Archive for the ‘Writing a Mystery’ Category


I was reminiscing about some of my earliest “real” reading, of The Hardy Boys (I had the whole series up through the early sixties). Folks who were outraged to discover that Tom Clancy had people ghosting his later stories should give him a break; both The Hardy Boys (since 1929) and Nancy Drew were written by contracted writers using the pen names Franklin W. Dixon and Caroline Keene, respectively.

I graduated to reading every book by Earl Stanley Gardner (before my teens), then every hardboiled detective from Phillip Marlow to Mike Hammer and beyond.

As a young adult, i reached my highest plateau: I averaged three books most afternoons after work. I read at a rate that had the pages turning Fast enough to make the story go by like a movie, and I became truly immersed in the action.

Nowadays, I try to make a novel last several days, but a truly great author can make it extremely difficult not to read “just another chapter.”

That, if I ever finish my novel, is one of my goals.


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Folks keep asking me how my novel is coming along.  Well, the truth is, the novel is on hold for now.  I feel like some changes need to be accomplished in me, primary of which is spending more time with God.  Much like writer’s block, however, it can be harder than it sounds.  The old brain always comes up with something to think on instead of Him.  Even if it’s a “good” thing, if it’s about me instead of Him it’s the wrong thing.

A friend of mine, in church the other day, allowed himself to be used by the Holy Spirit to exhort the assembly.  He spoke mightily, edifying us all, and I wish I had been able to record the prophecy.[1]  The phrase which stood out, repeated several times in different “scenes,” was, “It was just another day.”  Until the Holy Spirit moved, it was just another day.  From the believers gathering at Pentecost (Acts 2), to the lame man at Gate Beautiful (Acts 3), to Saul the Christian-hunter submitting and being baptized (Acts 9), as well as many other miraculous happenings, each time it was just another day—until someone listened, like my friend did, and complied with a particular move of the Holy Spirit.

I’ve been there.  I’ve laid hands on the sick and seen them recover immediately.  I’ve prayed and had individuals receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit “at my hands.”  I’ve seen folks delivered when demonic spirits were driven out.  And I’ve seen folks clinically dead restored to life when the doctors had given up.

I miss that, but I’m not going to seek those occurrences, just Him.

That’s why the novel and this blog have been ignored for the past while.

I’ll be back, I believe, authoring again, after I’m able to really put Him first.

[1]Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” “For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged” (1 Corinthians 14:1 and 14:31 NKJV).

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Well, dear readers, the year 2013, so far, has been full of, for me, quite a few milestones.  I retired after 43 years with the United States Postal Service and recently turned sixty-six.  Other than Route 66, I can’t come up with anything clever about that number.  It led me to Psalm 66, however:  “If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear. But certainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer, Nor His mercy from me!”  (Psalms 66:18-20 NKJV)

I’ve been keeping busy with oversight of 20 volunteers in my church’s Transcript Ministry, and by acting in an administrative capacity for our church Skit Team.

As for my novel, I’ve now written just shy of 29,000 words, and I’m somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the way to writing “The End.”  “The End” is in quotes because once I think I have it done, I will then have to go through and enhance descriptions and dialog, proofreading as I go.  Once I’ve done that, I will solicit for folks to read it and comment on it with complaints, suggestions and corrections.

Then comes another obstacle, choosing how to publish.  Even while I write, the publishing industry is changing, trying to keep up with the phenomenon of e-books.  For myself, I thought I would never have anything besides a paper-and-ink book, the pages of which I can riffle, deducing the books history, if any, by the smell; however, I now have a dozen or so e-books on my Kindle-for-PC, including the one listed in my last post (Tools, Tools, Tools), which has been educating me about writing.  Should I seek out a local publisher (my book takes place mostly in Loudoun County, Virginia) or publish an e-book and a few hard copies for gifts?  That’s something I’ll keep an eye on, but decide later, after seeking counsel from both author friends and spiritual examples.  Pride would make me want to have it printed and bound by a “real” publisher, but economic possibilities might lead me into the world of electronic publishing.  We’ll see.

Ta-ta for now.  Comments are not only welcome, they’re encouraged!!

Thanks for reading!

