Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fifteen Tips for Writing Mystery Novels that Sell by Jacqueline Seewald

1.  First, read widely. It will help you become a better writer. That’s my number one tip.
2.  Read lots of mystery novels. Okay, does this sound a little simplistic? It’s still good advice. There are many subdivisions in this particular genre. There are also many cross-genre categories as well. So you better like reading mysteries or don’t even think to write one.
3. In a mystery novel, your main protagonist is the detective. He or she should be introduced early. Avoid providing too much back story. Keep the plot moving along. Characters should be developed through what they say, do and think. Hints to background make characters more interesting and mysterious. So don’t give away too much too soon.
     4. Make certain your suspects are introduced early as well and appear a number of times throughout your novel. They need development too.
     5. It’s suggested that the crime be a murder and be introduced in the first three chapters to hook the reader. Study writers like John Grisham. He has a talent for hooking readers immediately with strong beginnings.
     6. The crime needs to be presented in a believable manner. This doesn’t necessarily mean excessive gore. However, you should become familiar with police procedures for the sake of authenticity even if you are not writing a police procedural. When weapons are used, research them so you don’t make errors. Agents and editors who specialize in crime fiction will immediately brand you as an amateur and reject your work if your writing is inaccurate.
     7. Don’t reveal your perp before the denouement, or reveal close to it if you’re writing a whodunit.
     8. If you are writing a romantic mystery novel, make certain that the love story plot is of secondary importance. Don’t allow the romance to overpower the mystery. Likewise, if you’re writing romantic suspense, be aware that the romance is of more consequence than the mystery. In this case, end with the love story resolved.
     9. Create well-rounded characters. Who are they? What is their motivation? What do they look like? What’s distinctive about their speech patterns and mannerisms? Keep a notebook delineating each character in the novel. Select names with care. They should be appropriate for the characters.
  1. Setting is important in the mystery or suspense novel. Choose a place you know something about. Maybe you’ve lived there. Maybe you only visited.  But you need some sort of association because the place must have an aura of reality to be believable. My Kim Reynolds mysteries are set in Central New Jersey because that’s where I lived for most of my life.
  2. Your plot needs to have pacing. Watch out for midsection drag! That’s a common problem with many novels. Your book must never become dull or predictable. How to avoid this problem? Dialogue should be clever and entertaining, never wooden. Mysteries should be page-turners even if they’re not suspense thrillers. Add another murder. Place your detective in danger or your heroine in jeopardy. Even if you’re writing a cozy, there’s no excuse for being boring. A little humor enlivens the story. I also suggest doing at least a rough outline. You can always make changes as needed, but you should have a working outline. I’ve done this with every one of my mystery novels. It makes for crisper writing.
  3.  Every novel needs a theme, a unifying idea that has significance. It should be inferred rather than stated directly. However, hints of it can be given in the dialog between main characters.
  4. Write the unique novel only you can write. Observe the conventions of the genre without copying or plagiarizing the work of others.
  5. Discipline yourself to spend a certain amount of time writing each day. Do not allow excuses. Finish your novel. Then put it away for a few months. Don’t just write your novel, edit it. The hard part has come, put on your editor eyeglasses and truly see your work. No doubt you will find many errors. Correct them.
  6. When you finally begin submitting your novel to agents and editors, expect rejection. If they are generous enough to make suggestions for change, pay attention. Publishing is a tough business. Don’t get discouraged.
That’s all I have to say for now. There are tons of blogs like this one on the internet.
Some offer excellent writing suggestions. Others will list agents and publishers that are open to new work. With hard work and determination, you should be able to sell your novel. I intend to blog on writer resources in the future. So come back.
I’m open to both comments and questions. If you have something to say, please feel free.


30 comments:

  1. Nice summary. And you're so right about don't get discouraged. (#15) What I've discovered is not only does a writer need to know the craft, he or she needs to be persistent. Chances are a writer, even the best, will be rejected at some time. Those who succeed don't let that stop them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Maris, for stopping by to comment. I agree with you. Pit bull persistence is necessary if you want your writing to be published.

      Delete
  2. Great tips, good things to remember! Sometimes you get bogged down with the planning also and forget one thing - enjoy writing it, too! :) GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Christine,

      That's such a good tip to add. In fact, most of all, we have to enjoy the writing process itself or it's not worth doing. Creation should be it's own reward.

      Delete
  3. Great tips, Jacqueline. I especially liked #13: Write the unique novel only you can write. So many of the mystery novels I've read lately seem to be carbon copies of each other. The setting and plot may be changed and, of course, the characters but because they're so much alike, they tend to blur together. I like to read books that make a lasting impression on me and stand out in my mind. Your books are uniquely different and I hope mine are too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Pat,

      I do think your novels are unique. You've put an interesting spin on mystery suspense with elements of the cozy. As for my novels, thank you. I believe Kim Reynolds is a unique sleuth.

      Delete
  4. Congrats on the new blog, Jacquie. I've never read Grisham; maybe I should give him a try. Looking forward to reading future posts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Bobbi,

      Definitely read Grisham! Start with THE FIRM. You'll understand why it became a bestseller. It will suck you in from the first. It's a page-turner. I love his latest as well, SYCAMORE ROW. He hasn't lost the spark.

      Delete
  5. Jacquie, this is an excellent post. It reminded me of some points I need to consider in my writing. Thanks so much and congratulations on your new venue! Paula

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Paula. So glad you find my writing tips helpful.

      Delete
  6. Many of these are good tips for writing in any genre. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Linda,

      Writing well requires the same considerations for most genres. You're quite right.

      Delete
  7. Good tips clearly stated, Jacquie. Congratulations on the launch of your new website. It looks great!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Molly. I started this website at the urging of my daughter-in-law, Anna, who is really more like a daughter. With her help and encouragement, I hope to create a useful blog site for readers and writers. Congrats on your new novel!

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Jacquie. And good for Anna for encouraging you to create the blog. I look forward to your future posts.

      Delete
  8. Enjoyed your blog, Jacqueline. Everything listed are excellent points...which is why your stories are so wonderful. Love your website. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Laura,

      Thanks so much for your encouraging words!

      Delete
  9. It always sounds so simple, so basic, when spelled out. Well said and well worth repeating. Thanks, Jacqueline.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks, Ben, for commenting. I always think simplicity is best. Of course, advice is easy to give; it's the implementation that's difficult.

    ReplyDelete
  11. All good advice. Echoing Hemingway: "We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master."

    ReplyDelete
  12. John,

    A wonderful and true comment. But I think Hemingway did become a master.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great suggestions, Jacquie. Wish I could follow them. Sigh.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Alice,

    Seems to me you're doing everything right! You should be writing your suggestions. Thanks for dropping by.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Excellent tips, Jacquie. And a very nice new blog site. You continue to amaze me with your many fine books and blogs! If I'm lucky, I get out a book every two years and a blog every month. And so many interesting comments from other writers and fans--wow!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi, Nancy,

    Thanks for the compliments. Much appreciated. Think my head just went and swelled up. But I know what a talented writer you are since I've read your novels and your blogs.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Nice blog debut, Jacqueline! I like tip #14. Persistence and a consistent routine give the framework for all the rest to happen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by, Catherine. I realize that for many who want to write, finding time is difficult. That is why as you point out consistent routines are so important.

      Delete
  18. Excellent, Jacquie. Wish I could keep up with all you do.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi, Carole,

    Thanks for dropping by. I appreciate you checking out the new blog.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Good summary, thanks for sharing these highlights of writing mysteries.

    ReplyDelete