Opportunity for Mystery Authors
Columnist: Dennis Collins
market is flooded with books about terrorist fighting
secret agents. The mold calls for a maverick who has
been somehow wronged by the CIA, FBI, or some other
nameless covert agency. He’s usually retired and
has to be coaxed back into service for one last assignment.
He reluctantly returns and immediately bumps heads with
the guy in charge. In the field, he operates outside
the box and is under constant threats of discipline
from his superiors who secretly cheer him on. The formula
is simple and way too familiar. The bookstores are full
of these kinds of tales.
traditional mystery, that’s what. Sam Spade, Mike
Hammer, Amos Walker… nobody hears from them anymore.
But I firmly believe that the audience exists. They’re
patiently waiting for the next tough private eye to
clean up streets that seem to be populated by muggers
and hit men. The hero has to face a foe with overwhelming
resources and protected by really big bodyguards…
and he has to do it alone.
So who’s going to write these stories? Well, you
can. I'm already doing it, and if I can, lots of people
can. You don't need to be a scholar or an academic.
John Steinbeck was a common laborer on a sugar beet
farm and he had a terrible time with spelling. But he
was a great story teller.
a fiction writer begins with being a story teller. If
you've ever entertained friends around a bonfire, you've
got a good start. And today’s word processing
programs make it easy to change and correct things,
certainly a far cry from how I started with a legal
pad and handful of pencils.
hardest part of writing is putting the first words together.
Lots of tasks are like that. Getting started, that’s
the first challenge. If you can beat that, the rest
is morbidly slow but not really harder. From there on,
it’s primarily commitment.
began writing with absolutely no literary background.
I came from the world of engineering.
I wrote my first book, I gave up on it at least three
times, once for almost six months. But after fishing
it out of the bottom desk drawer and rereading it, I
decided that it wasn’t as horrible as I remembered.
A couple of small changes and I was off and running
for another twenty thousand words until I became frustrated
once again and threw it back into its dungeon. It sat
there for several more months until I got antsy again.
The cycle repeated one more time until I became curious
about how it would end. And that was the incentive I
needed to finish it.
joined a writers group and asked their help critiquing
the story, fixing the typos, and sweeping up the leftover
commas. They were a tremendous help and their suggestions
improved the story considerably.
months later I was strutting around a major writer’s
conference, chest puffed out and holding my book above
my head and proclaiming myself to be an author.
books later the trepidation still tries to intimidate
me when I write those first few words, but now I know
it, Try being a story teller.