Reflections on Writing, or, What I’ve Learned

Hey all. Gerry Boyle here, introducing a guest blog by my friend Earl Smith, author of THE DAM COMMITTEE, and his new one, now in the pipeline, MORE DAM TROUBLE (which I’ve read). Earl’s work is a delight and if you haven’t visited his fictional Belfry, Maine, you’re missing something special. With that, I turn this page over to a true Maine crimewriter. Take it away, Earl.


At last, I am old enough to know that I don’t know very much.

I wrote two books of history before trying fiction, taking the plunge on the premise that it’s easier to tell a lie than to tell the truth. I was wrong. It is harder, much harder. My mother warned me about this, but I was young, and what did she know?

Along the fiction way, I learned some things I can’t possibly talk about and a few that I’m willing to share, if anybody’s paying attention:

  • Try something simple.I discovered too late that the reason the genre of comic crime capers is thin is because it’s hard to write. I’d suggest you try something else, but if you insist, remember two things: Don’t kill off a beloved character. That sort of thing discourages readers. Second, include a dog. Everybody loves dogs and a dog can help you fill in dialogue places where you need to say something sensible.

    The author with his editorial assistant, Benjamin

  • Good ideas come at inconvenient times. In that regard, I must say it is downright dangerous to make notes while driving. I know this is true, as I once ran my Toyota pickup into my mailbox while writing down a particularly brilliant piece of dialogue. The notes you scribble on the bedside stand in the middle of the night will be indecipherable in the morning.


  • There will mean droughts of ideas. These dry spells can last for days. It is discouraging. Go for a long drive (preferably with a tape recorder) or go on a binge. When the spell has ended, the fascinating things you write the next morning will seem stupid and shoddy the very next day.

Once the book is out, be prepared for even more discoveries, to wit:

  • There will be mistakes. No matter how many times you and a full cadre of picky proof readers examine the text, you’ll find an error the very day it is finally published and placed into your hands.  Maybe even on page one.
  • It is more fun to write a book than to promote one. You will discover that most people who attend your book readings plan to write a book themselves. They will ask you how, and there are no quick answers. And, I must add, you’re going to find lots of people (including relatives) who don’t read at all. When they tell you they look forward to reading your book, they have already begun a work of fiction.
  • Many think fiction is real stuff, and they will hold you accountable. Worse, many will ascribe real people to the made-up characters in your book. Some of them will be people you’ve never even met.
  • Royalty checks can be smaller than the manufacturer’s refund on a bottle of gin. If you want to make money, the solution here is quite simple.







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5 Responses to Reflections on Writing, or, What I’ve Learned

  1. Welcome back Earl. I’m looking forward to reading the new book. Loved the first one.


  2. Lea Wait says:

    I’ll echo Kathy — loved your first book, and am excited there’s now a second! And … your post is all too true! You’re definitely an experienced author now, and your work reflects the best of Maine humor. All best wishes! (And I hope you’re working on a third book.)

  3. MCWriTers says:

    As you’ve noted, Earl, writing funny is hard to do. But you do it well. Perhaps because small Maine towns are full of characters who lend themselves to humor.

    Reading it now and really enjoying it. Hope you’ll come back to MCW when it’s published and share some of the “inside” details.

    Who knew a writer could do so damn much with a dam?


  4. says:

    Highly enjoyable blog. I’m a book reviewer and would love to review your next book.
    Rae Francoeur
    440 W. 24th St., #10A
    New York NY 10011

    Thank you!

  5. Pingback: Sunday Update: September 8, 2013 | Maine Crime Writers

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