I was determined to write a book and narrate a story that I believed had to be shared with a wide audience. I was well prepared with thoughts and ideas about what I wanted to write, but I had no idea about the road ahead. I didn’t lack confidence. I had some writing experience, but certainly not at the level of authoring a book. I wasn’t concerned about commitment or perseverance either. I have always been up to a challenge and the longer and harder the road to victory the more I dig in and embrace it. But I knew I needed a strategy with a winning design.
During my career as a criminal investigator, I learned how to talk with people and gather information and how to be thorough and patient and truthful. I also learned to abide by an old Irish proverb, “When you don’t know where you are headed walk slowly.” I knew if I was going to be successful I couldn’t just run down any path and hope I chose the right one.
I’ve also learned a bit about situational humility. I’ve had to recognize that, “I don’t know what I don’t know,”, but there are those that do know, and I need to call on them and their expertise for help. It may be hard to accept at first, but the more you do it, the wiser you become. I knew that I didn’t have a clue about where to begin or where I was headed. I recognized the need for a guide to take my hand and lead me into the forest and show me the pathways that would bring me to a clearing and my final destination. Thankfully I found her.
I had taken writing classes where students critiqued each other’s work, and while it was good to listen to others, I found that they were writing in different genres and they really couldn’t identify with what I was trying to convey. In fairness I didn’t connect well with their work either. I searched the internet for writing groups and writing coaches in the Boston area who may be able to help but came up empty there as well. Many listed true crime as a genre they were interested in, but their specialty genres were more in the areas of fantasy, science fiction, self-help, nutrition and young adult. I couldn’t take a chance on just anyone and, if I failed, have no one to blame but myself.
One night, as I was about to shut down the computer after a dozen or more website reviews that didn’t align with what I needed, I found a glimmer of hope. She was located 2,000 miles away in a rural section of Santa Fe, New Mexico. She listed herself as both a writing coach and editor who specialized in non-fiction and included mystery and true crime among her specialties. I sent her an email and a few days later we met on a Zoom call. After a couple of lengthy meetings and her review of a few stories I had written and an outline of my proposed book, we became a team. I still remember her initial critique. “Bill,” she said, “You write like a cop. Your reports are full of factual information, but if you want people to read it you need to make major changes. Readers want to hear your voice and learn through dialogue and know more about your characters and you need a protagonist and you need to stop writing in passive sentences!” Some easy changes I thought.
It took six years of working side by side structuring and organizing the book. There were a few battles and a lot of determination from both of us, but we succeeded. She taught me how to be a creative storyteller who can narrate with dialogue and descriptive language and bring a story to life. She taught me how to “show and not tell.” When the manuscript was complete she connected me with a website creator, a book cover designer and formatter, as well as folks in the marketing and publicity fields to help introduce the book. All people I never would have found on my own.
I could not be more thankful that I made the effort to turn my dream into an achievement of a lifetime. I would recommend the same path to anyone with a story to tell and a need for an experienced guide for a partner.