Exercising Your Imaginations

For many years, I wrote non-fiction because that’s what I could get paid for. When I could afford to gamble on writing fiction, I realized my creativity was not what it had once been. I needed to find classes or teachers who could help me loosen up, get away from facts, and into my imagination.

The classes I chose were those in which the teacher assigned short essays on a specific topic. I thoroughly enjoyed the exercises, the wake-up stretches, and I soon rediscovered my creativity. Since then I’ve tried to keep those gray cells exercised by attending classes and writers’ conferences where the panels offer wonderful tips on writing. If asked, I urge other writers to do everything they can to keep learning and exercising their imaginations.

Why did I decide to write mysteries? Because they are my favorite reading. I advise all authors to write the kind of books he or she loves to read—such choices mean the writer has fun writing. Why did I choose two female protagonists? I enjoyed the Cagney & Lacey TV show, where two women with very different backgrounds put their heads together to solve crimes. I wanted my characters to jointly solve crimes, using their own individual viewpoints and talents. (Incidentally, several male agents/publishers tried to talk me out of two women—wanted a man/woman couple; I ignored them.)

I love taking classes. I recently took and enjoyed a three session class on writing the memoir. I don’t plan to write my own memoir, but one of my characters will! She needs to know how.

My favorite kind of marketing is the book party hosted by a friend or friends. These are great fun, and typically sell a lot of books. I’ve been fortunate in that a number of friends have hosted book parties, where I’ve talked about the book, and where the book was sold. I’ve really enjoyed them.

I not only enjoy attending writers’ conference, I am very flattered when I am invited to sit on a panel at a conference. I also enjoy listening to the experts. At the Left Coast Crime conference I recently attended, Sue Grafton was wonderful, as was Louise Penny. Words of wisdom I wrote down: Stop and figure out what your book is about! Sounds elementary but the ability to describe what your book is about may help you sell it. Another lesson learned at a conference: most writers have a favorite letter of the alphabet and tend to use that one letter too often in a book: like naming characters Daisy, Dorothy, Donald and Drake in a single book. I check every book I write to see if I’ve overdone a letter, and I advise other writers to do likewise.

Here’s another bit of advice I picked up from a teacher: always keep a list of the senses nearby (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch), and check them off as you’ve used them in your book or story. Using them greatly enriches the writing. And finally, the greatest compliment I’ve recently received was from an Australian woman who congratulated me on not using my book Restrike to “info dump.” It’s an expression I’d never heard, but I’ve certainly encountered “info dumps” in a book. They slow down the pace and exhaust the reader. I try to check every book to make sure I haven’t overdone the “info.” I recommend that check-up to all writers.

Reba White Williams
Reba White Williams worked for more than thirty years in business and finance—in research at McKinsey & Co., as a securities analyst on Wall Street, and as a senior executive at an investment management firm. 

Williams graduated from Duke with a BA in English, earned an MBA at Harvard, a PhD in Art History at CUNY, and an MA in Writing at Antioch. She has written numerous articles for art and financial journals. She is a past president of the New York City Art Commission and served on the New York State Council for the Arts. 

She and her husband built what was thought to be the largest private collection of fine art prints by American artists. They created seventeen exhibitions from their collection that circulated to more than one hundred museums worldwide, Williams writing most of the exhibition catalogues. She has been a member of the print committees of several leading museums. 

Williams grew up in North Carolina, and lives in New York, Connecticut and Southern California with her husband and Maltese, Muffin. She is the author of two novels featuring Coleman and Dinah Greene, Restrike and Fatal Impressions, along with the story of Coleman and Dinah when they were children, Angels. She is currently working on her third Coleman and Dinah mystery. 

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