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on March 11, 1999
Bob Ray and Jack Remick must have very clean offices. Mine was a disaster zone until I read THE WEEKEND NOVELIST WRITES A MYSTERY.
I was laughing to myself reading WEEKEND NOVELIST. Ray and Remick have nice little flow charts. I had piles of gum wrappers and old envelopes with a few words scribbled on them ("where's the dog in chapter 10?" or "top boat speed 40 mph - police boats 60 mph from Emerald Point -- do math"). You won't find a chapter here for "waking up in the middle of the night with your brain taken over by your story, padding through a freezing house in your bahtrobe (knocking into coffee table with shin bone), and staring bleary-eyed at the computer till dawn." Which is how most of my book got written. My shins were bruised for a year and a half.
My shins are still bruised, I confess. I should move that coffee table. But I can thank Bob Ray and Jack Remick for helping me organize my thoughts and my time for my second novel. My office is cleaner for it. And my writing is cleaner too. Read the book. It will help you clean up your act as a mystery writer.
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Most aspiring and accomplished writers own at least a modest collection of how-to-write books. The majority of these books are inspirational with a smattering of tips and techniques thrown in.
The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery is different.
Step-by-step methods for constructing a tight mystery novel plot with compelling and convincing characters fill every page. Examples of the authors' own novel process along with those of other masters such as Agatha Christie, Martin Cruz Smith, Sue Grafton, and Raymond Chandler illustrate each step.
There are no timid suggestions in vague jargon here. The authors have taken great pains to make sure each and every facet of their combined writing and teaching expertise is explained thoroughly and usefully.
The importance of a solid "backstory" is the focus of early chapters, giving the writer a solid view of their story before moving on to the writing itself. The far too common problem of writing oneself to a standstill is virtually impossible if the plot and characterization techniques are followed. The remainder of the book contains a treasure trove of specific techniques for creating scenes, convincing dialogue, and "real" settings. The reader will learn how to group their scenes into logical "acts", control the story's pace, and use the language to set tone and resonance.
While structured specifically for the mystery writer, the techniques can be applied to other genres with relative ease. Any novelist, whether still aspiring or already accomplished, will find a wealth of insight into the plotting and characterization process. The beginner searching for one all-around USEFUL how-to-write book would do well to pick this one.
This is no-nonsense book crammed with useful, week-by-week projects which will lead the writer to the successful creation of a well-written, satisfying mystery.
The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery puts the "HOW" back into the how-to-write book market.
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on May 15, 1998
I stumbled upon "The Weekend Novelist" about six months ago and it transformed my writing life. "The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery" is even better, and I'm not working on mystery -- I'm working on a memoir. Prior to learning from Ray and Remick, I was wandering in the wilderness, with no clue about the difference between story and plot; why scenes are the basic building blocks of a book; or how to start with character and what makes a person tick to set the hook for the story. The Ray/Remick approach uses writing practice to help you plumb the depths but it's their emphasis on structure -- they call it "priming the subconscious" when you're in the shower as well as at your writing desk -- that really works. I wasn't a fan of writing practice before doing their exercises but now I see that it helps me go places I don't go on my computer, particularly when I use their structure profiles and do their exercises. I also appreciate the specific examples they use, especially the examples from "Murder on Drake Island," the mystery they wrote for this book. These guys can write a mean sentence -- with or without a smoking gun. Run, do not walk, to the book store if you want to make a tremendous leap in your writing.
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In Seattle, Jack Remick and Robert Ray have been developing and teaching these approaches and exercises to understanding plot and character for years. As a professional writer and teacher of writing and I have been waiting for them to be published so that I could use them with my own students without blatantly stealing them. Their approaches to writing fiction are unique in the country, as far as I know. Take the question, what is the resource base and who controls it? The answer affects everything from how one character greets another to why one character kills another. Remick and Ray take you through a step-by-step process of exploring character and building plot using Natalie Goldberg's writing practice techniques as well as brilliant strategies for building an underlying structure. This is not superficial, contrived stuff, it is about getting down to archetypal events like threshhold crossiings and down to archetypal characters like mythic helpers. I was a fiction reader for a literary magazine for five years and I wish I could send every aspiring fiction writer in the country the sections on writing dialogue. Remick and Ray use models of mysteries from The Big Sleep to Gorky Park to a mystery they've written themselves within this book to illustrate every point and strategy. They guide you through writing a mystery novel in 52 weekends, but I recommend it for writers writing nonmystery novels, too, and short stories too.
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on June 20, 1998
'The Weekend Novelist Writes A Mystery' is not just for mystery writers. Ray/Remick instruct with hard fast tools for scene, plot and character development. There's a backstory checklist and advice on sub plots; ideas for setting that utilize place, time, lighting and season to identify character behavior.
If dialog is your demon Ray/Remick break it into manageable portions; the one-two rhythm, linking to setting, echo words and hooking to the past or future. If you have a tendency to explain dialog, this book makes you aware of authorial intrusion.
As a creative writing teacher and proponent of Natalie Goldberg's creative writing technique, I have used 'The Weekend Novelist' in my creative writing classes. I look forward to utilizing this new book to enhance my own novel writing and to help my students develop their personal writing techniques.
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on September 4, 2001
Do you love to read mystery novels? Ever thought you'd like to try writing one, but had no idea where to start?
Here's your answer.
Using weekends as units of preparation and work, Ray and Remick lay out a clear, simple plan for writing a mystery novel from blank pages to a rewritten, polished final draft in 52 weekends. Even if you haven't written anything since high school, you'll have all the tools you need in this wonderful book: where to find character ideas, exactly which characters are needed, their relationships, plotting, how to handle red herrings- it's all here.
The authors are clearly experienced writers and teachers who lead you, step by step, through the creation and shaping of a mystery novel. Enjoy.
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on June 1, 1998
While I've never written a mystery, I am a professional writer and I found myself underlining huge chunks in this book that apply to just about every fictional endeavor. Ray and Remick are terrific when it comes to building plot, creating characters, and linking up the two. Not only are they wonderful teachers -- clear, encouraging, and funny -- the demo-model mystery they've created for the book shows they're crackerjack writers as well. I would recommend "The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery" to novices as well as veterans whose batteries could use a little recharging.
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on October 17, 2003
This was the single most helpful book I found to help complete the process of writing an entire mystery. Its most valuable section is on plotting, devoting the appropriate amount of time and space to each of the critical parts of a novel. Much of the advice here is to be found else where--the back story, the characters, the scene writing--but is better organized and more comprehensible in this volume. So, if you plan to only buy or use one book on writing, this is the one I believe would be the best place to concentrate your time and money.
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on May 13, 1998
This is one of the few how-to books for the pro as well as the newbie. It helps the writer maximize limited writing time by planning ahead and by shaping the story from the beginning. But this book isn't about mechanics alone; Ray sees the detective's search for truth as a mythic quest, and this approach deepens the writer's connection to the genre and the reader's appreciation of the final masterpiece. The quotes and references to published books are contemporary and fresh; this is a must-have for anyone serious about writing a mystery.
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on January 24, 1999
Bob and Jack have the keys to hot writing! Image, action, body parts! Behind the scenes of Weekend Novelist Writes A Mystery are two dynamic men who lead writing practice several times a week, teach writers at the University of Washington and never stop giving encouragement and wisdom to other writers. This book is the result of how they live and write and it is five star! Look no farther if you are a pro or novice. Herein are the steps and the hands to pull you up the stairs of your own creative mind.
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