Here I sit, on the eve of New England Crime Bake, only the second writers’ conference I will have attended in my brief tenure as a full-time writer. Or as a writer of any kind. And, frankly, I’m a little … unnerved.
I like to think of myself as a Fearless Writer of Mystery Fiction. And that I am. I will write beyond the self-erected walls within which I find my comfort zone. Where I write, there are guns and blood and sinister things of all kinds jumping out of dark, scary places. There are people my protagonist willingly engages that I would run fast and far away from, were I to encounter them even in daylight. I know I’m on the right track if my own heart rate speeds up while writing the scenes I mean to be nerve-wracking.
So why is it that the thought of having a famous author read and critique the first 15 pages of my work-in-progress positively freaks me out?
Although she seems like a perfectly nice person (yes, I’ve been sorta, kinda stalking her online, don’t judge), New York Times best-selling author Hallie Ephron grew up in a family of writers, accomplished writers who’ve written amazing books and screenplays and articles and … ugh.
Every time I think about it, that nagging little voice of doubt whispers, Really? You think you’re worthy to sit across from this award-winning author, the crime fiction reviewer for the Boston Globe, this brilliant writing teacher, to seek her counsel, daring to hope she may find some redeeming quality in your writing? Pfft!
It’s true: our writing journeys — our life journeys! — seem to have almost nothing in common. Except that we are both writers. This needs to become my mantra. We are both writers. Despite her undeniably blessed writing genes and the accolades she has gathered up like so many daisies in a field, she has had to put one foot in front of the other just like the rest of us. Every single time she sits down to write, she must put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and somehow conjure the magic that is good writing.
Like virtually every writer I know and every writer I’ve ever read about, we fear one thing: that we’re not as good a writer as we think (hope) we are.
I will take comfort in Hallie’s own words, from an interview with the (equally amazing) novelist Hank Phillippi Ryan, where she was asked if she’s ever thought about just giving up: “It’s a lovely fantasy when I’m in the middle of a book, wondering what made me think I knew how to do this and with no idea how the story is going to come together.”
With this thought in mind, I will try to get some sleep tonight. By this time Saturday, I will have the feedback of a very successful novelist — the kind of author I want to be — and it can do nothing but take me one step closer to my dreams.