That’s All, she wrote

Frank Sinatra via Wikimedia Commons

It’s time for my final curtain, dear friends. This is my last official post for TKZ. It’s with a heavy heart that I write this, because I’ve had a blast with you the past several years.

TKZ was the first and only group blog for which I’ve written regularly, and I couldn’t have chosen a better one. I can’t think of a more experienced group of writers writing about writing on the Internet. While many other group blogs have become weighed down with self-promotion and infighting and prima donna grandstanding, TKZ has only gotten better with time.

You, dear readers, are our better halves. You’re talented and curious and smart. You make it a pleasure to show up–whether it’s to post or join in the comments. Please give yourselves a big round of applause.

It’s often a challenge for me to come up with blog topics about writing that I think will interest you. My interior life is chaotic, and writing fiction is still a mystery to me after three decades of writing. When I finish writing a book or story, the memory of how I did it dissolves with time like Kool Aid mix in water–and nearly as quickly. It’s tough to delineate a process that I can’t precisely recall. While I am a person of a certain age, it’s not that I’m going dotty. It’s just the way my ADHD brain works. I can hyperfocus on something so that it becomes a delicious experience that engages my senses so fully that I find it difficult to return to reality. It’s a dreamlike state, and, like a real dream, it dissipates and disappears. When things are going well, a dozen pages of writing is left behind. The challenge is dodging all the shiny objects that seem to throw themselves at me when I’m trying to get back to the dream again.

If it sounds like I’m telling you that writing is magic that can’t be taught, I promise I’m not. I attended writing classes and workshops during the first six or seven years I was writing. (And I have to tell you that if you pay attention to the craft and critique pages here, and you write regularly, and read, you will get a solid writing education without paying a dime. Just sayin’…) Writing is not magic. It’s a combination of art and craft.

So, I hope you’ll forgive me for all the posts I didn’t write about how to plot, or create a character, or remind you to number those pages. (Seriously, Manuscript Rule 1 is number your pages!) We all have different strengths, and different gifts.

You know I love a list. Here’s a list of a few thoughts about writing and the writing life I’d like to leave with you.

— Read indiscriminately. Read the stories that you know will please you, and read stories and writers that will challenge you. Read out of your preferred genre and your culture and your comfort zone. Good writing is everywhere. Learn from it.

— Write bravely. I won’t lie. Brave is hard. The more of yourself–your feelings, your experiences, your ideas, your imagination–you put in your work, the better it will be. It may seem that both publishers and our contemporary society are currently offering writers very narrow lanes in which to write. It’s tough to be brave when you’re feeling pressured and walled in. Be brave anyway. That’s where your best work lies: beyond the walls.

–Let yourself be envious, then let it go. Too much envy is poisonous, but it’s a totally normal feeling. If you feel it, that’s okay. Let it motivate you to write better, be better. But use it and let it go before it turns on you. The phrase love and light sounds like the stuff of an SNL skit, but it’s kind of useful. Pile coals of kindness on the heads of those who make you itch with irritation. Their journey is not your journey, so keep your eyes on your own paper and do your own work. (Did I get enough platitudes in that paragraph?)

–Don’t be a dick. If you achieve any kind of success–from being the first in your writing group to sell a story, to being the only one at a table full of established writers to have made the bestseller lists–don’t be arrogant. Retain (or cultivate) some humility, if only because you never know when you’ll get surpassed or taken down, or by whom. Otherwise, it’s just a good idea to be nice. Cheer others’ successes. It’s true that someone might forget that you offered them congratulations on their Facebook page, but they won’t ever forget if you only ever talk about yourself.

–Don’t bore your reader. If you’re writing and you find you’re getting bored, stop what you’re doing immediately and try something different. If you’re feeling bored, chances are your reader would already have wandered off.

