By Thonie Hevron
It’s after April 1st, so the pranks and jokes are over. But not the theme for April’s Writer’s Notes-April Fool. So, funnies aside, this could be terribly serious. We all have felt the fool. We’ve all made mistakes. We hope to learn not only from ours but from others. No joke.
Looking back on my writing career, I’ve made some serious gaffes. With regret but not misery, I offer them for you. You might learn something.
- The first foolishness was waiting so long to write with purpose. By saying, “write with purpose,” I mean having an objective. I write novels—thrillers in the police procedural genre. Oh sure, it took 35 years to gain experience in law enforcement. Then, to discern my statement: Police work is a noble profession that should attract courageously moral. But on this journey, I could’ve written more than procedure manuals and newspaper columns. I’d like to have a drawer full of short stories and more of the stories inspired by the people they’re about. Like the detective who almost went postal because someone took his typewriter. Or the young girl who slept with men to smooth her path to police officer. Then there’s the rookie cop who makes a bad/good choice that follows him throughout his career. Conversely, the veteran who faces a career-altering situation and must decide in a second.
The good news is, I have a cigar box filled with scraps of paper. Future stories—short or novel, doesn’t matter. I’ll never run out of ideas!
- The second relates to the first. It is procrastination. In my mid-fifties, I decided to write seriously—I mean, write a mystery. Mysteries have always been my genre choice. From Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt as a teenager, Michael Crichton, Robin Cook, in my thirties and now Patricia Cornwell, PJ Parrish, David Baldacci, Michael Connelly and Lee Child. It wasn’t until I read Paul Bishop’s Tequila Mockingbird (an LAPD detective, BTW), that I learned to find my voice. Thank you, Paul! Storytelling became so much easier. That is, factoring in organization–a game plan, an outline, synopsis or whatever I needed to guide me through the clues, red herrings, and car chases. Finding that structure led me to complete my first novel, and encouraged the next one. And so on. I must acknowledge my local chapter of California Writers Club, Redwood Writers for not only cheering me on, but offering the kind of education I needed: goal setting, planning, craft techniques and my critique group.
It’s a wonderful thing to be in a room full of introverted writers who are there for the love of the craft.
- Which brings me to the third: believing those strident interior voices who say I’m not good enough. Like when I was a young girl, I told my mother I wanted to be an archeologist when I grew up. She said, “Only rich people can afford to do that.” Silly me, I believed her. After parenting my own kids, I was able to understand my mother’s motives—she wanted me to get a good, stable occupation, like a teacher. Still, I chipped away, writing inconsistently and often not finishing stories. Later, in the mid-1990s, my husband offered to take over the laundry, cooking and household while I wrote. I knew that I had enough talent to see my project through. I mean, what makes a man gives up fishing for a vacuum cleaner? He must have believed in me. Through his validation, I internalized my own. I decided I didn’t need an MFA to write good stories. Granted, and MFA could make mine a great story, but I don’t have the time for that now. I have stories in my head that are screaming to get out.
Thankfully, I have readers who enjoy them.
On April 13th, Scott Decker, retired FBI agent and author of Recounting the Anthrax Attacks, writes about being fooled by the lab (FBI) with forensic methods purported ready for prime time—but after using them and hoping to take the results to court, finding out the techniques were all bogus. Ann Parker’s post on April 20th will take you on an adventure she’d rather not repeat. On April 27th, Judy Alter’s post features some hard-learned lessons about waiting for agents.
Please join us on Writer’s Notes every Friday morning—see if you can learn (as a writer) from our foolish tales. Then, on Sunday morning, read the real stories behind the badge written by LAPD veterans from different eras.
13 replies on “April Fools: Learning From My Mistakes”
What great timing. I was feeling a little low after learning that one of my fellow authors had decided to republish one of her triologies since she had regained the rights to those novels–good for her! However, she mentioned that she had already published 36 novels, which is fabulous but daunting / overwhelming. I can’t conceive of that much productivity. Then I remembered that every author’s path is a journey and we’re only seeing a snapshot of the present. Thanks for cheering me up.
So happy to help!! We writers must support each other. There’s enough success to go around!
And I thought I was the only one to make mistakes. Latest mistake was this week. A book blogger was considering my last mystery and she said, ‘nope.’ She found typos…not a lot, it seems. A few quotation marks were missing or there were one too many. That is my responsibility and I felt stupid. Then she said that she never could connect with the plot or the main character. I waited a day and responded. Saying I had fallen short on the proof reading but stood by my plot and main character. I thanked her for reading and wished her the best. It was then that she said that she really likes hard-boiled psychological thrillers. That’s not what Drop Dead Red is. But I still felt stupid anyway.
Glenda, it’s a hard lesson to learn that not everyone will love our stories. The trick is to keep on writing–for yourself, if no one else. I suggest you learned that your title would be better suited to a reviewer who reads your genre. Cozy mysteries? Police procedural? Just guesses from the title.
I loved this. Also married to a wonderful guy who believes in me. Thanks so much for sharing.
It makes all the difference in the world, doesn’t it??
It does. Having someone support you in something you love makes all the difference. Of course, I support him, too. Mutual is always best.
It’s refreshing to hear another author talk about things I have experienced myself. It lets us know we share a lot of common doubts and problems with one another in this field. I, too, have a thoughtful husband who does a lot of the house work so I can write. We are the lucky ones. Loved the blog, Thonie.
Thanks so much, Jackie!
I’ve made all those mistakes and more. Love your books.
Thanks, Marilyn. I truly enjoy yours, too!
Oh, what a juicy topic for writers.
I am in copyedit mode, contending with my dyslexic sight, so I ask for help.
I think as a writer I have learned the most from writers in my critique group who liked my writing and my stories, yet were brave enough to ask “why” or leave a dangling question mark. Those gentle nudges moved my Dog Leader Mysteries out of my head and on to the page. Publishing date for first mystery is the end of May.
I agree: critique groups are essential for authors–especially this author!