Mark Mynheir

Mark Mynheir is a homicide detective whose law enforcement career has included serving as an undercover narcotics agent and a S.W.A.T. team member. Mark has parlayed his police experiences into a successful speaking and writing career. He has written articles for Focus on the Family’s Breakaway magazine as well as Lookout magazine, and he has authored four novels: Rolling Thunder, From the Belly of the Dragon, The Void, and The Night Watchman, which releases May 19, 2009. He and his family currently live in central Florida.

A Time to Write

Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Discover your strengths and focus your limited energy ...

As a homicide detective, I barely have time to finish my police reports much less pen a three hundred fifty–page novel. When I’m running on a fresh case, I’m often working twenty-four to forty-eight hours straight through. Then come the normal responsibilities of the job: witness statements, follow-up investigations, court, meetings . . . more meetings. Just when I think I’m finished with work and can go home to dig deep into my literary consciousness, I’m reminded that I have a wife and three children who actually like me and desire a little face time as well (and I want to keep it that way). All this with deadlines approaching!

The time challenge is not unique to me or any writer, for that matter, whether you work full time or not. Writers have their set of circumstances and life hardships that divert them away from writing tasks. I have learned a few lessons that have helped me negotiate through the insane schedules, and hopefully you’ll find them beneficial.

Making reasonable writing commitments will save you a lot of grief. No one knows your life better than you, so be honest when dealing with a publisher or an editor about what you can and can’t do. The temptation for young writers (myself included) is to sell themselves as the super author who can whip out a Tolstoy-sized novel of Pulitzer quality in three months—while working full time, raising a family, and discovering the cure for cancer. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work for most of us mortals. I contracted for one book a year because I knew that it was the most reasonable standard I could meet, and I don’t take on any other work that will interfere with my novel writing.

Another pitfall to watch out for is the marketing and publicity conundrum: what to do and how much to do it? Some writers can run three blogs, publish a newsletter, do e-mail blasts, sell trinkets on their Web sites, and still finish their opus early. I’m not one of those writers. I figured out early in this journey that I could do only so much as far as publicity goes—and I’d have to let God do the rest. Discover your strengths and focus your limited energy there. Don’t feel you have to do what everyone else is doing. The most important thing you can do to market you novel is to write a great story.

I’ve also had to prioritize my entertainment. The last television series I watched with any regularity was Mork and Mindy when I was in junior high school. The television gobbles up precious hours, not to mention the mind-numbing effect it can have on your psyche. And as much as I enjoy Googling and other Internet ventures, there comes a point where I have to unplug the beast to stay focused on my task, lest I be tempted to procrastinate anymore. I am very fortunate that I write murder mysteries, which happens to be my day job as well, so I don’t have to do too much research on the subject. But if you have to conduct research online, keep it to a minimum. It’s easy to be so consumed with the research that you forget the important things—like writing.

Find your most productive writing time and stick to it. I’m a night creature. For some odd reason my body clock keeps me awake into the wee hours of the morning. Maybe the years of shift work and getting called out at 3:00 a.m. has had a negative impact on me. But I use this to my advantage. I get my best writing done after 9:00 p.m. The kids are done for the day and my wife is in bed early, so I get some uninterrupted time in the office. I also take advantage of my days off and travel time. Make your schedule work for you, not against you.

The most important thing I do for my time management and writing in general is prayer and a continual reliance on God. Even though I attempt to employ everything I’ve written about here (some days are better than others), I wouldn’t be able to finish anything without His guidance. While writing my latest novel, I felt the Lord convicting me about writing on Sundays. I had always made excuses and rationalized it, even though in my heart I knew better. I didn’t think I could give up one of my best writing days and still make my deadlines, so I struggled with obedience in this. Like everything else in my life, when I finally submitted to Him with a tithe of time, I was not only able to make my deadline, but also my walk with Him deepened. Taking the day off and dedicating it to the Lord helps me remember why I write in the first place—to glorify Him.

At the end of each novel, I look back and wonder how in the world I was able to finish. God has been quite gracious to me by keeping me on track and focused, not to mention that He gave me a wonderful wife who is task oriented and isn’t afraid to remind me of my deadline. If God has called you to write, He will equip you to do so—even if it means adjusting your schedule.

Night Watchman