decide writing crime fiction was right for you? Was there a specific event that made you realize “hey, I can make crime pay for me”?

by Meredith Cole

I am really an accidental mystery writer. I was a filmmaker/screenwriter for years. I directed several feature films and made my living writing ads for cable television shows.

So why crime? I always loved reading mystery novels. I started with Agatha Christie at age thirteen and then discovered more and more writers (usually at my local library, but occasionally on my mother's bookshelf). Eventually I realized that, if given a choice, I preferred to read a book rather than see a movie. So why was I still trying to make films?

I tried to write literary fiction occasionally when a story wasn't right for the screen, but I got bogged down in the character's thoughts and found that nothing was happening. So when a friend suggested writing a mystery novel set in the neighborhood where we lived, I thought it sounded like fun. Turns out it was just as hard as everything else I tried to write--but it made more sense to me. Mystery novels have strong three act structures (kill someone, look for the murderer, catch the murderer), and that really resonated with my screenwriting background.

I joined Sisters in Crime and stumbled into a wonderful writing group in Brooklyn. They gently told me everything that was wrong with my first novel. So I wrote another one, and it was better. And then I started to take my new career seriously. I started sending out my book to contests and to agents. When I won the St. Martin's Malice Domestic Best Traditional Novel Contest, I knew my career was officially launched. I had made crime (or at least crime fiction) "pay" for me.

BTW, ending tomorrow MAKING STORY: TWENTY-ONE WRITERS AND HOW THEY PLOT is Free on Kindle today! I contributed an essay (along with Cara Black, Kelli Stanley, Rebecca Cantrell and 18 others).


Reece said...

Glad you found a supportive writer's group during those early days, Meredith. That was what kept me writing during the wilderness years.

Meredith Cole said...

I'm so glad to hear you had a good writing group, too, Reece! It does make a huge difference.