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As mentioned in my last post on the subject of Writing a Mystery, my brain was becoming overcome by locales, characters, events, and conversations—not to mention the intertwining plotlines!  A writer friend of mine suggested a couple of books, one of which she said she’d loan or give me, and another, which I purchased.  The one I purchased is Fiction Writing Demystified, by (trust me) Tom Sawyer.  It has, I must say inspired me to want to take my novel, when I think I have finished it, and sit down with Demystified and go through each chapter by chapter together to ensure I’ve not left anything undone.

Another tool I’m using is a little program called Diagram Designer by Michael Vinther.  I’m not doing a precise event timeline with it, but I did a plotline, diagrammed the evidence for a crime, and described the major plotline sequence of events as it pertained to the crime itself.  On other pages, I am tracking on which days of the week (and elapsed days) are in which chapters and where the scenes are on those days.

For an actual like-the-cops-on-TV timeline, as the detectives would see it, showing what evidence and connections they see thus far, I’m using an Excel template.

Most how-to-be-a-writer sites tend to suggest, if not mandate, the creation of an outline.  I have found, however, that I’m what I would call a character-driven writer.  I don’t know exactly what is down the road until I write what the characters do or say or see in the here and now.

Well, dear reader, it is time for me to get back to my characters and see where they will take me today!

Thank you for reading!

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I have certainly been remiss with respect to attending this blog.  Shame on me!  I’ll let myself off the hook, though, because I’ve been pretty diligent about working on my whodunit.  Not that it means anything in and of itself, but it feels pretty good to see “18,900 words” at the bottom of my screen.  I’ve been out to actual scenes I used in my book because I didn’t want someone telling me I didn’t at least get the locales correct.  I have had to take a few literary liberties, but not so obvious as NCIS (CBS) giving the impression that the agents quickly commute between DC and Norfolk, or that one can go from the Navy Yard to Manassas in ten minutes.

I sustain a state of wonder over the notion that my favorite authors can keep track, while writing, of what day of the week it is, which character said what, or even exactly how much each detective knows at any given time.

“How’m I gonna…?” seems to be a question which has to be answered over and over, and every time I solve that puzzle, another awaits.  I’ve been going back and reading through a series by perhaps my (currently) favorite author, Michael Connelly, the Harry Bosch series.  Every time I pick up one of his books, I am convinced that this book of mine will never fly.  At the least, I know I will have to go back through and flesh out every sort of description – characters, scenes, processes – to give life to them beyond my natural tendency to be overly concise.  Practice seems to make perfect, or at least maturation, because I find that I now recognize the too bland passages almost immediately.  I still keep on typing, though, to get the idea down “on paper.”

Some of the characters are based upon folks I actually knew decades ago, who were characters themselves.  Since I’m approaching 66, I doubt if any of them are still around to recognize themselves.

Well, it’s time to get back to my “murder board” (actually a legal pad), so I can update what my detectives know, so that, when they convene again on Monday (theirs and mine), we can get some work done!

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Chapter One seems finished,  and is roughly seven-and-a-half pages, double-spaced, and 2,300 words.

Don’t know if that’s a good “score,” or if publishers even care about that sort of thing.

Chapter Two is coming along nicely, but I need to stop.  My Weber grill is calling me!

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Okay.  I’ve begun actually working on my mystery and I have discovered, as I mentioned below, that it’s not just about imagining and writing.  There is actual hard work involved.  That’s spelled W-O-R-K! with an exclamation point.   What kind of work could there possibly be, you ask?  Here’s a sample:

Crime scene:  What does it look like?  No, what does it really look like?  Not a bare sketch, but a complete painting, so the reader will see the same picture I have in my mind.   Weather, surroundings, day or night?  The considerations are almost endless.  I do not, though, want to over-describe.  Nothing bugs me more than trying to read a promising book and getting bogged down in too much description. (I have actually stopped reading books like this.)  If the precise pattern of the curtains is not germane to the story, I need to consider if it’s even necessary.

Victim:  First time through, it was just something like “a girl.”  Like the scene, that won’t do.  Appearance, position, (again) immediate surroundings, and anything else necessary for the reader to see what I’m seeing.  If I’m not seeing fully, then I need to work on that.

Technicals:  For the locale, how are the cops dressed?   The forensics folks?  Do they have a Medical Examiner?  Where are autopsies performed?  How far is one site from another?

Action:  The action has to be described.  Sure, I see the detectives walk over to the Medical Examiner, but why, and what transpires?

Dialogue:  Who says what, and to whom?  Why?  Do I need to keep identifying the speakers, or will the reader “get it” until I insert action, “Jack said, slapping Bob on the back.”

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