When I decided to get serious about writing, I did all the things – attended workshops online and in real life, joined a writing group, started following authors, editors, and agents on social media. The most crucial step took me the longest, embracing my brand.
I wrote stuff. I fought crime in a novel environment (no pun intended). The two parts of my life were distinct. At least in my mind. Then I started talking to agents. The novel I wrote in 2012 was okay. It wasn’t great. It had zero to do with my day job. During those first couple of years of what I consider to be my apprenticeship, every single publishing pro kind enough to speak with me asked the same question: why aren’t you writing about cyber crime?
The first couple of times I heard the question, I didn’t think much about it. By the fourth time, I had to ask myself, why wasn’t I? After a short bout of soul-searching, there were 2 answers:
- I wrote as an escape from my daily grind.
- I was afraid.
While both answers were true, one was much truer than the other. The first one really didn’t apply once I decided to take this writing thing more seriously. Writing for oneself is different than writing for the commercial market. The real answer was #2. I had spent so long knee deep in the technical trenches that I worried I’d have nothing to say that anyone else would care about.
I’m not one to back down from a challenge. I had to try. That’s when a funny thing happened. Casts of characters queued up in my imagination, itching to be heard. My notebooks overflowed with plot points, twists, snippets of dialog. Post-Its littered my desk. I had to figure out ways to keep my ideas organized because they came so fast and furious. Once the spigot opened, it hasn’t stopped. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.
It took strangers to point out the obvious to me. What is it that sets you apart?