-from Susan (Sorry it's late. For some reason, my post didn't "take" the first time.)
Where do you get your ideas?
How do you manage to finish a whole manuscript?
What keeps you going when there’s so much competition just to find an agent?
The need for inspiration runs deep and wide in the writing profession, and the sources are as mixed as the reasons for wanting some help. I was at the first joint NorCal Mystery Writers of America/Sisters in Crime writing workshop Saturday. A score of local writers, most already published, teamed up to present panels on the craft and business of publishing. Successful authors like Sheldon Siegel, Catriona McPherson, Rhys Bowen, Kelli Stanley, and David Corbett shared their thinking about starting off right, using outlines without getting trapped by them, and other pesky problems, as writers who have tumbled into the pit of writing despair themselves more than once. No big egos pretending it’s an easy thing. No holding back good advice. Lots of candor and encouragement to everyone in the room, from brand new writers to others with a handful of books out already.
The biggest thing I noticed, as always when the tribe gathers, is that this cohort, crime fiction writers, is a collective source of inspiration. “Heck, if she can do it, get through that nasty mess in the middle of the book, and make sense of it by the fourth draft, so can I.”
“Wow, he queried 40 agents and submitted to five competitions before someone gave him a break? I guess I shouldn’t be so discouraged that the few I approached so far didn’t like the book enough to take me on as a client.”
“She woke up in the night with the solution to the problem in her manuscript? Maybe I’m not crazy to be obsessing about my bad guy’s motives.”
I get re-inspired when I hear my colleagues talk about how hard the craft is at times, how tough on the ego the business can be, and how much joy there is when you reach a milestone of any kind. (This crowd, by the way, loves to celebrate everyone’s milestones.) My inspiration comes from my individual experiences, history, passions, and curiosity, but it’s also nourished and supported by the people who grit their teeth and work past the hard spots, who don’t give up the dream just because chapter 12 sucks right now or the market for traditional mysteries isn’t strong. We write because that’s who we are, and it keeps me going to know other people are doing the same thing at their computers, stubbornly trying to get it right, at the same time I am.