Good news, making luck and some lessons for writers

One lesson for all writers — a crummy title means no one will read.

No title is a disaster.

Blame it on coffee and a dog who wants to walk, but I’m publishing this again. This time with a title.

And so it goes.

A couple weeks ago, I put out a call asking for good news.

In response, I received a very nice email from Ann Cleeves:

I belong to the UK SinC chapter, but live in the north east of England, so perhaps that counts…  I picked up your request on twitter and needed distracting from the latest novel. 

I was first published in the late eighties and have had a mainstream publisher ever since, but for most of my career languished very much at the bottom of the heap.  Do you have the euphemism ‘mid-list writer’? That was me.

Then one day someone went into a charity shop and picked up one of my books to take on holiday.  Not so unusual.  Except that she happened to be books executive at ITV productions… From that chance encounter with the first of my Vera Stanhope books came the ITV show VERA, starring double Oscar nominee Brenda Blethyn and fabulous actor David Leon.  Series three is on our screens now and is topping the Sunday night ratings.  Series 4 is already in production.

 And later the same production company picked up the option for my other series set in Shetland.  That was developed into a pilot for the BBC and six more episodes are being filmed.

 So wonderful things do happen.  And there is life after the mid-list.  But you do need a whole heap of luck.  

 Best wishes to all my sisters in Maine.  Be lucky!

I responded to her that while lucky, people make their own luck more or less. If she hadn’t been working so hard, hadn’t gotten her books into the shops and kept plugging away despite ‘mid-list’ status, her luck never would have happened.

Which leads to another response to that post, from fellow New England sister and hard-working Pen, Ink & Crimes blogger Beth Kanell:

Here’s my good news: I’m slowing down, doing a long revision as I work at deepening my characters in “All That Glitters.” For me, that’s an exciting process, even if it slows down the path toward looking for the next publisher. I am developing my best book possible. Good news indeed! What’s yours?

Beth’s resp0nse is the foundation for success like Ann’s. How do we get to that wonderful “lucky” place? We work at it.

Knowing that working hard and making progress is good news — even if there are no kudos to go along with it — is what separates the writers from the wannabes.

So I hope everyone out there has their own good news and treasures it for the luck-making magic that it is.

That said, Beth once again gave readers a tutorial in getting it right in her blog posts of the past month.

In her continued exploration of the five Ws — something dear to the heart of this old-time journalist — she started the month with “where.” In “YA Mysteries: 5 W’s and and an H — Where?” Beth stresses the importance of knowing your setting.

She expanded on it, looking at “who” in “YA Mysteries: 5 W’s and an H — Who?” Beth cautions writers in the young adult genre, but as always good advice for all writers, that “Today’s teens are NOT ‘like we used to be.’ To prove this to yourself, write a list of your three favorite things to do when you were 12 or 13; now, look at how the teens around you are ‘doing’ each of those actions.”

Good advice for writers in any genre: know your characters.

She followed up with “YA Mysteries: 5 W’s and an H — What?

The “What” entry is a great lesson in not only getting the mystery right, but doing the research necessary to get the story surrounding the mystery right — as always, a lesson for all writers.

Lisa Haselton also weighed in this month with some great resources for writers.

She introduced us to The Writer’s Classroom live chats in “Resource for writers — live chats every Sunday.”

This is an excellent opportunity to hear from writers on how they do what they do.

She also introduced us to another avenue to publish, something I know many of us are looking for. In “New publisher for suspense, mystery, thrillers” we learned about Witness Impulse, a William Morrow/HarperCollins imprint that concentrates on digital with a chance to go print.

I submitted that day and will let everyone know what happened — good, bad or ugly.

I posted this month on the importance of getting names right in “What’s in a name? A lot, actually.” It’s almost an addendum to Beth’s “where” post — knowing your setting and who is in your book is essential to having a book that will draw in readers.

Look for our blog posts coming your way several times a week. Want to be a guest blogger? Drop me, Maureen Milliken, a line.

Won an award, got published, or just have some plain old good news to share? Drop a line on that, too.

And we hope to see everyone at Crime Bake! There are still a few spots left, so sign up if you haven’t already.


About Maureen Milliken

Maureen Milliken is the author of the Bernie O’Dea mystery series. Follow her on Twitter at @mmilliken47 and like her Facebook page at Maureen Milliken mysteries. Sign up for email updates at She hosts the podcast Crime&Stuff with her sister Rebecca Milliken.
This entry was posted in Beth Kanell, Blog Summary, Craft, Crime Bake, Lisa Haselton, Maureen Milliken, Member News, Of Interest, SinCNE, Uncategorized, Writers, Writing, Writing lessons, Writing resources, Young Adult. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Good news, making luck and some lessons for writers

  1. Maureen, thanks for your post — it especially highlights for me one of the big pluses of SinC: We share our field, joyously, with authors whose names are very well known indeed and authors who are just tyoing “by” in front of their names for the first time. We’re all in this together, and we inspire each other. This hard work is well worth the effort.

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