Getting a Peek

Bruce Robert Coffin here at the helm of the Maine Crime Writer’s Blog. This month I want to talk a little about one of coolest benefits of being accepted into the writing community. The opportunity to read unpublished manuscripts. Believe me when I tell you that not much compares on a coolness scale. Imagine reading the manuscripts of unreleased novels written by your favorite thriller and mystery writers. So far this year I’ve perused the unpublished works of Kate Flora, Brenda Buchanan, Joseph Sousa, and the latest MWPA Best Crime Novel Award winner Brendan Rielly. See what I mean? Too cool. With writing styles as varied as the hues of autumn, they all succeeded at capturing my imagination with a well-told story. Not only do I get to read their latest work but they actually want my input! The great thing about doing this is that as writers we each have strengths and weaknesses. Some of us write strong dialogue, some wonderful descriptive prose, or great introspective scenes. But like a good golf scramble none of us does it all.img_3442

Reading unpublished work allows the writer to have the benefit of other accomplished eyes, with other strengths. Like beta readers on steroids. No matter how many times we read and edit our own writing, things are always overlooked. Some intended punctuation or word that we would swear is there but, in fact, isn’t. A fresh set of peepers always helps put things in proper perspective.

But there is another benefit bestowed when reading unpublished works of accomplished scribes. Reality. It’s like getting a peek behind the curtain where the Great and Powerful Oz pounds out endless words on a MacBook Pro. I see the work before it’s entirely finished. Like a fresh paint job it might have drips or an occasional run, some imperfection that reminds me that great writing doesn’t just happen. It’s hard work! With each keystroke comes possibility. It takes time to formulate and craft worthwhile ideas. A never-ending massage of sentence and paragraph until the exact thing we meant to say begins to take shape. No matter how prolific the author, no matter how many stories or books we’ve penned, none of us gets it right every time. Although, I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say I wish we did. It’s this peek at the work in progress that motivates me to work even harder. The realization that no matter how much we write there is always room for improvement.Led_Astray

Now I suppose your all wondering, how did I like the new works of Kate, Brenda, Joe, and Brendan? I loved them. When will you be able to read them? As soon as they’re ready, my friends. As soon as they’re ready.

About Bruce Robert Coffin

Bruce is a retired detective sergeant with more than twenty-seven years in law enforcement. At the time of his retirement, from the Portland, Maine police department, he supervised all homicide and violent crime investigations for Maine's largest city. Bruce also spent four years working counter-terrorism with the FBI, where he earned the Director's Award, the highest honor a non-agent can receive. He is the bestselling author of the Detective Byron Mystery Series from HarperCollins. His short stories appear in a number of anthologies including The Best American Mystery Stories 2016. Bruce lives and writes in Maine.
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6 Responses to Getting a Peek

  1. C.T. Collier says:

    Well said! For a few years, I participated as a judge in national writing contests and saw it as an opportunity for me to learn and grow as well as to encourage new writers. Usually one manuscript stood out from the pack– compelling, well written, fully engaging! It helped me see I wasn’t in competition with anyone, just working hard to be the best writer I could be, to find my own voice, and to connect with my readers.

    I hope Shadow is doing well. –kate

  2. sandy neily says:

    That was great! Thanks for laying out that value so clearly. I think it goes beyond this group too. When I taught English, I brought in pages from Dickens drafts (and others) so students could see the crossing out and added changes. Always tried to reduce the amount of groans when I handed back their marked up work.

    Thanks so much!

  3. MCWriTers says:

    I’m happy to report that Led Astray is available, both as an e-book and a physical one. Folks can find it here:

    And Bruce is so right…getting input from fellow writers is so helpful, even if we think we’re done and they do not. Because it’s always a process, and learning to handle criticism, however kind, and embrace rewrite, is a part of that process.


  4. It’s an honor having you read them, Bruce!

  5. Bruce, I love your posts about discovering the life of a writer. It makes me feel like I’m going through all the best experiences all over again. And I’m guessing that you’re a terrific Beta reader.

  6. Thank you, all!

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