The following is my President’s Notes column for the Sisters in Crime newsletter. After it ran, two women came up to me and told me how much they appreciated my mother’s advice. One of them taped it to her computer. See? My ma is a life coach, and she didn’t even know it.
Hitch ‘em up
One of my favorite questions for authors I admire is more common than plastic bags on the roadside. “What’s the best writing advice you ever got?”
For awhile, my favorite advice was stolen unabashedly from fellow board member Eric Stone, who is fond of saying, “Write like your parents are dead.”
I’m the sort of person who avoids stepping on cracks just in case, so pretending my beloved mother is no longer living is not something I’m very good at. Not even at the keyboard. Not even in fiction. The superstitious colludes with the overly practical voice in my head. “But she’s not dead, and she’s going to read this, and do you know how small my hometown is? So small my mother and my grandmother and my mother-in-law all run into each other at the Wal-Mart. And they all READ.”
Other advice makes me panic a little less.
Michael Connelly has been quoted as saying the best he ever got was to write every day, and I don’t think anyone would argue.
Stephenie Meyer says on her website some of the best advice she got was from Janet Evanovich’s website. “She said if you want to be a writer as a profession, then treat it like a job.”
I like that advice even better.
But in the end, my best writing advice came my from my venerated and very much breathing mother; although she wasn’t talking about writing at the time. She never would. She wasn’t even talking about me; although I suspect she’s whispered it under her breath in my direction a few times.
“Put on your big girl panties,” she said, “and deal with it.”
How many times have I emptied the dishwasher instead of type the next sentence because it was just so hard? How many times have I wanted to hide under the bed because I didn’t have any idea what was supposed to happen next. And now? Now my agent has asked me to write a non-genre novel. No mystery. No comfortable structure I know like the back of my hand. What’s a girl to do?
Hitch up her panties.