Sunday, January 3, 2016

101 Things To Do Before You Die - For Crime Writers

  1. Write a minimum of 500 words a day, every day of the year, every year, until you die.
  2. Subscribe to Crimespree magazine.
  3. Make the pilgrimage to Bouchercon.
  4. Take the Konrath Quiz!
  5. Check out The Rap Sheet and then visit the links listed on the right sidebar…all 574 of them. It's an indispensable resource for any crime writer.
  6. Join Crimespace. Then go to Australia. Track down Daniel Hatadi (creator of Crimespace). Buy him a beer. Praise him highly in front of the other bar patrons (while you’re still sober, so they know you really mean it).
  7. Write your own obituary. It's your last chance to promote yourself.
  8. Read agent Janet Reid’s blog. If you get a chance to meet her at a writer’s conference, introduce yourself, and thank her for the priceless advice. Then shake her fin.
  9. This year, query at least one agent every day until you hook one. Start here and here.
  10. Get your crime story published.
  11. Interview someone who is behind bars because of his/her crimes, OR interview a member of Congress who got elected because of his/her crimes.
  12. Visit San Francisco and stop at all the landmarks mentioned in the novels by Dashiell Hammett.
  13. Buy a bottle of Maker’s Mark. Sip it while you read the August Riordan PI series by Mark Coggins. Note: There are several books in the series…you may need more than one bottle.
  14. Get on a panel at a writer’s conference, as a moderator or participant & teach your fellow writers about a topic you’re an expert on or excited about.
  15. Learn how to kill someone with poison and get that story published.
  16. Read the noir novels of Dorothy B Hughes, including In A Lonely Place.
  17. Contact your local coroner and ask to witness an autopsy. Go on an empty stomach and take nose plugs.
  18. Write and publish a story from the killer’s point of view and make him/her sympathetic.
  19. Publish a story from the victim’s point of view, but make him/her despicable.
  20. Meet Sarah Weinman, editor, crime fiction critic and commentator extraordinaire. Follow her on Twitter and browse her blog. Add her books to your crime library; Women Crime Writers of the 1940s and 50s and The Real Lolita. You'll thank me later.
  21. Write a book review and get it published in your local newspaper, whether it’s the New York Times or the Small Town Gazette.
  22. Get to know some of the people who support crime writing, like award winning blogger Janet Rudolph, and conference organizer Hanley Kanar, who made the Love Is Murder conference a success for so many years.
  23. Participate in National Novel Writing Month. One month...50,000 words. You can do it. More important, you'll learn from this.
  24. Read all of JA Konrath’s Jack Daniels novels. As you read each one, have a drink from the recipe in the front of the novel.
  25. Post a large map of the United States on your wall, cover your eyes, and throw a dart at it. Drive to the spot you struck, then write a crime story about the trip. Please note: The high cost of travel is, technically speaking, not a crime.
  26. If you want to understand the dark side of female friendships, read Megan Abbott. I dare you
  27. Meet Ben LeRoy founder of Tyrus Books and Bleak House Books. Tell him thanks for publishing some great novels. Then buy a few and read them.
  28. Attend a pitch session at every writer’s conference you attend.
  29. Send an autographed copy of your novel to fiction critic David J Montgomery, because those are the ones he keeps. Thank him. Read his blog, the Crime Fiction Dossier.
  30. Write a cozy, a police procedural and a thriller and get them each published under different pen  names.
  31. If you’ve never tasted it, try absinthe.
  32. Visit Hemmingway's home in Cuba.
  33. Research a high profile criminal case in your city. Go to the courthouse and arrange to see the trial transcript (it's in the public record). Then read it cover to cover.
  34. Learn to read a foreign language. Read a foreign language mystery novel in the original. Then translate it into English, or your native tongue.
  35. At your next writer’s conference, go to the lobby or main meeting room after all the panels are done and read one of your favorite mystery stories out loud, even if no one is listening.
