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They Wrote the Book: Thirteen Women Mystery Writers Tell All [Paperback]

Sarah Dreher , Joan Drury , Helen Windrath
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Description

From Library Journal

Given her track record in publishing women's crime fiction, Windrath, senior commissioning editor and rights manager at the Women's Press in England, is well qualified to pull together this collection of essays (all but one of them original) about writing mysteries. The essays, written by such well-known mystery writers as Val McDermid, Marcia Muller, Abigail Padgett, and Barbara Paul, focus on different aspects of the writing process, e.g., research, character development, plot pacing, and creating atmosphere. Starting with Penny Summer's humorously autobiographical "Beginning at the Beginning" and concluding with Paul's thoughtful "Putting an End to the Mystery," each piece entertains as well as illuminates the motivations, frustrations, challenges, and pleasures afforded by this genre. Though the concluding "Contributors Notes" offer some biographical information about the 13 writers, a bibliography for each would have been useful as well. Although the volume is slim, the writing is excellent and should find a wide audience among aspiring writers and mystery and crime aficionados.DDenise S. Sticha, Seton Hill Coll., Greensburg, PA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

How writers write is an infinitely fascinating topic, though many writers aren't able to shed much light on it. That isn't the case here, perhaps because the collection has a tight focus--female mystery writers discussing their craft. The authors--some British, some American--provide insight into their own writing as well as valuable advice for aspiring mystery novelists. The 13 women, including Gillian Linscott, Abigail Padgett, and Marcia Muller (see The Booklist Interview on p.1596), encompass a variety of styles and approaches, and their comments on technique and on the genre itself are enlightening as well as entertaining. Of particular interest are Sheila Duffy on shaping a villain; Val McDermid on character creation and development; and Anne Wilson on a sense of place. A good source for both biographical and how-to information. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Tremendously Engrossing and Warm Collection April 30 2004
Format:Paperback
A tremendously engrossing and warm collection, THEY WROTE THE BOOK, contains essays by thirteen talented mystery authors on the craft of writing novels. "Beginning at the Beginning," Penny Sumner starts things off with advice about planning a novel and its opening. Marcia Muller, a pioneer in the field of writing women sleuths, talks about developing a series character while Ellen Hart covers sidekicks and supporting characters. Essays on writing villains, atmosphere/suspense, place, setting, character creation and development, research, plotting, style, pacing, and ending the mystery fill out the book.
One of my favorite essays is Joan M. Drury's "The Wrong Way: My Approach to Plot, Process, and Endings" in which she describes the organic methods she employs to create her stories. Instead of adhering to a strict outline and knowing in advance exactly where her plot is going, she lets it take her whither it will. This is a particularly useful essay for a new writer because most first-time authors are, indeed, making it up as they go.
The voices of each author are clear, sincere, and helpful. Reading this book was like getting an audience with a panel of experts who had already walked the path I am treading. Whether you are a new writer or an experienced author, this collection will be useful and entertaining. Highly recommended.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable help for writers . . . Oct. 16 2000
Format:Paperback
Are you a writer? Whether not-yet-published, or multi-published, any writer would benefit from having this neat little book close at hand whenever the muse says "Write something--now!" Thirteen women, writers of mystery novels all, offer their own unique opinions on a specific topic, valuable to a writer of any genre, not just the mystery/suspense field.
Some of these ladies--more well-known than others, perhaps--top my own favorite author lists: Barbara Paul, Ellen Hart and Marcia Muller. They may be on your list, too, but that doesn't mean that the other contributors don't have valuable insights to offer as well. For instance, Anne Wilson writes on place--the all-important setting for your novel. Her setting is a neighborhood in urban London, and the fact that she once lived there herself adds charm and poignancy to her writings, making the setting an inviting place to visit.
Joan Drury says she does it all wrong--according to most of the how-to books you may have read, but for her, it works. Being, therefore, the exception that proves the rule may prove to be enormously comforting to the beginning writer who doesn't plot out every step of the novel before sitting down to write. I simply must read her books to find out how she does it--with no advance planning at all!
