I’m a fantasy writer working on my first mystery. Some of you probably know that already. This has been quite an experience for me, but also a fun project. In fact, to me, there is nothing like entertaining myself, lounging around the house in sweatpants beating out some scenes on my keyboard.
I’ve found that you can let your imagination go a bit more when writing fantasy than you can with something more serious, but I’ve still been enjoying myself. I like to push the boundaries and get out of my comfort zone once in awhile. This is an important part of the learning experience when it comes to the craft of writing.
Writing in the mystery genre taxes my brain, but it’s a matter of use it or lose it, adapting and flourishing, or stagnating and dying. I do know I had this story in my head waiting to get out on paper, so if I don’t write what I have to say at my age I may as well forget it and quit. No one knows what is around the corner at any age. Sometimes I feel that I can’t write fast enough to get all my stories down on paper before the time is up. I really love doing this and don’t intend to stop until I can’t do it any longer.
In this new endeavor, I’m trying to draw on my reading and life experiences to help me shape believable characters and situations. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a little talent for storytelling either. In addition, just practice of writing, writing, writing, and reading. I hope that part of this angst will come through in my story.
I know everyone here has heard of Malcolm Gladwell’s famous 10,000-hour rule. Supposedly, it takes this many hours to become good at what you do. I think this is true in all occupations, whether you’re a writer, plumber, lawyer, gardener, and electrician, whatever. Practice always makes anything better. So, if you are a writer starting at 60, you may as well be writer starting out at 20. We all start from the same place, with no experience at all.
A good imagination always comes into play when writing, but so does life experiences. Sometimes an older writer will have it over a younger one because of all the relationships, grief, loss, anger, joy experienced over the years. If we dig deep within us, remembering all these difficult times and painful experiences, we can pull out the necessary things to instill in our writing. In this way, we can create characters that matter to the reader.
This mystery is my fourth novel. I feel that over the last five years my writing has gotten a lot better. I know so much more now than I did when I published my first novel in 2008. That book took me four long years to write. I started it when I was taking a creative writing course in CA. I have been writing steady for about 15 years now, although I dabbled way before that, but unfortunately work took precedence and I didn’t keep up the pace as much with writing back then as I do now. The key for sure is to write all the time, even if it’s just free writing or some silly story.
Haversham Hill, the story I labored over for four years and published in 2008, is a ghost story. It has good bones and sells more copies than my next two books, but I would still do a few things differently if I were writing that book today, namely there is too much narrative and flowery descriptions. Or, perhaps I have grown past all this elaborate detail.
My next two books are definitely for selected audiences, a historical book set in medieval times and a Y/A leprechaun adventure story. That limits my sales, but I thoroughly enjoyed writing these books. As I always do, I try to write something I’d like to read. I’m particularly interested in medieval tales and I love mythical beings. Writing for me is actually more important than the amount of sales I get. I think it always will be because I don’t plan to be on the New York Times bestseller list, but I do plan on writing my brains out and learning everyday because I love writing.
I hope that future readers find my stories as engrossing as I do myself because I think fiction books shouldn’t be journalistic pieces like you find in newspapers, “just the facts, ma’am,” as Sergeant Joe Friday used to say. Writing novels should be a fun experience, even if you do have to bleed onto the keyboard once in awhile, as you sweat out the correct way to say what you have to say.
Meanwhile fill your inner world with lots of reading and stories because sometimes you don’t have any control over your crappy external environment. However, you do have control over what you read. Reading will make all of us better writers, and we can also draw on all the external crappy stuff to incorporate into our stories.
I want to encourage everybody to use all the knowledge you have now. Never give up, thinking you aren’t good enough, because you are. You may be better one day, but you’re still good enough today to pursue the avenues you want to pursue in your writing. None of us knows if we will get a tomorrow. While this may sound morbid, it really isn’t. This is my reason for choosing to self-publish my books. I wasn’t about to keep pursuing publishers at my age. Besides, there are so many avenues open to writers today and we should take advantage of these opportunities.
Really, we can’t depend on anyone except ourselves. We need to stay motivated, keep our imaginations active, and have great tenacity in order to succeed.
That’s my two cents. I’d love to hear from anyone who wants to comment.