By Thonie Hevron
It’s occurred to me that I may have something to offer to those fledgling authors out there. Not so long ago, I was in your ranks. In fact, I consider that most of my writing years were at this level. This was for three simple reasons: I was busy making a living, I had direction but no real goal set down, and I thought I had enough smarts to write a book without educating myself further.
If I knew then what I know now….blah, blah, blah.
Let me articulate the three points that I now work by: “making a living” —for me, this meant working at my alumni police departments (and Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office). But more than just “making a living,” I was learning all the technical and emotional aspects of law enforcement. When I got serious about writing, I heeded the old adage, “Write what you know.” I certainly knew cops and emergency services. What’s more exciting than saving lives?
Besides, one of the earliest inspirations for a story came from witnessing a detective come into my office, yell at the top of his lungs in frustration (over a broken typewriter, of all things), then leave. My first thought was that it could be a short trip for him to go postal. Oh, no. What if he took us hostage? In our own police department? How would that work? Ewwww, what a story! That became a book that I wrote after “By Force or Fear.” It’s now sitting in my closet tucked away in a box until I have time to re-work it.
Anyway, the point is that all those years I worked, my brain was storing up details, impressions, and feelings about the job. All to be mined for future novels.
The second point was not having a goal set down. I wrote my first story in the fifth grade, “How the Leopard Got His Spots.” Between journaling and fiction, I’ve been writing ever since. But with no discernable goal, most of my stuff was never fully imagined, thus never finished. Despite my parents support as well as my husband, Danny’s (he once fully remodeled a bedroom into an office for me), I plodded, putting words down…to no end.
What happened to change that? About the year 2005, my husband pointed out an advertisement in the local newspaper for a writing group. I joined and over the following year, jumpstarted my writing. The instructor, Pat Tyler, encouraged me to join her writers’ club—Redwood Writers, a branch of the California Writers Club (founded by Jack London and literary friends). Through this club, I was able to discern my genre—suspense/thriller/police procedural, then define my goal—to publish my novel.
The third part of this process was a two-parter: to educate myself and keep writing. Redwood Writers had several workshops each year as well as contests, anthologies and conferences. I devoured information from magazines, blogs, websites, books and newspapers. The changing face of publishing made all of us authors entrepreneurial. Self-publishing is no longer considered vanity press because so much of what is available is independently published.
But even if you have a publisher, you must do most of your own marketing.
Daunting, to be sure. An introvert by nature, what writer wants to put him/herself in front of a crowd and say, “Come buy my book.” Well, that’s exactly what we must do. Through workshops, conferences, et al, I have learned how to put myself “out there” via social media and public contact. I’ve pushed past my comfort level and have read my work in public—with many more events to come—and God help me, I’ve found my inner ham. I’m pushing my limits by enjoying being in the public eye while keeping my audience entertained.
All these lessons come hard. Even though I suffered sweaty palms before getting up in front of a crowd, pushing myself made it easier each time. Still, I wish I’d paid attention earlier. I could’ve been writing with purpose all along.
But the instructions have been heard: pay attention to the lessons of life, decide on the goal, and writing and education continue forever.