One Pennsylvania Dutch expression I’ve heard is: “Too soon old, too late smart.” A more common expression is: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I guess I could accept both those sentiments, but as the 85-year-old self-described Grandma Moses of Mystery, I tend to ignore them. Why else would I read writing magazines, listen to videos, and interact with other writers to learn more of my trade? Or, am I relearning things I thought I already knew?
I’ve been attempting to write a short story, a prequel to my first mystery. Every day I started over, changing what I had written, deciding it was all wrong. Then I read a blog post from a well-published author I follow. She was having trouble writing her newest book. She decided the problem was that she didn’t know where it was going, what should come next. She had to take time out until she knew what her characters would do. A few days later I read a magazine Q and A with an author. His words—writing was a struggle all the way. But he also said that if he were told what a scene should be, he could write it easily. The idea was the hard part.
Okay, got it. Yeah, that idea. And I realize, when I’m writing a full-length mystery, I keep a separate file to talk about my story. I ask myself, would Jo do that? If she did, what would her sister say? What would Mel do? I’ll ramble on down one path, then back up. “Nope,” I tell myself, “that’s not right. But maybe, if she said…” And I’m off on a new string.
So, why not do the same thing with a short story?
Hey, did this old dog learn a new trick? Umm, maybe. Maybe just a relearned trick. But that won’t stop me from looking for something new for my tool kit. After all, I only started this blog a couple of years ago, at 83. And I’m still trying to improve it every chance I get. I try, as well, to improve my stories as I write new ones. I will go along with the, “Too soon old,” part of that saying. But, “too late smart?” Nope, that will never happen.
I think writers are a timeless bunch. We write about others of any age, no matter our own age. Women write about men, men write about women. We send our characters to far lands, or into their own minds. If we didn’t continue to learn and innovate, we’d have one story to tell, then be done. I’m willing to bet, each writer has learned something completely new within the last year, and written about it. Do you agree? Or, do you disagree?