In my last post I mentioned coming back from Bouchercon and being excited to write again, but even though that was sort of true, I still couldn’t get any traction on any of the book projects I tried to work on. So I took a break to work on a short story I’ve been noodling for a while that I think will be perfect for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, one of my bucket list publications. That story is a very traditional mystery story with clues, and poison, and even a closed setting in a theater. Very cozy. And when I was done with it, I found something had snapped with me and I had no interest in darker stuff.
I started watching comfort TV shows like Columbo and Murder, She Wrote and subscribed to the Hallmark Movie Channel so I could watch all of their mystery movies on demand. It was then I realized why I couldn’t make any progress on my book and why I’d been so miserable writing for almost five years. I was trying to be a writer I’m not. I wanted to be a serious, tough, dark, writer wrestling with the social issues of the day, but that’s not me. And it’s especially not me now. I happened to be chatting with another writer friend who mentioned the cozy mystery he’d written and everything clicked into place for me.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had this kind of paralyzing identity crisis. Back in 2008, I was torn between working on this serious hardboiled PI novel or a zany pulp fever novel I really wanted to write. I got so far up inside my head with that conflict that I stopped writing completely for a few years. Finally, I gave up the serious novel and went all in on the novel that became Murder Boy. Which I sold shortly after I finished it. You’d think I would have learned my lesson from that. You would be wrong.
After writing three zany crime novels, I convinced myself my next book had to be big and serious and tough and then I proceeded to be miserable for five years with it. Until I wrote that short story. I’d attempted a couple of cozy novels before, but always stopped myself because 1) I didn’t trust my plotting skills and 2) I was afraid of being looked down on by my writing peers for writing fluff.
Well after writing that short story I knew I’d upped my plotting game significantly and went out and outlined an entirely new book from beginning to end in four days. And it’s the coolest, twistiest, most solid plot I’ve ever constructed. And it’s ME. The book only I could write. But when I sat down to start writing the book, I let the doubt creep back in and wondered what people would think of me for writing this stuff.
Luckily my friends on social media are smarter than me and convinced me I was being a moron. Once I gave myself permission to start writing, I felt so much joy and freedom. I even started thinking about making my next project the romantic comedy novel I’ve always wanted to write.
Coping with Sanity was my old blog title and was part of my old self who wanted to struggle with brilliance and all of that nonsense. The new me is fun and sparkly and glittery and what better title than one from Pippin, one of my favorite musicals. Writing should be magical to write and magical to read. And I’d gotten away from that. So I hope you’ll join me here on my path toward joy in writing. It should be fun.
What I’m reading: I had the delight to finally meet Mia P Manansala in person at the Midwest Mystery Conference last weekend and get a signed copy of her first book, Arsenic and Adobo, and it’s an absolute delight. I also have a digital subscription to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine that I’ve been working my way through.
What I’m watching: I mentioned Columbo and Murder, She Wrote, but the Hallmark movies I’ve specifically been enjoying are the Crossword Mysteries, the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries, and Mystery 101. I also HIGHLY recommend the new Selena Gomez documentary My Mind and Me.
What I’m listening to: Like the rest of the world, I adore the new Taylor Swift album Midnights and I can’t wait to get my hands on a vinyl copy to listen to. I’ve also cracked the seal on the Christmas music though the bulk of my listening lately has been showtunes.