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Writing Mysteries Paperback – Apr 22 2002
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The mystery, like other stories, relies on believable characters, a strong narrative, and crisp prose. But it is also "a way of examining the dark side of human nature," says Writing Mysteries editor Sue Grafton. The book's 37 contributors ponder everything from brainstorming ideas to dealing with editors. Jeremiah Healy jump-starts the book with a piece that considers the unwritten "rules" of mystery writing. Stuart Kaminsky discusses research--experts, it turns out, are just waiting for you to contact them--and Sandra Scoppettone discusses vivid villains. Sara Paretsky contemplates the pitfalls of using a recurring hero, and Michael Connelly contributes a fine piece on characterization. "The best crime novels," Connelly says, "are not about how a detective works on a case; they are about how a case works on a detective." Other chapters focus on amateur sleuths, convincing dialogue, depiction of violence, and specialty genres. The book's short chapters form a sort of mystery writer's antipasti plate. Some won't resonate, while others will leave you wishing you had a larger serving. An ideal primer for mystery writers. --Jane Steinberg
About the Author
Sue Grafton is the best-selling author of the Kinsey Millhone series. She lives in Southern California.
Top Customer Reviews
The biggest failing of Writing Mysteries is that, regardless of what the table of contents promises, it presents no real strategy for approaching the complex task of planning and writing a book-length manuscript. Many of the chapters were clearly written to fill magazine column space. They cover topics that have been covered elsewhere time after weary time, too often in an off-hand or precious manner, and they tend to give empty advice - where do you get ideas? anywhere; do you use an outline? sometimes; and on and on. Worse, many of the chapters are rambling and poorly organized, and some deal only tangentially with the topic announced in the chapter title (or subheading).
There are useful tips here, but you have to mine the whole mountain to find the nuggets. You'd do better to purchase a single-author, comprehensive guide to writing mysteries. You'll get those nuggets of writing wisdom, along with a lot more actual how-to information.
Edited by Sue Grafton, with Jan Burke and Barry Zeman
Writers Digest Books(2002)
"Writing a novel is a long distance run of the imagination...Writers need all the help they can get, wherever they can get it..." (George C. Chesbro, p.91)
So you want to write a mystery? There's a few things you'll need for your journey, among them a healthy dose of curiousity and imagination, but nothing so important as a well-worn copy of Writing Mysteries (2nd Ed.), written by the Mystery Writers of America. Everything you'll need is here, organized into just under 300 pages of collective wisdom, from well-known and not-so-well-known mystery authors.
The handbook is divided into three parts: Preparation, The Process, and Specialties. Part I includes chapters on "The Rules and How to Bend Them," how and where writers get their ideas, the pros and cons of writing with a partner, and several chapters on research and background, all exploring different facets of these subjects.
Part II, The Process, dives right in to beginnings, middles, and endings, with specific sections focusing in-depth on characterization, creating a series character, using point of view, and developing one's personal writing style. Discussions on dialogue, pacing, and "clues, red herrings, and other plot devices" lead into the beginning of the end--thoughts and recommendations on plot, revision, agents, and markets.
Part III, Specialities, contains separate and thorough chapters each detailing a particular type of mystery writing--writing short stories, for younger audiences, true crime, e-book mysteries, and even a list of additional recommended reading and references.Read more ›
This chapters in this book are written by some of the best Mystery writers in America (hence the title) but what they divulge in each chapter, informationwise, is worth it's weight in gold (or in budding mystery writers--worth it's weight in editor's advice, author's hints to getting printed, and agents dreams for all their best selling authors).
Don't wait until this book can be purchased used -- buy it new at full-price now--you won't regret it. Then read each chapter, high-light the good points, then go back and re-read a chapter or two often.
My favorite and most rich in information chapter was the one near the end describing what agents do for writers in terms of monetary contracts, how hard-copy versus soft-copy books will enrich you one way or the other, and there's even a chapter on e-printing that shared lots of neat little pieces of information.
But, the best thing about this book is you feel like the Mystery Authors who contributed a chapter each were sitting next to you, telling you little secrets about writing and the industry that they were only telling you so you could succeed and get ahead of all the others. And they were all very encouraging, positive thinking, essays.
Sue Grafton edited the book and my hat is off to you Ms. Grafton--I have read every one of your Kinsey Milhoune books A-Q, and if you don't get R out soon, I'm going to die!
Highly advise buying this book if you are aspiring to be a Mystery Writer in any genre.
It's like having all your favorite writers at your beckon call when you need advice, without the legwork. Unlike most reference books, it doesn't stifle creativity with a lot of rules and this-is-how-it's-done's. Fun to read, and-most importantly- it got me excited about my own writing again.
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