09 February 2020

Another World: Writing a Mystery Book

I wrote a new book. Except it’s not new anymore. I wrote it 2 years ago. Edited. Reedited. and yes, did that multiple times. Sent it to an editor and then another. Reedited.

Now it sits in my computer and I have a problem.

It’s not the book that’s the problem: it is the mystery novel that wanted to write.

The main character was written as a rebellion against the need to have a woman detective who is either a drunk or who sleeps around because she’s deeply damaged. Because, you know, that makes her interesting. I wrote her as someone who has lived a life with troubles – because that’s what life brings - but is like the women I know and love. They may be damaged by life but are not busy damaging others in their life. Women who I’ve looked up to. Women who make me laugh. Women who force me to think.

I wrote the things I have learned from friends, patients and my own life. There’s domestic violence to racial profiling of Muslims. I tried to write it as others had lived it. I told the stories that I have heard - the ones that had made me hold my breath in fear of missing a word.

I’m on my final edit. The problem is me.

During the writing and editing, my dearest friend was ill and then died. My father was ill and then died. My mother is now ill. All this has required time and energy to help during their illness. Time to deal with the loss.

Here is the crux of the problem: when I write I do little else. I enter this world and disappear for hours on end. I live it, breathe it and reality pales in the face of the world I’ve created.

Now, my reality has jagged edges, and cuts into this world. Sawing into it until it disappears like morning mist in sunlight. When it’s gone, I can’t get it back.

My ability to concentrate - to enter other worlds - was how I’ve done everything of value. It was as natural as breathing. It’s how I studied medicine, how I spent long hours with patients and trained, it’s how I parented by disappearing in the world of my children.

All the best things in my life were dependent on not having a reality so jagged that it sawed through every thought.

So, my book and I are now on separate worlds. I have no idea how we will live on the same planet again.

Recently, I decided to research writers block, thinking there may be suggestions that help. Unfortunately I found none. Advice like ‘Find the right surroundings’ mean little to me. I can write and have written anywhere. ‘Silence your inner critic’? That’ll be a cold day in hell. I’ve met her and write anyway.

 I could go on.

Except I can’t.

With the book that is.

Here’s the next problem: I write in my head anyway. I’m always revising and thinking of the book. Except when I sit with my book. That is the worst - to write but not write. 

So, instead of my book I’m writing an article about writing my book, which is amusing but not even that coerces me enough to write.

The one thing that keeps me hoping is coffee. The night before I have a day with even one block of time, I go to sleep with visions of coffee and writing. It won’t be tomorrow because there is far too much to do.

Maybe Monday?


  1. Don't know if this will help because your mind has to cooperate. Try not to stop writing at the end of something (big scene or chapter). Leave in the middle so you can pick it up right away. Try going back and reading the last few paragrahs you've written to get moving and start the momentum again. This works for me. Reality gets in the way of writing. Fight to escape it. Fight to be in your book. I keep my mind focused on the story and stay there when I'm not writing. Let the characters move and try to keep up. Again, this is only one idea. You have to fight to write.

  2. Grief is a brutal block. My Mom died on 1/15/17. The fall before my wife started having more significant setbacks in her cancer fight. By the summer of 2017 as I moved my son and I back to the house I grew up in, my wife was hospitalized and slowly losing her fight. She passed on December 1,2017. I have been adrift and broken since.

    My won writing went on hold in the fall of 2016 and has been pretty much there since.

    All the usual writing advice means nothing for this. I have no idea how to get back to writing, to the immersion in the fictional world, and how to push the grief aside to do that or much of anything else. If you figure it out, throw a life line.

  3. I went through much of that 20+ years ago - my mother died in 1998, my father in 2000, my mother-in-law in 2002. And I was working full-time. Between caretaking, grief and paycheck work, it ate everything up. And that was what was necessary at the time.

    But what I have learned the hard way is to work when I can - even if it's five minutes. Scribble something down. Type it tomorrow. Add to it the next day. I've never had long, long, long swathes of time to work on nothing but writing, and I think most of us haven't and don't. Even a little is a lot.

  4. I'm very sorry for your losses and I hope your mother's condition improves.

  5. Mary, we wish you well. If you figure out how to unblock the block, let us know. I suspect it will be different for different people. Everyone will probably have to find their own way through the mental maze.

  6. Another writer did a blog on things that get in the way of writing: grief, chronic illness, etc. She talks about working to get back from it as well: https://kriswrites.com/2018/10/03/business-musings-when-to-stop-writing/

  7. Aargh. I read the first two paragraphs Sunday and then Life interrupted. Now, I'm back at it.

    I know a little of the story. There's a balance between editors' wills and your internal vision.

    Creativity will out, so I believe your story will find a way onto paper (or digital bits). It's inevitable.

    I believe.


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