September 2021 Featured Article
How Does a Writer Do It?
My September release, Daria’s Duke, is my twenty-sixth book. Because of the process I’ve developed to help me write my stories, I finished the manuscript in about six weeks. But I wasn’t always that proficient. My first manuscript (which will never see the light of day, thank you very much!) took nearly five years and lots of drafts and revisions.
Writing, like any skill, takes training and practice. There are exceptions, but most authors must learn how to craft a story, create characters, and keep readers turning pages before their book is ready for publication. And more often than not, that learning takes time. Lots of time. Fortunately, there are how-to books, magazines, websites, podcasts, and conferences aimed at helping writers succeed.
Unsurprisingly, I received numerous rejections for my first manuscript, but one in particular stands out because the editor took time to critique my submission and make suggestions about how to improve. She also encouraged me to go to conferences, join a critique group, and learn about the elements of a good story.
As is typical for my personality, I jumped in with both feet and then some. I subscribed to three writing magazines, signed up for two conferences, purchased copious books, and watched several podcasts. It was a bit like drinking from a fire hydrant. There are dozens of “methods” on how to write a book, and I tried them all. And failed.
Then Dennis Lehane (of all people) saved me.
I attended at a mystery writing conference because it was held within driving distance to my house, was affordable, and occurred during a month I could take time off from work to go. Dennis was the keynote speaker, and he made lots of great points, but the best advice he gave was: There is no one correct way to write a novel. Find the one that works for you.
The relief I felt was overwhelming.
As soon as I got home from conference, I sat down and analyzed every technique I’d learned (remember how I jump in with both feet?). I noted what worked and didn’t work for me in each method. Compiling the information, I was able to create a process that fit me. It’s a mish-mash, and most writers would probably shake their heads if they saw it, but I’ve found my “one way.”
As a hat-tip to that conference, I’m giving away a signed paperback edition of Under Fire (Book 1 of the WWII Ruth Brown Mystery series) to one winner. If the winner is outside the US, an ebook edition will be substituted.