Posts Tagged ‘Writing Mysteries’

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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I began reading before I entered elementary school.  By the time I advanced to junior high and seventh grade, I had read all the Perry Mason books by Earl Stanley Gardiner, every Hardy Boys book, The Mike Shayne series by Brett Halliday, The Saint series by Leslie Charteris, and (note the genre?) countless other books.  Even back then, there were the stirrings of, “I want to do that!  I want people to read something I write and like it as much as I like reading!”

Then came spy novels – Eric Ambler, Ian Fleming, John Le Carre, Graham Greene, Len Deighton, and others, and science fiction.  Not fantasy, but pure science fiction, where technology brought amazing things and happenings – many of which have since come to pass. The desire to write, however, stayed firmly in the mystery field.

I can’t say how  often I started to write something, thinking it was only a matter of imagining and writing, which I have since learned is only part of the labor involved.  Using a typewriter was frustrating.  When I wanted to do over a chapter, it had to be completely re-typed.  Bummer!  I am very thankful for PCs and word processing software!

Now that I am retired, I have purposed to begin writing that murder mystery.  This category in my blog will detail, within limits, the steps I am taking toward that goal.

First, I am dedicating two hours per weekday to the task.  (UPDATE:  Sometimes I’m faithful, sometimes not.  Sometimes, I ricky-ticky along for hours!)

Second, I am actually going to make use of the fabulous “den,” or office Mary had custom built for me some years back, but which has remained, sorrowfully, mostly only a repository for my collections of books, not all of which are mysteries, by the way.

Next, having worked with two published authors as a reader, I took some lessons I learned from them, plus some critiques of my early (nay, juvenile) attempts and some helpful hints from a score of websites devoted to such things – including the “Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories” by S. S. Van Dine, plus some actual forensics sites to help my “CSI” details pass muster.

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