  36. Meet mystery writer and former MWMWA President Julie Hyzy and chat with her. Be inspired by her optimistic personality.  Read her books, starting with State of the Onion. Ask her about being interviewed by the Secret Service. (This will happen when you do extensive online research about the layout of the White House).
  37. Visit the grave of Edgar Allan Poe, at night. Leave a rose.
  38. Write a story about your boss. Use a pen name (trust me on this one).
  39. Read Vanish by Tess Gerritsen. It’s the one she’ll be remembered for a hundred years hence.
  40. Create your own blog. Promote your writing. Don’t forget to credit the other writers who helped you along the way.
  41. Attend at least one writers conference a year. If you go to two or more, choose at least one you’ve never attended. The fresh faces you meet will energize your writing.
  42. Visit your local police department and ask to participate in a ride along one night to see your hometown through the eyes of a cop.
  43. Read some of the new magazines that are popping up in the world of crime fiction, such as Toe Six Press. They have fresh voices and you may stumble across the next great crime writer.
  44. Each December create your own Top Ten List of favorite mystery novels published that year and post it on your blog. Exclude the best sellers. Give us something new.
  45. Plan the perfect crime...with one flaw. Then write a story about it. Hide the fatal flaw that catches the bad guy/girl until the very last sentence.
  46. Go to the library and stroll down the fiction aisles. Find a novel or collection of stories by a writer you’ve never heard of until this moment. Then check out the book and read it.
  47. Subscribe to the DorothyL website, or follow them on Facebook.
  48. Throughout the year keep track of all your writing-related expenses, including membership dues to MWA and SINC (yes, they're legitimate business expenses). Use them to reduce your writing income. Don't forget to calculate self-employment tax. Here's are some handy references, Schedule C Profit or Loss From Business and Instructions For Form 1099-MISC, compliments of the IRS.
  49. Send a copy of your published book and a handwritten fan letter to your favorite author, with return postage, and ask them to autograph it.
  50. Make a movie trailer for your first/next book release and post it on your blog and on Youtube.
  51. Check the obituaries to find recently deceased authors whose stories you've never read.
  52. Enter one writing contest a year with a novel length unpublished manuscript from your drawer.
  53. Serve on a jury.
  54. Read Sandra Scoppetone's Jack Early or Lauren Laurano series. Check out her blog, Sandra Scoppetone's Writing Thoughts.
  55. Join a writer's group and actively participate.
  56. For one month, take the bus or train to work. This alone will give you enough material for three novels. (Note: residents of NYC are exempt from this requirement, or have already met it).
  57. Read A Newbie's Guide To Publishing, an invaluable guide for beginning writers. It's written by a published author who's paid his dues. 
  58. Ask your family doctor the most effective way to kill someone. Explain that you are a mystery writer before he/she reaches for the phone to dial 911.
  59. Send the FBI a request to see your file. (Don't may have one). If you have one, they must give it to you.
  60. Subscribe to Mystery Scene magazine.
  61. Learn how to pick a lock. Warning: Practice on your lock only, or you'll be getting an FBI file sooner than you think!
  62. Teach an adult to read.
  63. Interview a member of your local law enforcement...a police officer, detective, prosecutor or judge. Publish the interview. If you can record the interview, post it as a podcast.
  64. Write a story in which the victim is murdered by a member of the animal kingdom.
  65. Every month, read at least one newspaper from each continent. For some suggestions, start here: AfricaAsiaAustraliaEuropeNorth AmericaSouth America, and Ireland (OK, so Ireland isn't a continent, but we have expats on every continent). Want more choices? Click here for dozens of world newspapers.
  66. Pick one novel or story that the world cannot live without, and commit it to memory.
  67. Get your PI license. Fill out the application, study for the exam, and pass it.
  68. Write a crime story in which the weapon of choice is a computer connected to the internet.
  69. Take a literary vacation and visit the homes of your favorite authors.
  70. Review the police logs in your city. You may have to request these in person, so if you go to your local police station, make sure you have no outstanding warrants. (You would not believe how many people fumble this one).
