Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Men of Misery

By Mark W. Danielson

Recently, I attended the Men of Mystery event in Irvine, California. It has been my privilege to attend the last seven, and is my favorite author event. Over fifty authors gather to discuss mysteries and the writing business over lunch with five hundred guests. This year, Michael Connelly and Tim Dorsey were the key speakers. Michael was the Men of Mystery’s very first speaker, and graciously returned for its tenth anniversary. He offered some interesting comments on writing that are worth sharing.

He began with the description that the authors in attendance were actually “Men of Misery”. Not in the sense of Stephen King’s thriller, Misery, but rather in the dedication that it takes to create suspenseful mysteries. He spoke of writing several manuscripts where he was well into them and then shelved them because he “wasn’t feeling it”. He also spoke about his spending hours on a paragraph or two. In this regard, the misery he was referring to isn’t in the writing process, but rather in its re-writes.

Another item Michael stressed was daily writing. One of his mentors said you should write at least fifteen minutes a day to mentally keep you in the loop. Fifteen minutes doesn’t sound like much, but I agree with the principle. When I sit down at the computer, I hope to be there for at least an hour or two.

What I found most interesting about Michael’s presentation is in spite of his success and years of perfecting the craft, he still deals with the same writing issues as the rest of us. Although he writes numerous sequels, he is not a formula writer, so every book requires the same scrutiny as the first in his series. And while his readers may skim through the pages, every word has been carefully chosen, every setting has been visualized, and every breath from his characters has purpose. In writing, it is never acceptable to say, “It’ll do”. There may not be a prescription for successful writing, but Michael’s is as close as it gets.

There are plenty of successful authors among those attending the Men of Mystery or Women of Mystery events. Some are also screen writers and producers. Some names are more familiar than others, but every author there is equally dedicated to writing quality material. If you wish to check out some new material, try browsing the names of these other authors by visiting the Men of Mystery link: Most have their own web sites with chapter previews. Their mysteries are waiting.


Mandy Maria said...

Is there a women of mystery event?

Jean Henry Mead said...

I asked Ben the same question and was told that Joan was in charge of the Women of Mystery event. Are there also 50 women of Mystery?

Mark W. Danielson said...

Mandy, Jean, the Women of Mystery is in the spring. Joan Hansen is the event's organizer, although there are a host of volunteers that make her vision possible. There may be some contact information on the Men of Mystery web site I mentioned in the blog. I've never attended Women of Mystery, but I'm sure it's an equally grand affair. No doubt there are many fine women authors in attendance, although I don't know the exact number. Merry Christmas.

Beth Terrell said...

Michael Connelly was our second Killer Nashville Guest of Honor. I was impressed by his humility and grace. He's a shy guy, but very kind.

I admire his determination to never settle for less than his best.

Anonymous said...

I scrolled through the web site and saw several familiar authors' names. How about the others present? You said there were about 500 people there. That's a LOT of people! Who were they? Friends, relatives, general public?
Pat Browning

Mark W. Danielson said...

Pat, the Men of Mystery/Women of Mystery events are products of a very large Orange County book club. Most in attendance are avid readers; many of whom heard about it through the grapevine. Normally, nine people at a table with an author. It's always a pleasure meeting these mystery fans.

Anonymous said...

That sounds like a knockout event and one authors would be scrambling to get into. Congratulations on being a Man of Mystery!
Pat B.

Mark W. Danielson said...

I just received this note from Joan Hansen and wanted to pass it on since I was a bit off on the women's affair. (And no, this has nothing to do with Tiger Woods' affairs.)

"Mark -- I need to clarify: my Festival of Women authors features ALL genres .. and only eight writers. So far for May of 2010 we have two mystery writers -- Wendy Hornsby and Rhys Bowen (who has won every mystery award given!!) In addition, we have a humorist ... children's author ... playwright ... historical fiction ... memoir writer -- a wide range ! I founded this one first --- 17 years ago --- and then started MofM not to compete but to be completely different!"

Once again, I stand corrected. :)

Jean Henry Mead said...

Thanks for clarifying, Mark.