Mythbusting

Camille Minichino is the author of three mystery series. Her akas are Margaret Grace (The Miniature Mysteries) and Ada Madison (The Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries).

The first chapters of The Square Root of Murder (July 2011) and The Probability of Murder (due March 2012), are on her website: http://www.minichino.com

Camille‘s blog— The Real Me

There’s a good reason why I didn’t write my first mystery novel until I was almost sixty years old: I believed all the myths about what it takes to be a writer. I listened to the advice of authors at lectures and signings and went home dejected. I’d never be a writer.

Only when I finally busted the myths, did I realize I could do this. I could write publishable books without doing damage to my personality.

If you’d like to be a writer but don’t see yourself fitting the profile, maybe I can save you a few years – here are the big four myths and the truth about them.

MYTH #1: You must be disciplined and write every day.

Uh-oh. This is the biggest turn-off for a Gemini. At least, for this Gemini, anything that smacks of routine sets me shuddering and running for the streets. I believe I’m hard-wired to be dissipated, with an attention span measured in nanoseconds. If there’d been attention disorder pills around when I was a kid, I’d have been put on the maximum dose.

TRUTH: If you like to write, you’ll make the time and you’ll write when you can, even if it’s in small doses or only when on hold with your health insurance provider. The important thing is to write, to get that story on paper or computer screen. If you write ten minutes today, an hour tomorrow, and nothing till next week, you can still get it done.

I admit, now that I have contract deadlines, I can’t be quite so cavalier about writing time, but I still don’t stick to a routine; I just make sure I have longer times on hold.

MYTH #2 Write what you know.

How boring. Sure, your main character will be easier to write and more believable if you choose a voice you’re familiar with, and I recommend that. But a good novel has many threads and subplots.

THE TRUTH: Your book will read like a diary or a textbook if you haven’t ventured past your comfort zone.

In the course of writing 17 books, I’ve interviewed professionals and written these characters: an embalmer, a veterinarian, a medevac helicopter pilot, an ice climber, a hotel administrator, an equestrian, an elevator maintenance man. Also, I find experts in police procedure and learn about forensics, and—uh, ways to kill people. None of which I’ve done.

MYTH #3. Write it and they will come.

I’ve even heard agents say this on panels and on their websites. Never mind the market, they’ll say, write from your heart, the book you want to write. And yet, here comes the rejection from the same lady: “This is a wonderful book but I’m afraid there’s no market for it.”

THE TRUTH: you need to look at the market, see what publishers are buying, and what people are reading. This doesn’t mean chasing trends; it does mean being aware of what’s working and where you can fit in with your own special voice.

MYTH #4. Writing is a solitary profession.

Another uh-oh. I’d been a physicist for a long time. No one does physics alone, not since Newton, anyway. Who can accommodate something like a 20-mile-long tunnel to house a collider, or a 192-beam laser, in her garage? Physicists gather around huge equipment in giant laboratories these days, working as a team.

I couldn’t imagine sitting alone in a room with pen and paper, or keyboard and monitor, pouring out my thoughts and plots, in solitary confinement for days or weeks on end. So I couldn’t be a writer, right?

THE TRUTH: Writing isn’t solitary, either. Imagine my delight when I learned that writing—mystery writing especially—was a community endeavor. I discovered not only professional organizations and critique groups, but book clubs, conferences, Internet lists and groups, and blogging colleagues. Who knew?

So here’s what authors should tell you: it’s a job you can do with your own rhythm; you’ll be able to look into things you never thought you’d be able to learn; you can tap into a market that matches your passion; and you’ll meet smart, fun, and generous people.

What are you waiting for?