–Publishing is a crapshoot, and there’s an element of luck involved. Raise your odds by submitting (to an agent or publisher or beta reader) your best writing, packaged as a clean manuscript, and ask for help, advice, or representation in the most polite and charming way possible. Keep in mind that there are a huge number of not-very-well-written books alongside terrific books released every week. Just because you get a rejection doesn’t mean your writing is bad.

–Write what brings you joy. Or scares your pants off. Or makes you cry in a good way. That way lies authenticity (always good) and personal fulfillment (even better).

That’s it. I’m done. In Frank’s immortal words: I did it my way. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your kind attention. Stay in touch. Write like the wind!  xx Laura

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About Laura Benedict

Laura Benedict is the Edgar- and ITW Thriller Award- nominated author of eight novels of suspense, including The Stranger Inside (Publishers Weekly starred review). Her Bliss House gothic trilogy includes The Abandoned Heart, Charlotte’s Story (Booklist starred review), and Bliss House. Her short fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and in numerous anthologies like Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads, The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers, and St. Louis Noir. A native of Cincinnati, she lives in Southern Illinois with her family. Visit her at www.laurabenedict.com.

54 thoughts on “That’s All, she wrote

  1. Very sorry to see you go, but the advice you offered as you went was excellent. Thanks for sharing and thanks for writing.

  2. Laura, what an eloquent farewell. That makes it all the harder to say goodbye. You will be missed!

    “…the memory of how I did it dissolves with time like Kool Aid mix in water–and nearly as quickly.” That is a perfect simile for the mysterious process of creativity.

    All good wishes and success to you. And a big hug to a friend and colleague I’ve never met but hope to someday.

  3. Thank you for your presence, Laura. I’ve appreciated the insights and humility you’ve brought to TKZ. Best wishes for continued good times.

  4. I’ll miss you, Laura! And you’re so right. I learn so much from this bunch…reading on TKZ is almost like a drug now. Withdrawal sets in if I miss a morning.

    My best to you and yours…

  5. You will be missed. Your columns have always been interesting and helpful. Thank you for all you’ve given us.

    Live long and prosper.

  6. May your future endeavors give you the same pleasure and satisfaction as what your shared with TKZ.

  7. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and wit with TKZ readers, Laura. Your posts have always made me think, encouraged me to continue putting words on the page, and inspired me to help others do the same.

    Though you’ll be missed, I wish for you flowing creativity, brave new writing adventures, and the health to revel in the joy they create in your life.

    Fair winds, Laura!

  8. You will be missed, Laura. I have enjoyed your gentle wisdom and warmth, as well as your inimitable style and wit. Thank-you for all you have contributed here, and please don’t stray too far. I’m still waiting for someone to make The Stranger Inside into a movie, and when that happens, I’ll be first in line to buy a ticket. If you ever need a hug or moral support, my inbox is open.

    • How lovely, Joanne. Your encouragement and support means the world. Fingers crossed that the movie gods will smile down on my little book! Big hugs and thanks. 💜

  9. Laura, thank you for all the advice and guidance you’ve shared on TKZ. I’ll miss reading your posts.

    Best wishes for all your future endeavors.

  10. “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind”. C.S. Lewis

    I enjoyed all of your posts and will miss you being here. Wishing you the best and blessings in your future endeavors 😊

    I’ll lend you my new motto this taped to my refrigerator door….

    The Best is Yet to Come.

    Thank you for all your encouragement!

  11. I’ll miss you on TKZ but will see you on social media & hopefully at a conference sometime. Thanks for sharing your wisdom & humor. Kiss, kiss, mean it. Hugs from Texas.

  12. Pingback: That’s All, she wrote | Loleta Abi Author & Book Blogger

  13. I’m so sorry to see you leave. I have enjoyed your posts and wonderful insights. Best wishes for your future endeavors. I hope you will chime in from time to time and say hi.

  14. I will say the same as the others, I certainly enjoyed your posts. Sometimes, we have to shuffle our commitments to stay sane and productive. I wish you much luck with your other projects.

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