Reader Friday: Hindsight

If you could relive your writing life from day one, would you change anything?

What might you do differently?

What might you do the same?

And why?

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About Sue Coletta

Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Feedspot and named her Murder Blog as β€œBest 100 Crime Blogs on the Net.” She also blogs at the Kill Zone (Writer's Digest "101 Best Websites for Writers") and Writers Helping Writers. Sue lives with her husband in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire and writes two psychological thriller series, Mayhem Series and Grafton County Series (Tirgearr Publishing) and is the true crime/narrative nonfiction author of PRETTY EVIL NEW ENGLAND: True Stories of Violent Vixens and Murderous Matriarchs (Rowman & Littlefield Group). Currently on submission, her latest true crime project revolves around a grisly local homicide. For the spring 2022 semester, Sue will be teaching a virtual course about serial killers at EdAdvance in CT and a condensed version for the Central Virginia Chapter and National Sisters In Crime. Equally fun was when she appeared on the Emmy award-winning true crime series, Storm of Suspicion. Learn more about Sue and her books at

31 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Hindsight

  1. If I could do over:
    1) I’d stop doubting myself so much and just DO
    (With doubt removed, there’s no telling how many books I’d have written by this point in my life!)

    2) I’d handwrite more (helps creative blocks)

    3) Keep the Same: Exactly the same stories and subject matter

  2. Good question.

    Less pressure early on to find an agent/publisher. I sent out work that wasn’t ready but didn’t recognize it wasn’t ready. My critique group thought it was great but we were all writers at the same level so they didn’t know any more than I did.

    I would have sought more criticism from objective pros who weren’t friends.

    I would have read more. I should still read more.

    I’ll keep my never-give-up determination. Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” is my theme song.

  3. This is very easy for me, Sue. When I was 11, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I’m now 41 and have yet to finish a novel (just a few short stories). The one thing I would do differently is not wait 30 years to actually write. Writers write, as they say.

  4. I’d probably say I wouldn’t have believed the big lie that you can’t learn how to write. For ten years after college I didn’t pursue it, because I’d been told you either have it or you don’t, and apparently I didn’t.

    On the other hand, in those ten years I got life experience, I went to law school and started practicing…and the acquired discipline of study was what enabled me to finally start learning the craft. Most of my books have authentic courtroom scenes, too. So bottom line? I probably wouldn’t change a thing!

    • In spite of what I say below, I have to ask myself, “Why change anything?” My life is my life, no one else’s, and if I’d started 40 years earlier, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here considering this question.

      Maybe I’d be gnashing my teeth over a deadline I’d missed for the 3rd time, or, God forbid, wrestling with the regret of not spending enough time with my children because I had to meet that deadline.

      When I come to the end, I’d much rather be able to say that my son and two daughters are happy, healthy, contributing members of society, than to have to say with questionable triumph in my voice, I met every deadline thrown at me.

  5. I kinda hate this question. πŸ™‚

    I’d start way sooner…like about 40 years sooner. I had stories and books and characters in my head that are now gone. I’d make the time, even working full time and raising a family. I’d make it my mission in life, because now that it is, I’ve got way more water under the bridge than is still upstream. The silver lining, though, is I have a *more* complete understanding of this thing called life than I did then (at least I do on good days).

    What would I keep? My inborn curiosity. I was the worst (or best) why child ever, according to my parents. πŸ™‚

    • FWIW, I did start young, but it still took me a long while. Our writing journeys are each different, and some take longer to reach the point where we can really apply what we’ve learned in life πŸ™‚

    • That’s what I said, too, Deb. I’d start earlier. But Dale and Jim make sense. If we did start earlier, we might not write the same books in the same way.

  6. This is the problem with time travel. Actions have consequences. My first instinct is to say that I’d have told the withered, drunken, burned out writer-in-residence at William and Mary to pound sand when he told me that I had no talent and should never pursue writing when I got out of school. That delayed things by nearly 20 years.

    On the other hand, had I not listened to him, I probably never would have gotten to blow things up for a living, ride firetrucks and clean up hazardous waste sites. And without that work experience, maybe I never would have found stories interesting enough to write about.

    And if I never got to blow things up for a living, I wouldn’t have had the boss who set up the blind date with the gorgeous woman who has been my wife for nearly 37 years.

    On balance, it’s probably best not to mess with the past.

    • Ha! John, your prof sounds an awful lot like mine at UCSB. Frustrated and envious writers, I’m sure. We were too intimidated to say “pound sand.”

      Then again, the meeting the wife thing…a rather huge consequence!

    • John, I saw a copy of Hellfire at the grocery store last week, and I thought, “Wow, that’s one of the dudes from Killzone.” I immediately scooped up the book.

      Meanwhile, both copies of your professor’s 200,000 word experimental piece on stream of consciousness and post-modern interpretations of two mimes trapped in an invisible box during the second world war is lining a cat’s litter box.

  7. I’d take back the day I called the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer-in-residence at the University of Arizona, who told me if I simply wanted to learn how to write trash instead of worthy novels, then I then should just read books and attend workshops.

  8. I’d have told my twenty year old self to go ahead and write that novel, rather than get pulled into writing short fiction. It took me twenty years before I finally drafted a novel after a few false starts, and another dozen years before I wrote one worth sharing.

    I’d have shared those first four novels I did finally write with a beta reader or three, too, instead of leaving them in my virtual writer’s trunk.

    I’d also have told my young writing self two things–one, not only read a great book on writing craft (though there weren’t nearly as many back then) but work through the book. Two, don’t fear to write a bad novel. Failing and trying again while learning from the “failure” is how you’ll eventually succeed πŸ™‚

  9. Like others who commented, I wish I had begun writing fiction sooner, mainly because it takes so much practice.

    The jobs I’ve had over the years usually included a portion of writing and editing nonfiction articles and newsletters, but it was not until I left the working world at age 60 that I began writing, submitting, and publishing short fiction in small press journals. Three months before I turned 70, I self-published my first novel. This year, I will publish my third novel, two months before I turn 75.

  10. What would I do differently? Let’s see …
    – Start writing years earlier. Oops, no. I was living, working, raising a family, learning about people, and getting experience as a human being that I would need as a writer.
    – Churn out novels faster. Absolutely not. After all those years of growing up, I know myself well enough to want to deliver quality, not quantity. (“Festina Lente” is one of my mottos. Make haste slowly.)
    – I would definitely drop the Facebook ads sooner than I did. They never worked for me, but I kept saying, “I’ll just try one more tweak. I know I can make this work.” Wrong.
    – But all in all, I’m grateful to have the time and means to write. Even the problems and failures add to the experience.

    What would I keep the same?
    – Reading JSB’s Plot and Structure early on. He dispelled the “big lie” that you can’t be a good writer unless you have it ingrained in your bones.
    – Reading craft books and books in my genre.
    – Participating in blogs that make me think. ?
    – Creating my own blog on The Craft of Writing.
    – Being true to my other motto: Never give up.

  11. I would have crossed paths with you earlier, Sue. Not being overly sucky, but I truly treasure our professional relationship and personal friendship.

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