Award-Winning Mystery Writer

If Walls Could Talk: Scriptwriting Life Support

Three years ago, I called something that happened on TV over the last few weeks. So let’s talk about production and screenwriting. I am a television junkie. I watch an obscene amount of it and am currently sulking because Summer means that a lot of shows have gone on hiatus for months. Though it does give me an excuse to go and catch up on streaming shows I’ve missed. One of my dreams is to write for television, so it is a topic I care deeply about. I study it in many ways: watching most of wha

BLOG: Caring for Your Mental Health as a Writer

One of the most understated things about writing is how hard it can be on your Mental Health. Go ahead, Google “Writing and Mental Health.” If you saw the same thing I saw, you’ll see that the entire first page is about journaling and its benefits to mental health. This is true. There’s a reason why therapists suggest people keep journals. The fact is, non-writers do not understand the relationship between a writer and their writing. They don’t understand that we leave a piece of ourselves in

If Walls Could Talk: Getting into the Writing Mindset

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I will message James with some form of, “I need to write.” But, sometimes, despite the miles long to-do list that I have in front of me, I can’t write. Take yesterday for example. For the sake of reference, this week I cut it close to the wire. I finished this the night before publication. I meant to get it done even earlier (Monday, if not before), but it didn’t quite happen. Between a piece with with a tight deadline and some computer trouble I didn’

If Walls Could Talk: Saying No to Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is all too common in writers. Either we think we aren’t good enough, or newbies think because they haven’t been published yet they aren’t writers. To kick this off, let me say something super important. If you write, you are a writer. Now I want you to pause, take a deep breath, and say it with me. Honestly, if there’s one thing newbie writers say that lights my fuse, it’s, “I want to be a writer someday.” So I’ll repeat myself. If you write, you’re a writer. Now, some pe

BLOG: How to Throw Out A Project And Start Fresh

It’s a fact of writing that projects need multiple drafts. But that’s not what I’m talking about in this article. Instead, sometimes you might need to completely take apart a project, throwing out every previous draft, and starting over. It is. But it’s something I recently experienced. To properly explain this, I have to give you some background on the project in question. I’ve been working on the sequel to my third book since 2017. At the time, I was ambitious that I would finish it sometime

If Walls Could Talk: Embracing the Sting of Rejection

Let me be blunt. As a writer, you will get rejected. Sometimes in rather painful ways. As a woman who writes murder mysteries, I can honestly say I’ve gotten a rejection letter because I’m a woman (of course, they didn’t outright say that – but you could tell what their problem was). In the current economy, you also become close friends with rejection letters. Last week, I probably got over 50 on that front alone. One of those might have topped the aforementioned rejection letter. Like so… T

If Walls Could Talk: My Inner Critic

My inner critic is a nightmare. If there is a single factor that makes my work slow down, it’s that. Honestly, lately, as I’ve been dealing with everything, it’s gotten so bad that James has to step in and tell me it’s not as bad as I think it is. But it wasn’t always that way. About a decade ago, as I was starting out as a writer, I had a rather high opinion of my writing as a whole. I thought it was amazing and I had so much potential. The first day I took writing to share with the group, I

BLOG: Killing Your Darlings - The Two Times I Cut Characters

As writers, we often hear the phrase, “kill your darlings.” But, that phrase is often in the context of cutting out writing or scenes that don’t work, slow down a piece, or are utterly unnecessary. Recently though, I’ve found myself taking it another way. I’m one of those people who work on multiple projects at once, and two of the things I’m working on had a similar thing happen. I cut an entire character from both. This can be more painful than cutting scenes or entire plot points. In both s

If Walls Could Talk: From Pantser to Plotter

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the terms I used in this week’s title, let me start off by explaining those. Planners are exactly what it sounds like: someone who plans out their stories. Now, that can take many forms. Some writers have detailed outlines, while others are more vague. Some have detailed boards with locations and character bios – and research everything. Pantsers get their names from the phrase “fly by the seat of their pants.” They are the writers who wing it. Who abho

If Walls Could Talk: Stop Putting Off that Project

This might end up being one of those times where I have to practice what I preach. The last several times I’ve posted on social media, I get messages from friends talking about how they saw my post and want to know how I got published. And often, that question is followed with, “I’ve always wanted to write a book…” I almost always respond, JUST DO IT. You might respond with, I don’t know how to write. Look at my first short story. Trust me, I didn’t know how to write back then, either. More

If Walls Could Talk: What’s in a Name?

