by Margaret Mizushima

Years ago, when I was working hard at building a business and raising two daughters, I would stand in line at the grocery store, browsing the rack of novels to find the right story for the weekend. All of my favorite authors were there, and there was nothing like a book to take me away from my daily grind.

As the years passed, a dream surfaced from somewhere deep in my psyche—I wanted to write stories that would entertain people and give them a mini-vacation.

I wish I could say the magic happened quickly and I achieved publication on my first manuscript, but not so. For me, it was a long journey between the inspiration to write a novel and finally getting my first book into print. I learned some vital tips along the way that I’d like to share.

Use what you know

Examine what you’ve learned from your vocation, your hobbies, and other people to glean interesting writing topics. For me, my life as a veterinarian’s wife inspired me to develop a vet character for my mystery series, and our experience with dogs and search and rescue training led me to create a K-9 named Robo to feature in the books.

Research what you don’t know

Do a Google search. Find consultants who will answer your questions or allow you to shadow them. Observe people to capture gestures, body language, and dialogue that can spice up your writing. I’ve never worked in law enforcement, but I discovered several K-9 trainers and officers who were happy to help me develop the K-9 handler in my series.

Hone your writing craft

Take writing classes online, through a continuing ed program, or at a local college or university. Attend writing workshops whenever you can, and try to budget at least one regional writing conference per year where you can meet literary agents and editors, study the art and craft of writing, and network with other writers. Practice writing short stories and novel-length manuscripts. Participate in a critique group. Revise and polish your work.

Believe in yourself and persist

Writing is hard, getting published and writing under deadline is harder still. Find things that give you a boost—talking to friends who are also writing, finding that perfect cup of tea, taking a walk in the sunshine, communing with a pet. Don’t underestimate the power of taking a break; great ideas can spring forth when you’re doing nothing. Keep at it, learn from your mistakes, and roll with the punches.

And most important of all—enjoy the process.


Margaret Mizushima is the author of the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series, which includes Killing Trail (2015), an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee; Stalking Ground (2016), a Colorado Book Award and International Book Award finalist, and a Reader’s Favorite gold medal winner; and Hunting Hour (2017), an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award and Colorado Book Award finalist. She lives in Colorado where she assists her husband with their veterinary practice and Angus cattle herd. She can be found on Facebook, on Twitter, and on her website.