By Sandra Benson
When you imagine an author, what do you see?
Is it someone bent over a desk, passionately scribing out a story? Perhaps the author holds a pen over paper, or tattoos a rhythm intently on a keyboard. They are in a small room in an attic. Or, maybe in a shabby-but-charming apartment in a big city?
They are authors and they weave their tales in splendid isolation. They work alone.
Yeah, that’s what I used to think, too. I’m a newbie writer. An emerging author. A babe in the woods. And I entered this writing world as a confirmed introvert, foolishly thinking that lined up nicely with writing.
I was so wrong.
Two years ago, I started putting serious effort into writing. At the same time, I decided to join some writers’ organizations. One of them was the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Maybe I’d take a course online and learn something, I thought.
It never occurred to me that it was other people who would help me become a better writer. Today, with my first story, “Manual for Success”, recently published in an honest-to-gosh book, the Guppy anthology Hook, Line and Sinker, I’m gobsmacked that I ever thought I could do this alone.
The anthology asked for stories about cons, grifters and their victims. I spent weeks and weeks trying to come up with something, but my imagination was as dry as the desert. After 30ish years practising law, any plot about fraud came out overly technical and as dull as dishwater.
Let’s be brutally honest, here. I was drowning in the dishwater. So were my hopes of ever seeing one of my stories in print.
So I did the logical thing: whined about it endlessly to my long-suffering family. In a desperate attempt to make me stop, they started tossing out ideas. “What about a pyramid scheme?” my daughter suggested.
I frowned. “Business fraud? Boring.”
My spouse took up the cause. “How about home party sales? Say… selling coffins?”
Wait a minute. The character of Krystal Markham, eager new sales rep for EverRest funeral supplies, sprang into my head. Her living room stuffed with sample coffins… that she paid for with her teenager’s entire college fund. Such a great investment. What could possibly go wrong?
Grinning wickedly, I pounded out the story. Then revised it. Then revised it some more. It was… not bad, but I was so deep inside the story that I couldn’t see it clearly. I ran it past my critique group.
Until then, I had been sharing chapters of my bestseller-in-training with the other members of my group. This short story was a totally different project.
The other writers read it carefully. They had constructive suggestions. Most important, they believed in it. One of them told me this was a publishable story.
She was right.
Now that I’ve crossed over that line to become a published author, I again find myself in a whole other world. Now there are cover reveals and reader reviews and click-through buying links to discuss with my co-authors in the anthology. And yes, this stuff matters.
I’m hanging on for the ride and trying to learn as much as I can. The good news? Since my first publication is being shared with so many experienced, gracious and generous writers, I’ve got people around who can show me the ropes. Because, as I’ve learned, writing is not a solitary activity.
Retired lawyer Sandra Benson is a member of Sisters in Crime. Now that she has her first ever story in print, she’s all set for her debut novel, Last Chef Standing, to hit the bestseller’s list. Just as soon as it’s finished.
Until then, she’s going to keep procrastibaking at her home near Victoria, BC. See what’s new at https://sandrabenson.com/.