Writers on Writing

I have just finished reading “The Mystery Writers: Interviews and Advice” by Jean Henry Mead [ed.] The book is full of interesting stuff about a bunch of mystery writers – most of whom I have never heard of. Portions of the advice and background they provide is all over the map. But, there are a few kernels that most of them agree on.

The shared kernels are read, read, read and write, write, write, write. They also all seem to share a common feature in their backgrounds. They have been writing since they were kids and much or all of their professional careers have involved or been centered on writing. It seems like a majority of them are/have been journalists. After that, there is very little commonality or coherence in the way they do their writing, how they got published, what they think about e-books (but keep in mind that the book was published in 2012 when ebooks and self-publishing were still relatively new).

They all point out the difficulty in getting published via the traditional route. Some think it is still the best way to fly, others are 180° in the other direction. I have self-published, both ebook and paperback via Amazon. My reason is much the same as the writers in “Mystery Writers”. Basically, I got tired of waiting months (a year in one case) for a response and then getting either a non-response or a negative response. I was running out of publishers to query. I never did try the agent route – most of the ones I looked up sounded like they had no interest in the sort of stuff I was writing.

Read, They Wrote! I was a voracious reader as a kid. In First Grade, I was always in trouble because I was so fascinated with “Dark Pony” that I would read ahead of the kids that were reading out loud to the class. When it came my turn, I never knew where the class was in the story. In middle school, I devoured books. I would visit the library and bring home an armful of books and read them all by the time they were due. “The Three Musketeers” sticks out in my mind from that time. I also started reading natural history books and books describing critters, especially snakes. That reading would serve me well when I “discovered” biology and ecology.

With respect to writing as a career and when I first started writing – I had to think about that. It turns out that I likely started in 5th grade with a story called “Destination Moon” written as a class assignment (I was already a sci-fi buff). My next stop was in high school. I wrote an “epic” poem for my junior English class. I scored an “A” on it and I loved the exercise. I then took Creative Writing as a senior and my creative juices flowed. Creative Writing again as a college freshman. Papers for a history class. Then I got into biology my sophomore year in college and had the opportunity to write and publish a scientific paper. More papers followed, along with a Master’s Thesis and a Ph.D. Dissertation. Post-doc – more papers – university faculty – papers. Real-world – environmental consultant – NEPA documents, technical reports. Published scientific papers that resulted from work as a field technician. Over the years I had penned numerous poems and actually had a couple of them published in the Sunday Supplement of a Las Vegas newspaper.

When I looked back, I realized that my writing path fairly paralleled that of nearly all of the writers in the book. Somewhere along the line, I got an idea for a mystery based on pigging petroleum pipelines. After several years of the story sort of percolating in my brain, I wrote it.

Another bit of history that has become a novel is my interest in Native American coyote stories the traditional tales that several groups of Native Americans tell/have told. That interest and many years of percolation resulted in a YA coming-of-age story.

Both of those stories – Le Cochon Volant: The Flying Pig and Chipmunk Jumped Over Him – are now available for anyone to read via Amazon.

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