I’ve been doing something I’ve always wanted to do: writing a mystery.
Sounds easy, right? Especially if you’re an accomplished writer. Think of a premise and the book should practically write itself. Well not exactly.
If you’ve been a literary short story writer all your life, you might want to create something more than just a good plot.
So I’ve created these goals for myself:
First, add a main character who develops as the plot develops. Which is what I’ve tried to do. But this has turned out to be more challenging than I ever thought.
Second, create 200+ pages. This is definitely a challenge for me. I’ve never even written a novel. In fact, I think the longest story I ever wrote was only 20 pages. Now to write ten times that and make it engaging.
Still, I’m plunging ahead.
But I’m back to being a beginner again. I will admit as a beginning story writer, I once wrote a story from the point of view of a grape. Yes, a grape. You’d think it would have been all downhill after that. But apparently there was enough going for the story that I got encouragement to keep writing from an editor at the New Yorker.
Needless to say I continued. Through my marriage, through the raising of my kids, through going back to school for my master’s degree, and through various jobs. It was hard not to listen to the characters’ voices roaming in my mind, even with toddlers yelling in my ears. So I kept writing. But perfecting my craft took years.
Now I have a book of stories, still waiting to be published…. Should I give up on finding a publisher and self-publish? At what point should I consider this? At the point of despair? I’m nearing that point.
But I’m not giving up. Instead, I’ve switched genres and am now writing a whole book, not a single short story, or a series of stories. An entire book based on a mystery.
But writing a mystery book is totally different from writing a short story. It’s a whole new genre. A whole new beast. Like going from being a water creature to now having to acclimate yourself to living on land. And that’s where I’m at, still acclimating myself.
Except I don’t have thousands of years to adapt. I have to finish the book, fully acclimated or not. And along the way, I have had to ask myself: Is the book interesting? Is the pacing right? What about the narrator? Is she engaging? Do I have too many sentences that begin with “I”?
My writing group thinks it still needs more work, and so do I. So I’m going to keep at it. After all, isn’t an author just an amateur writer who perseveres?
Sue Powers, aka.S. J. Powers, has received a Prose fellowship from the Illinois Arts Council and praise from her writing group. Her story, 13 Rules, won first place in the fine literary magazine, New Millennium Writings. She is now working on a mystery entitled She’s Not There.