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Sunday, September 4, 2016

Do or do not

cj Sez: I’ve been saying for a long time . . . way too long a time . . . that I’m trying to learn how to write a mystery or I’m trying to learn how to write a YA story. In fact, I said it just the other day. Then I saw this meme:

It reminded me that I know better. And have done better. It has always been my habit that if I want to learn how to do something and have set an achievable goal, I have done what’s necessary to reach it. In other words, if I really want to do something, I will do it.

I once had a wild hair thought and decided I wanted to go white water rafting. When I was 50, I took six weeks of swimming lessons and then spent 5-1/2 days with 12 strangers on an Outward Bound rafting trip on the Yampa River between Colorado and Utah. I had a great adventure, made some interesting friends, and still don’t know how to swim.

When I first wanted to learn how to write, I enrolled in a creative writing class at a local community college. I flew to San Francisco and spent three days immersed in Robert McKee’s Story screenwriting workshop. I grabbed a bunch of how-to books. I read novels and read some more.

Over time, I discovered I was drawn to the books of Robert B. Parker, Elmore Leonard, John Grisham, James Lee Burke, Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series. You know the kind, heavy on the action and adventure with a smattering of sex. When I relocated to Mobile, I took a continuing education class at the University of South Alabama (“Storming the Walls of the Publishing Industry”), wrote seven paragraphs based on a prompt from the instructor, and, with a positive response written on the paper, decided I was ready to write.

Writing in vacuum doesn’t work. I thought my premise was wonderful, the words and structure perfect. I wrote crap. There was no brilliant beginning, middle, or end. There was only a quasi-beginning, a sagging middle, and an unsatisfying end. And I couldn’t even edit out all the punctuation errors because I would read right past them.

So, I joined a writers’ group and a critique group – a couple of critique groups, in fact, in order to get the kind of varied writer/reader responses I might get should my novel be on a library shelf. I went to conferences and writer retreats and workshops. My first short story was published in an anthology 2008, my first novel in 2013.
By the bye, the Parker, et al., novels are called action adventures and thrillers. My publisher likes to call what I write romantic suspense. I consider mine more Jane Bond than romance, especially Deadly Star.

Right now, all my stories and novels are traditionally published, but understanding that the publication world is a fickle place, I have taken an intensive class in self-publishing and, should I decide to self-publish, have tons of back-up/how-to reference materials—and many writer friends I can call on who have already gone that route. And you know what? It feels very good to know that I have prepared myself for the option.

There is a song lyric I heard recently that, paraphrased, tells me I can spend my days living my dream or spend them trying not to die. I don’t see any hope or laughter in the latter. I have spent my life getting older (that’s a good and fortunate thing), and taking a class of some kind to get smarter. I had forgotten about how good that felt. The Yoda meme reminded me. 

I must own the task. I will either do or do not.

The point I’m trying to make is that, whatever it is you want to do, you have to make your “want to” a real goal in order to succeed. For me, that means reassessing my want-tos. I will either learn how to write a YA, or I won’t keep it on my writing plate. I will either learn to write a mystery, or I won’t. "Trying" would only allow me to test the waters to see if it might work out. I don't have enough allotted years left to waste them trying. 

With that in mind, I am barreling ahead with reading and analyzing mystery stories. I entered twenty pages of my work-in progress in a mystery writers contest, hoping to get the same kind of feedback that incentivized me to change my first love story into a romance

Today’s lesson: Set a goal. Put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and write it down. You might be surprised at how far you can go.

Okay, I’ll climb off the soap box, but I really would like to know: What’s your literary want-to?  

Be sure to stop by Wednesday for author J. Arlene Culiner's fascinating tale about the birthing of her novel, The Turkish Affair.

cj Sez: You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

PS Reminder:  Choosing Carter is part of the six-book bundle, “More Than Friends,” set to launch Sept 19, available at all Crimson Romance outlets for the next six months. Think of it . . . Six romance novels for (gasp) 99 cents. Yowza!
Choosing Carter  -- Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook
Deadly Star --  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo
Amazon Central Author Page:


  1. I didn't think I would want to write cozies, but I had a chance to do it (although it wasn't easy to get inside that door, I'll admit), and once I wrote some I've decided I want to write a lot more of them. I think that's because they have a huge, avid fan base and it's fun to know that lots of people are reading my writing and enjoying it. I'll still always write my weird, dark, little pieces and my offbeat novels, but I'm in the mood for more cozies!

  2. cj Sez: I like the way you think. I, too, followed the money/fans with my books. I thought I wanted to write a love story-thriller, but found that a romance was much more acceptable. I haven't fallen in love with cozies . . . yet. I am doing more reading in that genre, so who knows? Best wishes for great sales with your cozies and your "weird, dark, little pieces" as well.


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