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Writing Apprenticeship
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Mark Terry lists, in A Body of Evidence, the dozen or so novels he's written that haven't been published (although some came close)-- this in response to Joe Konrath mentioning he had written 9 or 10 books before his own instant success.

It made me realize how lucky I've been, thus far. I wouldn't say I haven't put in my apprenticeship -- particularly since I'm older than those guys and didn't sell a book until I was 49 -- but my apprenticeship was different from theirs, different from the norm (I think) and not so painful as most, unless you count waiting until you're 49 to see your first novel in print painful.

During my twenties and thirties I occasionally tried to sell science fiction short stories. My efforts were desultory at best. I'd spend a few weeks writing stories, submit them. They'd be resoundingly rejected and I'd get discouraged and vow never again. Then a couple years later when the pain had faded from my memory I'd repeat the futile cycle.

I had pretty much given up for good when Mary convinced me to co-write mystery stories with her. We sold a dozen or so of those to good markets, including Ellery Queens Mystery Magazine to which Mary had previously made sales on her own. (Lucky me!)

When we decided to try a novel I felt uneasy. The few times in the past I'd had the idea, I'd never got out of the first chapter. I decided I needed to prove to myself I could cover the distance so I decided to write a totally self indulgent book, just to get the feel for the process. Since I was heavily into orienteering the story involved a murder at an orienteering meet. No research was required. Because I mostly wrote humorous essays, the book was humorous.

The Body in the Re-Entrant served it's purpose. I finished it. We did send it to maybe half a dozen agents/publishers. But...well...a comic sports mystery...and the sport is orienteering...!

Then we wrote One For Sorrow, our first Byzantine mystery and luckily were trying to market it just about the time Poisoned Pen Press was starting to publish original fiction. I believe editor Barbara Peters had always thought the era would make for a good mystery setting. We were lucky.

Of course I have spent years writing a contemporary mystery in different ways but it has never got past 30,000 words and it probably doesn't help that the protagonist is actually Travis McGee.

What I haven't mentioned is that I did spend about thirty years writing. I wrote hundreds of articles and essays for amateur magazines, sold dozens of newspaper and magazine articles, wrote amateur name it. I think I developed some writing skills. Probably I didn't learn novel writing skills as quickly as I would've by writing novels, but if it was a slower process it was also less painful because I had an audience while I was learning.

I don't think I could've put 9 or 10 novels in the drawer and kept going.

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