Live Like a Mystery Novelist for 100 Days

Story by Stephanie Argy

I’m very lucky, because I was among the first people to read The Perfect 100 Day Project—and the book truly did change my life.

In my day job (which I love) I’m a book editor at the International Society for Technology in Education, but I also sometimes freelance for other publishers. In September 2021, Rocky Nook asked me to proofread The Perfect 100 Day Project. It was a challenging book to proofread—not because there were many errors (there weren’t), but because I kept getting so caught up in the content that I had to remind myself to actually proofread, rather than drift off into imagining what my 100 Day Project would be, if I were to do one.

I turned in my proofread on September 22. It turned out that the numbers of days between September 23 and the end of 2021 was exactly 100. It felt like fate: with 100 days left in 2021, how could I not do a 100 Day Project?

With 100 days left in 2021, how could I not do a 100 Day Project?

After much internal debate (and a thorough review of the guidelines in The Perfect 100 Day Project) I decided that my project would be “to live like a mystery novelist for 100 days.” This consisted of three steps:

  1. Write at least 500 words a day of a historical mystery novel of my own.
  2. Read many, many mystery novels by others.
  3. And of course, stumble upon and solve crimes in quaint English villages (because that’s what mystery author characters do over and over in so many Golden Age mysteries).

Number Three proved unsuccessful, perhaps because I'm in Portland, Oregon, not England, and you know, the pandemic. But Numbers One and Two—wow, those went great! I hit my writing target every day, and by the time I got through the end of the project, doing my own mystery writing every day was no longer a project—it become what I did. I also was astounded to find that by the end of the 100 days, I had most of the first draft of an entire novel. Five hundred words a day adds up! I also read and read and read—reintroducing myself to some old favorite authors (Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey, Ngaio Marsh) and discovering some who were new to me (Christianna Brand, Margery Allingham, Martha Grimes). (I especially loved Brand’s Green for Danger, which is set in a British hospital during the Blitz. Also, Steve West does an amazing job narrating the audiobooks for the Grimes series that features Richard Jury and Melrose Plant.)

I also was astounded to find that by the end of the 100 days, I had most of the first draft of an entire novel.

In mid-December, one of my writing groups had its first in-person get-together in nearly two years. One of our members was moving to the East Coast, so we had a celebratory farewell party. Gathered around the table in my dining room, I told everyone about my 100 Day Project and how much it had done for me and meant to me—and on December 21, everyone else in the group started their own 100 Day projects—all running at the same time for extra accountability. (As I write this, they’re still at it!)

I finished my own 100 Day Project on December 31, 2021, and it was an emotional experience to have it end. I knew I wanted to do another 100 Day Project—this time, something art-related, as well as something to help me reconnect to friends after the past few years of isolation. And so…my current project (I’m now on Day 36) is to draw or paint a card a day, then mail it to someone I’ve been thinking of.

I’m not a very experienced artist, so I started off simply, at first taking inspiration from another Rocky Nook book that I’d proofread: Watercolor Snacks. As I’ve worked on the project, several themes have emerged in my cards. First, foodstuffs.

Foodstuffs

I’ve also found myself drawing creatures of different types.

Creatures

And finally, not having traveled anywhere for such a long time, I have a series of cards called “Places I Didn’t Visit in 2020-21.”

The places I didn’t visit

One of the touching things about this project is how many people have responded to getting these little drawings and paintings in the mail—some even sending me cards of their own.

It’s hard to describe what a difference these two projects have made in my life.

It’s hard to describe what a difference these two projects have made in my life. My first 100 Day Project taught me about myself as a writer, and gave me the freedom to conceive of myself in a different way. This second one has enabled me to interact with others via a creative gift, and that’s a huge treasure—especially now.

Gallery

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