September 30 – October 6: “What is one myth about being an author you’d like to debunk?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5This week ITW members Christopher Brown, Catharine Riggs, DiAnn Mills, Steve Anderson, Kat Martin, Joanna Davidson Politano and A. J. Kerns are the literary equivalent of the Myth Busters crew. This week’s question: What is one myth about being an author you’d like to debunk? Scroll down to the “comments” section to follow along. You won’t want to miss this!


Catharine Riggs lives and writes on California’s central coast. Before her dive into thrillers, Riggs worked as a business banker, adjunct college instructor, and a nonprofit executive. Her recently published thriller, What She Never Said, is the second novel in her Santa Barbara Suspense series. Thomas & Mercer published the first, What She Gave Away, in September of 2018.


Bestselling author Kat Martin, a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, currently resides in Missoula, Montana with Western-author husband, L. J. Martin.  More than seventeen million copies of Kat’s books are in print, and she has been published in twenty foreign countries.  Fifteen of her recent novels have taken top-ten spots on the New York Times Bestseller List, and her novel, BEYOND REASON, was recently optioned for a feature film.


Christopher Brown’s debut Tropic of Kansas was a finalist for the 2018 Campbell Award for best science fiction novel of the year. His new novel RULE OF CAPTURE, the beginning of a series of speculative legal thrillers, is forthcoming from Harper Voyager in August 2019. He was a World Fantasy Award nominee for the anthology Three Messages and a Warning. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he also practices law.


DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She weaves memorable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure? Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.


Joanna Davidson Politano writes historical novels of mystery and romance, including her debut Lady Jayne Disappears. She loves tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives and is eager to hear anyone’s story. She lives with her husband and their two babies in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan.


Steve Anderson is the author of the Kaspar Brothers novels (The Losing Role, Liberated, Lost Kin) and other books. Under False Flags is the prequel to his latest novel, The Preserve. Anderson was a Fulbright Fellow in Germany and is a translator of bestselling German fiction as well as a freelance editor. He lives in Portland, Oregon.


Arthur Kerns is a retired FBI supervisory special agent with a career in counterintelligence and counterterrorism. A past president of the Arizona chapter of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) his award-winning short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies. Diversion Books, Inc. NY published his espionage thrillers, The Riviera Contract, The African Contract and The Yemen Contract. A new novel, Days of the Hunters, will be released in 2020.


  1. The myth: Writing is easy.
    The truth: Writing is NOT easy. For fiction writers:
    We have trends to explore and process. Is this for me or my brand?
    We must constantly be learning how to improve our craft.
    We need hours of concentrated writing time.
    We need hours to edit.
    We have readers who demand our attention, and we want to give it.
    We have to know who are our readers.
    We have social media skills to learn, process, and apply.
    We market and promote.
    We write new proposals.
    We have families and responsibilities other than the writing life.
    We need sleep, exercise, and proper meals.
    We need a break now and then.
    And when it all goes crazy, we may need a psychologist. 🙂

  2. One big myth is that if you just reach a certain major goal, which is usually getting your first book published (whether traditional or self-pubbed), then everything becomes easier and more successful.

    There is no magic place. The hurdles are always there. Even a popular author will tell you that. For them, it might be finishing that next manuscript under pressure. For others, it might be finding the time to draft a new novel around the day job and family commitments. For most, reaching readers is a constant challenge. The truth is that we do this because we love it; because we have to. So we manage the many hurdles, each in our own way. I think that every author will tell you, though, that it’s worth it in the end.

  3. Many people have the misconception that writers, especially fiction writers, slave over their computers or legal pads agonizing over every word and when found chisel it out on the page. Then after drinking another cup of coffee or maybe throwing down a shot of bourbon search on for that next perfect word. Of course, this all happening in a garret (preferably Paris) or an apartment that hasn’t been cleaned in a year. The belief is that the writer is not having a good time and not long for this world. I have to admit it worked with the girls in college.
    Matter of fact, I know many writers, I included, who enjoy writing a story, especially the first draft when the creative juices are flowing and your characters are about to go off on an unexpected tangent. Editing your work and rewrites are another thing. Finding an agent and a publisher is traumatic, frustrating, and maddening. However, most writers I know are not daily undergoing angst, are stable individuals if eccentric, and seldom fly off the handle until that rejection notice comes in. Then, hand me a drink.

    1. So true. The bourbon while writing only works in the movies, sadly. At least for me. There’s also that misconception, also in the movies, that when you finish that first draft, you’ve climbed that mountain—and you’re on your way. The truth as we know is, we’re only just beginning!

  4. As a recently published author who chased her goal for many years, I think the myth I’d most like to dispel is that upon obtaining an agent, a writer’s dream will be fulfilled. I’m not here to dampen anyone’s spirits but it’s a crucial piece of information I wish I had understood. Because during the years I attended writers’ conferences and spent my hard-earned dollars to make a pitch, I (wrongly) came to assume that if I were lucky enough to sign with an agent, all roadblocks would dissipate.

    In my case, after many years of submissions and a sprinkling of fairy dust, I signed with the agent of my dreams, Rebecca Scherer of JRA. She’s everything I want in an agent: smart, professional and well-read with a keen understanding of the industry. And yet, although we received positive feedback, we failed to sell the manuscript that had sold Rebecca on me.