So, here’s your fun fact. My name almost wasn’t Mary Helen. It’s odd to think about that I came within weeks of being named something else entirely. I was almost Helen Marie. I was named after one of my grandmothers. But, a few weeks before I was born, my mom mentioned my name to a friend. They said that if I was named after one grandmother (her mom’s middle name was Helen) that I should be named after both. Marie became Mary, after my other grandmother. It was a couple of weeks after I was b

If Walls Could Talk: A Downward Spiral

You would think that returning from vacation would mean that you’d be bursting with energy. That a week away at one of your favorite places on the planet was just what you needed to recharge your batteries and you’d be bursting full of creative (and literal) energy. Unfortunately for me, that was not the case. If anything, the return to reality has been absolutely draining. I’ve barely managed to get anything on the page this week and have had the least productive week I’ve had in months. And

If Walls Could Talk Redux: The Art of Research

Before If Walls Could Talk returns on February 2nd, we’re running some of MH’s favorite pieces. This week, MH invites you to take a look at research. How it can make or break your story, and how to establish some best practices to make the most of your research without getting off track. When you write something you don’t have direct experience with, the consequence is that you have to do a TON of research. When I came to write my first mystery, I really had to start from the ground up. Honest

If Walls Could Talk: Back to the Wall

The last time I released an article for this column was April 22, 2020. Honestly, looking up that answer in preparation of writing this hurt a bit. The MH who wrote that post feels completely different from the one writing now. There have been times in the last almost two years where I’ve had to mourn losing her. By now, some of you have seen the post on 18thWall where James updated y’all on why we basically went radio silent. I went quiet about two years ago and sometime after that, the entire

BLOG: How to Ask for an Extension on a Deadline

Sometimes, aspiring writers ask me a question. What’s one piece of advice you’d give an aspiring writer? Or, if you could tell your younger self one piece of writing advice, what would it be? To properly explain my answer, I need to tell you a little story. After a rather rough few months at the end of 2013, I found myself at the tail end of a six-week writing slump. For the only time in my writing career, I’d only written 300 words in those six weeks (the least I have ever written). So I de

BLOG: How to Know When It is Time to Walk Away from a Project

One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve created books and scripts is that no matter what the project is or what your role in the project is, you leave a piece of yourself in everything. We can’t help it. Any undertaking leaves a piece of us, a signature of sorts. With filmmaking, projects come and go and sometimes, you have to walk away. Sometimes, it’s before the project sees the light of day. And to be honest, that’s when it can be the hardest. Today, I’m going to share my experience and some

BLOG: Seven Resources Every Screenwriter Should Know About

We all need a little help, every now and then. One of the greatest things about being a writer is that there are so many tools out there designed to help us. The problem is, people don’t know they exist. When you’re a writer, you have to be a Jack (or Jill) of many trades and learn not just about writing, but about editing, and the business itself. It’s all part of honing our craft. And while, at times, the task may seem daunting, I’ve discovered a lot of online resources that I’ve found to be

If Walls Could Talk: How The Magicians Managed To Completely Surprise Me With Their Finale

The Magicians wrapped their fourth season with a finale that managed to surprise me – and left me feeling better about a finale than I have in ages. To make you understand the massive kudos this deserves, let me tell you my opinion of The Magicians. I only started to watch this show after it was announced that Felicia Day was going to be guest star in season 3. With Day being one of my personal heroes, I was excited to see her on a show again. So I dove in a few weeks before the new season beg

If Walls Could Talk: Writing’s Biggest Hurdle – Crossing the Finish Line

I’ve met a lot of very talented writers whose work you will probably never see, whose names you’ll never know. And it’s sad. There’s so much talent out there that will never see the light of day. Because they’re afraid to finish anything. Or afraid to let it go out into the world. Because it’s hard. Completing a project from start to finish can feel impossible. Following through with something as large as a book is a daunting task. Sure, it’s all sunshine and roses when you start and the idea

If Walls Could Talk: Writing at a Pace that Makes your Readers “Smile” (Doctor Who)

We wanted to start the fifth year of M.H.’s column with a look back at her most popular and well-received article, which was shared widely and received thousands of hits. It’s an excellent examination of pacing, what can go wrong, and how to make pacing work for you. Doctor Who is now two episodes into its new series and, honestly, in terms of quality they were vastly different. In this column, I try to share with you lessons I learned in writing; and after watching “Smile” on Saturday night, I
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