Ellen Hart's novels abound with wonderful secondary characters. More than background or wall-paper, they add the incredible spice to her offerings, which frequently feature the most scrumptious sounding meals--not surprising then, to learn she'd been a chef for fifteen years before taking up writing. Main characters by themselves cannot carry any book for long, and Ms. Hart's short essay on characterization should be required reading for any writer.
Research, plots, beginnings, endings.
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Was this review helpful to you?
Format:Paperback
The book is good and it has some good advices, even so I could not use it (without other information) to write a mistery book.
I was not happy, because in the book, most woman, good writers, recognise their lesbian preferences, nowhere was that before I baught the book. I think, if they are open about it, we should know too before we buy, what we buy, and what the writers opinion on life is. I could or not baught it, but I would have knewn it.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable help for writers . . . Oct. 16 2000
By kellytwo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Are you a writer? Whether not-yet-published, or multi-published, any writer would benefit from having this neat little book close at hand whenever the muse says "Write something--now!" Thirteen women, writers of mystery novels all, offer their own unique opinions on a specific topic, valuable to a writer of any genre, not just the mystery/suspense field.
Some of these ladies--more well-known than others, perhaps--top my own favorite author lists: Barbara Paul, Ellen Hart and Marcia Muller. They may be on your list, too, but that doesn't mean that the other contributors don't have valuable insights to offer as well. For instance, Anne Wilson writes on place--the all-important setting for your novel. Her setting is a neighborhood in urban London, and the fact that she once lived there herself adds charm and poignancy to her writings, making the setting an inviting place to visit.
Joan Drury says she does it all wrong--according to most of the how-to books you may have read, but for her, it works. Being, therefore, the exception that proves the rule may prove to be enormously comforting to the beginning writer who doesn't plot out every step of the novel before sitting down to write. I simply must read her books to find out how she does it--with no advance planning at all!
Ellen Hart's novels abound with wonderful secondary characters. More than background or wall-paper, they add the incredible spice to her offerings, which frequently feature the most scrumptious sounding meals--not surprising then, to learn she'd been a chef for fifteen years before taking up writing. Main characters by themselves cannot carry any book for long, and Ms. Hart's short essay on characterization should be required reading for any writer.
Research, plots, beginnings, endings. Almost everything you'll ever need to know about writing any novel can be found right here. Well, maybe not. If you want to write really violent or extra-hard-boiled stuff, you won't find any help for that here. But for anyone else--lesson one in how to write a book should be--read this book first!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tremendously Engrossing and Warm Collection April 30 2004
By Lori L. Lake - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A tremendously engrossing and warm collection, THEY WROTE THE BOOK, contains essays by thirteen talented mystery authors on the craft of writing novels. "Beginning at the Beginning," Penny Sumner starts things off with advice about planning a novel and its opening. Marcia Muller, a pioneer in the field of writing women sleuths, talks about developing a series character while Ellen Hart covers sidekicks and supporting characters. Essays on writing villains, atmosphere/suspense, place, setting, character creation and development, research, plotting, style, pacing, and ending the mystery fill out the book.
One of my favorite essays is Joan M. Drury's "The Wrong Way: My Approach to Plot, Process, and Endings" in which she describes the organic methods she employs to create her stories. Instead of adhering to a strict outline and knowing in advance exactly where her plot is going, she lets it take her whither it will. This is a particularly useful essay for a new writer because most first-time authors are, indeed, making it up as they go.
The voices of each author are clear, sincere, and helpful. Reading this book was like getting an audience with a panel of experts who had already walked the path I am treading. Whether you are a new writer or an experienced author, this collection will be useful and entertaining. Highly recommended.
1 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just so you know: writen mostly by lesbian writers. June 30 2002
By J. Kertesz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The book is good and it has some good advices, even so I could not use it (without other information) to write a mistery book.
I was not happy, because in the book, most woman, good writers, recognise their lesbian preferences, nowhere was that before I baught the book. I think, if they are open about it, we should know too before we buy, what we buy, and what the writers opinion on life is. I could or not baught it, but I would have knewn it.
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