Unable to sleep last night, I got up and watched a rerun of an old Murder She Wrote episode. After six best-sellers, the protagonist Jessica is being heralded as the new “Queen of Mystery,” and the old mystery-writing queen doesn’t like it. She travels to Cabot Cove, Maine to steal Jessica’s latest work-in-progress and attempt to off her with a poison apple.
In real life, plagiarism and attempted murder are rare occurrences among working writers. That doesn’t mean, of course, that we’re not vulnerable to the comparison game. We can’t help but notice all those writers who are: a. more successful; b. more prolific; and/or c. more talented. As one of my favorite writer friends, Ellen Birkett Morris, author of the forthcoming story collection, Lost Girls, often says, “You have to keep your eyes on your own paper.”
That’s not always easy. But despite the anxiety and insecurity inherent in being a writer, I’ve found the community of working writers to be amazingly supportive. Recently, for example, I sent out pleas for expert legal help for my latest work-in-progress, Deadly Setup. Two attorney/authors, Charles Gill and Brooke Terpening, volunteered to review the scenes involving the arrest and trial of my protagonist. Both refused my offer of payment for the hours they spent, and their feedback was invaluable. Meantime, dear friend and fellow author Connie Dow took time from her own work to review my entire first draft.
I am so grateful to be part of such a generous community. And I feel good when I can give back as well. I spent many hours this past week doing a careful read of a friend’s novel and offering her feedback.
It’s what we writers do. On the whole, we’re a pretty darned supportive bunch. And it’s through giving and receiving encouragement as well as honest feedback that we grow in our craft.