Friday, February 18, 2011

Talking Writing with Elizabeth Lyon

By Kathie Felix

Elizabeth Lyon

The Sisters in Crime Mentor Monday sessions on the SinC listserv cover a lot of ground. The sessions’ online archives include question-and-answer “conversations” with literary agents, writers, booksellers, forensics experts, librarians, reviewers and other publishing business notables.

Book editor and author Elizabeth Lyon participated in one of these Q & A events, providing insight into a range of writing issues. A freelance book editor since 1988, she is the best-selling author of six books on writing fiction, nonfiction, revision and marketing to find agents and publishers.

The online Mentor Monday discussion began with an examination of “next book syndrome,” or the concern about being able to write a second book – or the next book, regardless of the number it is in a writer’s career.

Elizabeth, who has an advanced degree in counseling and is a former therapist, offered a five-step plan for dealing with this type of situation:

“Step one: Recognize the fear,

“Step two: Acknowledge that you’re not special; that indeed having anxieties or cold sweat fears about writing is universal,

“Step three: Know that nearly all fear is based on a 'what if,' which means that you are 'borrowing trouble' from an imagined future,

“Step four: Say 'no,' even chant 'no' in your head if you have to, to banish these thoughts,

“Step five: Plan and act, which means plan what comes next in your writing and do it, even just to be a monkey and sit in front of the keyboard and start hitting keys. You’ll know that is silly and voila, you’ll begin work on your current piece.”

Other subjects in the Q & A included prologues, the timing of the first murder in a book, critique groups, selling a novel, receiving contradictory comments from editors and which is more desirable – glowing reviews or big sales.

The archived session can be found by accessing the SinC members-only listserv, clicking on “Files” in the menu bar on the right side of the screen and selecting “Mentor Monday – Editors & Teachers.” If you are not a member of the listserv, directions to join are located on the SinC website at

Elizabeth Lyon is leading a revision workshop for writers of fiction and creative nonfiction on Saturday, Feb. 26, from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. in Portland, Oregon. The four-session workshop, titled “Diamonds in the Rough: Revise, Polish, Publish,” is based on her book, Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore. The working sessions include: Revise for Original Voice and Stand-Out Style, Revise for Strong Structure, Revise for Compelling Characterization, and Revise for Successful Marketing. The cost of the workshop is $65. For registration information, send email to sallyklehman[at]

Photo at left: Elizabeth Lyon, presenter, at the 2010 SinC Into Great Writing workshop held in San Francisco during the week of Bouchercon. Photo by Molly Weston.

1 comment:

Jayne said...

Thanks for those tips. I've not had a first book published and I'm already having nightmares about doing the second half as well.