Last November, I participated in a mentoring program offered by the Midwest chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. I turned in the first 50 pages of my mystery novel manuscript for a published author in the chapter to read and critique. I was excited to learn that the mentor assigned to me was Bryan Gruley, who has published 3 mystery novels. His day job is running the Chicago office of the Wall Street Journal, so I knew I was in good hands.
When I got my pages back, there were plenty of notations. I have learned that editing is the key to writing. (I believe it was Hemingway who said a writer had to be willing to “kill their pretties” – cut even pieces you like if they don’t serve the story.) Bryan also called me the next weekend and went through the pages one by one, and bless him for doing that. It was a two and a half hour phone call. I ended up going through the entire manuscript and applying the notes Bryan had given to me. Sometimes I had to clarify points while in other places I found some pretties that did need killing. I ended up with a net loss on the word count; it went down by a bit over 1% of the manuscript.
Yesterday I learned that I’d been selected to receive the Hugh Holton Scholarship from the Midwest MWA. It goes to the unpublished book author who participates in the mentoring program whose manuscript is judged to be the most likely to be publishable. It’s a $500. prize, to be used to help get the book published. I will be receiving the prize on Saturday afternoon in Chicago at the MWMWA’s afternoon tea at the Love is Murder Mystery Conference. This may cover the cost of having a professional editor go through the entire manuscript.
Coming just 11 days after learning about the Robert L. Fish Award, it’s a wonderful public affirmation of my writing. I’d moved to Arthur, IL, in November when my wife Dawn became the pastor of a church here. That move has allowed me to write full-time, but I was still getting my head around the concept that I now am a writer. The award, and now this scholarship, is a testament that others are saying I’m a writer as well.