Practice, practice!

Red reading small 2

After many drafts, I can finally say I’ve written a mystery book and it’s done. Done, but I dumped it. Hang in with me. I’ll tell you why.

I’ve been a short story writer since the day I could write. Then I suddenly found I had the time to try something longer. Having always wanted to write a mystery, I decided why not write one? I’ve the got time, I’ve got writing skills, what could wrong?

Well just about everything. The first draft was terrible. I forgot to follow the rules of a mystery where one clue leads to another. But the narrator had a voice that some in my writing group actually liked. Good omen, I thought.

So for the following next drafts, I concentrated on the rules of mystery writing, but the narrator’s voice got lost. It was dull, flat, uninteresting. Even I thought so.

Despite my best efforts, the following draft did not improve all that much. I began to feel mystery writing was simply not my genre.

So during a break from it to gain some perspective, I decided not to let my writing group read the final draft. I mean, really: How many times could I ask them to read the same thing over again? I wished to remain in the group, not bore them to death. But they said they were invested in it. So I had to give in and let them read my last draft.

The feedback was this: Neither the characters nor the plot were interesting enough to keep readers reading! Needless to say, they were right. That clinched it. Into the garbage it went. (Not really – I just set it aside.)

So I bought a book on how to write a mystery. Read it cover to cover. And now that I’ve gotten the hang of it and know my characters better, I’m thinking I may start writing a new mystery.

And that’s where I’m at now. It really does take practice to perfect one’s craft if you want to write something worthwhile. So I’m plugging along. Learning the mystery writing craft, i.e. perfecting my plot, my pacing, my characters.

Wish me luck. I get the feeling I’m going to need it.

*

S.J. Powers (aka Sue Powers) has a dazzling array of publishing credits and she’s also won a few awards, such an Illinois Arts Council fellowship in Prose.. Despite some very nice rejections, she is still searching for a publisher for her collection of stories, A Surprising Measure of Subliminal Sadness. 

She lives in a Chicago suburb with her partner, two cats, one bird and a snake (the snake is on loan) and can be reached at firegut@sbcglobal.net.

Mystery Writing—Oh Dear!

Bored woman writing immensely long essay.

 

 

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?

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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.

 

Blog Your Book

Guest blog by The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer

Woman at desk thinking

Writers write to share their story with readers. That’s it in a nutshell. Of course, getting paid is nice, but don’t count on it. Getting your writing out in the universe is the objective.

Writing your book can take a really long time, sometimes years. And all this time you are likely floundering along, rewriting and editing, stuck in a bubble that lacks feedback or motivation. But finally, you deem the book done.

Now your choices are traditional publishing, self-publishing, or sticking your masterpiece in a drawer….

What about blogging your book?

  • Set up your blog.
  • Post short installments of your book weekly. This will build a following on Facebook or other social media sites.
  • Encourage constructive comments, the operative word “constructive” i.e. useful and insightful.

Maybe you’ve already established a following by blogging funny stories about your children or pets. Collect them and publish them in book form. You already have your audience.

If your genre is fiction:

  • Finish each post with a cliffhanger, and never miss an opportunity to market your book-in-progress everywhere you can.
  • Develop an enticing tagline.
  • Publish a weekly or monthly e-newsletter to your followers with side notes about your book.

Make it short, and make it frequent, the keys to effective blogging. When you finish your book, you will already have readers and feedback.

Postscript from Sue Powers:

Pat Childers, the Oldest Living Middle-Age Writer, is writing a mystery, working title You Name It, and I’m writing a mystery [as S.J. Powers] called Twist.

Stay tuned…..