  71. Go into the attic and dig out an old family photo that has a scene or family member who no one remembers or can name. Study the photo. Write their story. Include a crime.
  72. Eat right and get enough exercise. Writing takes stamina and besides, you'll need to live a long life to finish all the items on this list.
  73. Take a train trip across America. See this country from a vantage point other than an interstate highway. You'll see railroad yards, bustling factories, mighty rivers and breathtaking natural wonders. Gotta be a story in there somewhere.
  74. Take a tour of Alcatraz.
  75. Go to your local library and give a talk about your book or the mystery genre.
  76. Find an obscure and irrelevant law that is still on the books and write an article about it in your local paper. Try to get it repealed. (Eg: In Kansas City, MO, Minors are not allowed to purchase cap pistols, however they may buy shotguns freely.)
  77. Volunteer at your local church, homeless shelter or women's shelter.
  78. Learn to shoot and handle a gun. Take a gun safety course. Get your concealed carry permit, even if you don't own a firearm, just because you can. Don't open carry, or you may become a statistic in someone else's crime story.
  79. Spend a full day at the New York City Public Library main branch, browsing the shelves. Take a map, so you don't get lost.
  80. Who gets your royalties...Spouse? Children? The dog? Write a will, before you die. It's really hard to write one after. Do it now, or some stranger in a black robe will decide who gets what.
  81. Read Lee Lofland's blog, The Graveyard Shift on a regular basis. The tips will make you a better crime writer.
  82. There are over 10,000 pieces of artwork still missing from the looting of Europe in World War II, by both Allied and the Axis nations. Behind each one is a crime story. Write one.
  83. Keep a journal.
  84. Learn how to identify edible plants and poison mushrooms. Go on a mushroom hunt. Cook your harvest (have an expert check it). Write the story. Include a crime.
  85. Broaden your horizon by following the blog, Detectives Without Borders.
  86. Write a crime poem.
  87. Get to know the crime library of the National Museum of Crime and Punishment. It's an invaluable resource and a fascinating way to kill a few hours.
  88. Listen to some Crime Jazz while you write. Click here for a great example, the soundtrack from the original movie version, Lift To The Gallows, by Miles Davis.
  89. Commit to memory the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution (the Bill of Rights). Pick one and use it as the basis of a crime story.
  90. Write a story about international smuggling, using one of the Big Three: Drugs, Wildlife, or People.
  91. For a fascinating look at the history of crime in America, check out the FBI's website, especially the page on Famous Cases and Criminals. For a current look at crime in action, stop by Congress while it's in session.
  92. Keep a copy of George Orwell's Essay, Politics and the English Language, at hand while you write. Re-read it as needed.
  93. Take a class at your local college in Criminal Justice. If you have some expertise, try to arrange to teach a class.
  94. Once a year, check out Writer's Digest list of “101 Best Websites For Writers”.
  95. Interview a power line repairman or telephone repairman. Ask them to tell you their stories. You'll be amazed at what they've seen.
  96. Go on a writer's retreat for at least a week. Leave the retreat's phone number with family for emergencies only. Turn your cellphone off. Do nothing for 7 days but write, eat, sleep and occasionally walk around. No internet, no TV. (You can read the local paper). Just write. Oh, and don't forget to breath...deeply. Very important.
  97. Don't give up on a novel or story until you have at least 50 rejections. Then set it aside and work on something else. Let it ferment (better yet, use it for compost).
  98. Learn to accept constructive criticism. Your editor and agent are not the enemy. Your enemy is that blank screen in front of you.
  99. Got your epitaph finished? Keep it simple, but memorable. Inject some humor. Here's mine:



David Ray Williams said...

Great list, Patrick! I have printed it out and will start on it today.

Terell said...

I can see that I need to take number 74 more seriously in order to finish the list! Great post.