Good Luck and Good Advice


By Elaine Viets

What a week of ups and downs. I broke my collarbone. My right collarbone and I’m right-handed. I wish I had a good story to go with it, like I was outrunning the cops in a high-speed chase, but I tripped and hit a wall. Yep, tripped.

The brakes failed on my husband Don’s car in our condo parking garage. (That’s it above, leaking on the garage floor.) The car hit a wall and was totaled. Don walked away without a scratch, and no one was hurt. A minor miracle, and we’re both grateful.

My car (the green one with water up to its hubcaps) survived the great Florida flood and it’s ready to drive. Except I can’t drive it because of the busted collarbone.
But along with this steaming pile of lousy luck, there is some good news. Very good news.

The Malice Domestic mystery conference is honoring me with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Malice 36 April 26-28, 2024. Malice Domestic is an annual fan convention in Bethesda, Maryland. I’m thrilled to be part of a star-studded line-up next year.
Lori Rader-Day will be Toastmaster. She’s nominated for the Edgar Award, and won the Agatha, Anthony and Mary Higgins Clark awards. The award-winning Sujata Massey, who writes historical and mystery fiction set in Asia, is Guest of Honor. Noted blogger Kristopher Zgorski of BOLO Books, will get the Amelia Award. There’s more, much more, but there always is at conferences.
I learn a lot by talking to other writers and readers. At the recent Malice Domestic convention, we were talking about the good career advice we received. Many of these tips have been discussed in TKZ, including the importance of persistence at all stages of your career. And, don’t quit your day job.
But the most helpful advice for me, now that I have 34 books out, came from my current agent.
He had me re-read all my books, from the beginning to the current novel, and report back to him.
The results were enlightening. Novels that I thought were my best had major flaws. I repeated certain catch phrases. In some, I waited too long to start the mystery. There were good things, too. But I learned a lot.
I recommend this for every writer. If you only have one or two novels, take time to analyze them. If you have several unpublished novels, do the same thing. Analyze your body of work.
I probably won’t be stopping by today because I’ll be in St. Louis for a book signing, busted wing and all.
Tell us what writing advice works for you, TKZers.

############################################################################The Dead of Night, my new Angela Richman, death investigator mystery, is available in book stores and online:
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27 thoughts on “Good Luck and Good Advice

  1. First, CONGRATULATIONS! That’s really exciting news and a wonderful accomplishment. I hope you’re planning a fantastic celebration?! I haven’t attended Malice Domestic yet, but it’s on my list of writer-ly things to do.

    Second, so sorry to hear about this run of bad things. It sounds very stressful and discouraging. Glad your husband–and you!–are okay, but hope everything will turn around soon.

  2. Hope you feel better soon and congrats on the upcoming Lifetime Acheivement Award!

  3. Congratulations, and excellent advice. I’d be afraid to read all my books. I know I’ve grown, and there are probably things in the early books I’d cringe over.

    • Believe me, Terry, I found plenty of cringeworthy material. I hope it helped prevent even more cringiness (is that a word?) You are a terrific writer and will find gobs of good lines.

  4. Elaine, congratulations on your richly deserved award. And thank you for sharing the accidents that you and your husband experienced. They’re cautionary tales, for sure. Safe travels.

  5. Congratulations, Elaine, on the Malice Domestic mystery award!

    Sorry to hear about all your bad luck. I hope that run comes to an end immediately. And I hope your collar bone heals quickly.

    Thanks for the great advice on rereading our work and learning from it. Great advice!

  6. Congratulations, Elaine!

    So sorry to hear about your accident. Hope you heel soon! I broke my right collarbone a few years ago, falling down a flight of stairs in the middle of the night when a bathroom break woke me from a dead sleep. The snap was so loud, it woke my husband, who thought I broke my neck. The bone jutted through the skin, yet I still refused to go to the hospital for five hours, choosing to believe instead that I’d be fine. Ah, denial is a comfortable place. LOL

  7. Congrats indeed on the lifetime award, Elaine.

    I generally avoid reading my books after they’re published, because I always find things I want to change. I am re-reading a book now for which I got the rights back, in preparation for republishing it. It’s over ten years old and there are little things I’ll change. But I’m happy to find out I’m happy with the overall. What a relief.

  8. “I waited too long to start the mystery.”

    This is a huge problem in my writing. Even in my academic writing, a professor once told me “You do a big wind-up before the pitch. Get rid of that long opening and start the essay with Paragraph 2 instead.”

    I’ve been forcing myself to start with action on the first sentence.

  9. Congratulations, Elaine! What a great honor for you.

    So sorry to hear of the multiple misfortunes. Hope your collarbone heals quickly. In the meantime, safe travels to St. Louis.

    The best advice I’ve received? “Never give up.” And it applies to so much more than writing.

  10. Congratulations on, Elaine! Fantastic to see you recognized with the Malice Domestic lifetime acheivement award! Your accidents are ones we can all relate to, because they could happen to any of us.

    Hope your collar bone heals quickly.

    Thanks for sharing the excellent advice on rereading our work.

  11. First, ℂ𝕆ℕ𝔾ℝ𝔸𝕋𝕌𝕃𝔸𝕋𝕀𝕆ℕ𝕊, Elaine!! Outstanding!
    Second, I’ll reread all my books only if asked by an agent. I think reading someone else’s books would be more productive and less angst-inducing. But I must admit, I sometimes look for a particular quote in Silver Dream, and end up reading several chapters just for fun.
    Third, what writing advice works for me? Hmm.
    ❦ Open in action. Shoot the sheriff on Page 1.
    ❦ No characters with the same initials. No Joe & Jack!
    ❦ Brainstorm the story line direction at every decision node.
    ❦ Every action calls for reaction–emotion, at a minimum.
    ❦ Demonstrate, don’t narrate. :⦁)
    ❦ Clarity trumps artiness. Avoid sesquipedalianisms.
    ❦ Write with a mental camera for cinematic prose.
    ❦ Use parallel construction for parallel clauses/phrases.
    ❦ Avoid unbalanced, lonely consonants. Alliterate!
    ❦ Don’t be boring. Maintain conflict and suspense.

  12. Kudos, girl!!!! So deserved.

    But man, the other stuff? Sorry to hear it. Been in touch with many Fort Lauderdale friends and the flood stories are awful. Here’s to a speedy healing. Hugs to Don.

  13. South Florida was hard hit with the floods, Kris. That’s a swamp buggy behind my car. It rescued people whose homes were flooded.

  14. I neglected to add writing advice that works for me 🙂

    Write daily, or at least regularly.
    Study and practice writing craft.
    Find your process and don’t let anyone talk you out of it.
    Write what you care about.

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