May 13, 2021

The Winter of Our Discontent

Jan McCanless

2020 will certainly go down as unusual, to say the least. While I waited on my covid vaccine appointment, I did a lot of 'pondering' . For one thing, writers never seem to mind the solitude, we need it in fact, to do our creative writing. I used the year wisely, and, wrote another book, my 16th. Murder on the Rocks, concludes my Beryl's Cove mystery series, as well as my accompaning series, the Brother Jerome books. Two murder mystery series running at the same time.

As much as we need the solitude to write, we also need interaction with our fellow man, it's where our inspiration comes from. If you are just now starting out your writing career, or are in the middle of it, do some 'people watching', you will be amazed at the way seeing other people doing ordinary things, will inspire you. Most of my characters are composites of folks I meet, or see, along the way.

On a few occasions, I've had a friend ask me to write them into my books, and I have, always putting the best spin on their personalities that I can.

There is a very famous, prolific author who gives out tickets at his book signings, and, at the end, he draws a name out, and, that person gets written into his next book. Clever idea, and of course, all of that helps to promote his books.

When it comes to promoting your work, the sky's the limit, I have used home baked cookies, candy, balloons, pens, whatever it takes to get people to come to you and look over the books you are promoting. One of my most successful promotions was giving out stick on tattoos to children, and, they in turn, begged their parents to buy a book from 'that nice lady'. Deceptive? No indeed, the kids got to keep their tattoos, and the parents found out I write a pretty darned good story. Promoting your work is 90 % of the selling of your work. If you don't believe in your writing, how do you expect others to believe in it?

Writing is something that you have to be committed to. I laugh all the time when someone comes up to me at a signing or personal appearance, and, they ask me how many days it takes to write a book and get it published. Days?? Surely they jest! If this is your first book, or magazine article, whatever you are writing at the moment, give yourself a year. Yes, a year. If you whip something out in a few days or a week, and, feel you're through, look again, Creative, GOOD writing, must be honed, and sharpened over the course of time. Read it over, then, read it over again, you will be surprised at the corrections you have to make in spelling, punctuation, content. Are all your T's crossed, all your i's dotted? Is there continuity in your story, does it read well, does it make sense?

My latest book, Murder on the Rocks, was published March of this year. It was slow going with this one. In the middle of writing it, I had surgery on my shoulder, when I went back to it, I had forgotten a lot of the plot. Then, my transcriptionist got sick. Then finally I edited it and my publisher published it. It's been a year.

I know too, when we sent the book in to be published, it was as good as we could make it. Once in a while an unneeded or required apostrophe will slip thru, or a comma left out, this happens to the best writers of the biggest sellers, but, being patient and diligent does pay off.

Being an author is a wonderful thing to be. It is exciting to tell people you are an author, especially if your books are best sellers. All of mine have been,and it's more than gratifying. But, I paid my dues, and yes, I still get an occasional reject on a magazine article or column that I write. It can be frustrating, but, make sure, after each rejection, you double down, and be determined to make it better the next time.

Don't feel dejected just because someone turned down some writing. It could be that what you submitted just does not fit into their publishing schedule at this time. it happens. I wrote a book years and years ago, and submitted it to a publisher. He wrote back that he loved it, wished me well, but, they were only publishing dog stories at that time. So, I had to begin all over again. But, when you do that, and, you finallly 'hit', it will be very satisfying to you, and you can say, with pride, "I'm a published author.

I want every writer to be successful, there's room for all of us on the market, so, good luck in your endeavores,and I wish you well. A little prayer doesn't hurt either!

Author of the Beryl's Cove Mysteries.

Jan McCanless is a well-known author throughout North Carolina. Her list of publications and awards she has received would fill a good-sized volume by themselves. In addition to the Beryl’s Cove Mystery series and other books she is a freelance columnist for the Salisbury Post, a regular contributor to Senior Savvy, The Saturday Evening Post; Sophie Woman's Magazine, and a multitude of other periodicals. Read a current interview of Jan in Southern Writer


  1. Thank you Jan for your post. You are so right. A writer does have to be committed to their writing. With all the things that go on around us, it could be easy to get wrapped up in other things. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Most people don't understand how long it takes to get a book tagline once was: I once asked God about patience and He gave me a book to write.