    At the time I was beyond devastated. I felt dejected and confused. I had achieved the goal of obtaining an agent, what more could I have done? And then I slowly learned a truth that was hard for me to accept – the odds of selling a book to a major publisher, even after obtaining a respected agent, is nowhere near one hundred percent.

    Am I saying this to discourage yet-to-be-published authors? Absolutely not. But what I will say is they need to be ready to pivot in the event their manuscript doesn’t sell. In my case, I spent a few weeks wallowing in self-pity before I got back to work. I wrote the first draft of What She Gave Away in three months and within six months we signed a two-book deal with Thomas & Mercer with an option on a third. The closely linked sequel, What She Never Said, was released this past month

  5. As a romance and romantic suspense writer the myth that really irks romance writers is that we write to a formula. I was even asked that by a non romance author at my publisher’s author day–oh you write to a formula, don’t you? If there’s a mysterious formula for success out there somewhere let me at it!

    My formula is I put one letter after another until I have a word and then I do it over and over. I wish I’d said that to her.

    1. Love this response! Every single story has its author’s unique voice telling it, and comes through the filter of the writer’s life, understanding, and experiences. Well said!

    2. couldn’t agree with you more, Elisabeth. I craft a story and it’s unique except for the happy ending. Which I love to read and that is the reason I give it to my readers.

    3. Good points here! Every writer works their tails off, no matter the genre. And every genre has great writing and storytelling in them. I think our culture always gets people believing in some magic ointment, thus the “formula” notion.

  6. One of the most damaging myths about being a successful author is that to reach a wide audience you need to dumb down your prose—sometimes conveyed as needing to write at a 14-year-old reading level. Style and storytelling are not mutually exclusive. The best books find a way to do both. Writing and reading is about more than conveying information—it’s also about the music of language on the page. Letting characters speak in their own voices, and letting each book find its own sound, is the real path to the most compelling plots. Consider the novels of writers like John Le Carré, Margaret Atwood, James Ellroy, Joan Didion, Cormac McCarthy—books that work as great thrillers in large part because they write their way into plot via character and voice. That approach is a lot less efficient than a detailed outline written out like a screenplay, but the results are almost always superior.

    1. Well put. I’m guessing that none of those writers you mention worked from a tight outline. I know I can’t, not fully anyway. I build a loose one just for my own sanity and then usually veer from it quickly when a character makes a choice I have to follow. Then again, a detailed outline certainly works for other writers. We’re all unique animals.

      1. They say that battle plans for generals are great until the first shot is fired. I think outlines are like that for novelists—great until a character reveals where a scene, or the whole story, really wants to go. I envy those writers who have such a clear vision in advance that they can outline way ahead, even mapping out multiple books.

        A famous novelist told me he once spoke with a scholar who had read the first draft of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, and reported it read like a mediocre Lous L’Amour novel. That such material could ultimately become a book widely regarded as a 20th century masterpiece, famous for its enigmatic and almost Biblical prose, he ascribed to “the mysteries of continuous deep revision.” I bet McCarthy had an outline, and the core storyline may even have remained the same. But he also had the luxury (or the burden) of the time to work the material into what he thought it wanted to be,

  7. One of the great myths about writing, as far as I’m concerned, is that it gets easier as you go along. As the author of more than seventy novels, I can tell you it just gets harder. Perhaps, party because with each book you demand more of yourself.
    I think knowing how to structure a story gets easier. Sentence variety and construction become second nature, grammar and spelling, the basics of writing. But penning the actual novel, start to finish gets harder. With each new book, you have to think of a new and different plot, make your characters different in some way, give the readers something you haven’t given them before.
    In the beginning, I could remember almost every line of dialog in every scene. Now I have to make a lot more notes to keep everything straight in my head. More books mean more information for your mind to sift through. So don’t expect your life as an author to get easier.
    Still, there is no job I would rather have.

  8. No, I use my brain and a yellow note pad! I am definitely old-school. But actually I don’t repeat a lot of characters. I usually do trilogies, so three that connect. Currently, I’m working on four connected books, but I only use two or three previous characters so its not really confusing.

  9. Myth: writing is a solitary career.
    When I come away from a writing stint, I feel as though I’ve come away from a social gathering. I’ve walked through deep and intimate moments with my characters, watching their lives unfold chapter by chapter. I thoroughly explore their psyches and think about their humanness (even though they’re not actually human.)

    So, there’s that. But there are also tons and tons of REAL people in a writer’s life.

    In fact, being an author has brought me into contact with more people than ever before. I’ve made some dear writing friends as we’ve bonded over this passion of our hearts. Even if we only connect online, there’s an instant kinship between many people who have the writing bug and it’s made for some amazing friendships. I’ve also gotten to connect with readers in a uniquely authentic way. Because I’m opening up my heart and pouring vulnerability on the page, I get loads of reader emails full of the same vulnerability. Then, there are fellow book lovers in general who all seem to flock together and enjoy each others’ company. I truly love this industry and how, even as competitors, authors often rally around each other as friends.

    1. Also, I’d like to add that none of what we do can possibly be done alone. I am eternally grateful for the people who design my cover, edit and polish my prose, market, and even those who create a great internal design. It takes a whole team!

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