My first paid writing job fell into my lap when working for a TV syndication company. My boss needed to hire someone to watch seven seasons (23 shows a season) worth of “Hunter,” the police drama starring Fred Dryer and Stepfanie Kramer, and compose a one page, double spaced synopsis of each show to be faxed (our office didn’t have a computer yet) directly to TV Guide. Since I happened to be the only one around the office (and probably the only one that would undertake such a chore) I volunteered.
The next day, arriving at the office two hours early, I started a ritual that would continue for weeks. Morning, lunch and after work, I lived for “Hunter.” Each video tape of “Hunter” (minus the commercials) ran approximately 40 minutes. When finished, I would turn to my IBM electronic memory typewriter and type up my synopsis, reducing the story to its most basic elements and then, in turn, reduce the one page to a one-liner, succinct enough for TV Guide. Whether they ever used my one-liners, I’ll never know. But, I came from a background of game shows and promotional advertising where 10-second copy (approximately 15 words) was used to describe various products, so doing the same for a TV show was a piece of cake.
Watching over 150 “Hunter” episodes gave me a crash course in story structure, plot, when and how certain elements of the story were presented, the cliff-hangers before commercial, the dark before the enlightened climatic ending. I started becoming enthralled with the characters, I started dreaming about them at night and I fell in love with Fred Dryer.
I pushed aside my romance novels and started reading gritty police stories and mysteries, dissecting the books like a surgeon. I started writing short story mysteries, getting my feet wet with the ideas of murder and intrigue. I thought hard about what kind of mysteries I wanted to write, what kind of characters I wanted to present and what kind of series I wanted to build. I stepped off the sidewalk of writing for years and concentrated on reading, learning and technique. I entered small contests under pen names and lo and behold won. My confidence and direction started to crystallize.
By the time I created the series of stories and characters I wanted to write about, all my writer friends were e-publishing. The world of authorship was quickly moving towards independence and self-promotion was the key phrase of the day. I jumped in. My friends were all publishing and selling their work. I wanted to be a part of the excitement. I e-published my “Gracie Wentworth Short Story Mysteries,” the stories that introduce the characters and series I love.
My first Gracie Wentworth novel, “Discovering April,” will be published late fall. The second novel is scheduled for late spring.
Undertaking the path to the self-publishing business was another crash course education (more comments about that adventure later). And the key word here is business. I treat it like a business. I want my business to grow so I give it the respect and time it needs and deserves. The rewards have been plentiful. So drag out that manuscript that’s been hiding under your bed. Blow off the dust and sit down for a good intense re-write and polish it up. You’re in control now. What will separate you from the others is still quality. Who knows, you just might be Kindle’s next best-seller.
M. Catherine Berg has worked in the television promotion/advertising and TV syndication industry. She is a contemporary writer of murder mysteries and lives in Southern California with her husband and two dogs.
For more information on Berg, her short stories, novels, and formats and where to buy, go to her website http://www.mcatherineberg.com .