Sunday, October 5, 2008

So You Want to Write a Mystery?

I’m often asked to list the most important steps one can take to become a writer.  I usually say,  “Finish the book.”  Until you have actually finished it, there’s no point worrying about an agent or an editor or whether or not you should copyright the premise you plan to use in your work. 

THE WRITERS MARKET (in most libraries) will detail how to prepare a manuscript for submission and give addresses. I would suggest that you also check out these really good books: DON'T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY by Chris Roerden, HOW TO WRITE KILLER FICTION by Carolyn Wheat, and WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL by Donald Maass.  Gillian Roberts has posted a whole sensible writing course on her website: and Larry Block has also written extensively on the subject. These should help you finish the book and get you past your doubts.  

Although I wrote the following somewhat tongue-in-cheek for Mystery Scene Magazine a few years ago, I think it’s still relevant. 

The Ten Best Pieces of Writing Advice I Ever Received . . .

  1.  from Mom:  “Write as often as you can.”

  2.  from a secretary who, when called to testify at her boss’s trial, was forced to admit she wasn’t hired for her office skills:  “Learn to type.” (Six weeks at a community college will make you a touch typist for life.)

  3.  from Dick and Jane:  “Read.”  (In and out of your field.)

  4.  from Black and Decker:  “Don’t read one how-to book; read a dozen.”  (So you’ll understand there’s more than one way to build a house — or craft a book.)

  5.  from Moses:  “Rewrite.”  (Even when your words are engraved in stone, they aren’t engraved in stone.)

  6.  from Mrs. Johnson, 2nd grade:  “Neatness counts.”  (And sloppy manuscripts signal a non-professional.)

  7.  from the Marquis de Sade:  “Submit.”  (No work ever sold while sitting in a file cabinet.)

  8.  from William Tell:  “Don’t aim too low.”  (Target the top markets in your field and submit there first.)

  9.  from (a tie) Pandora:  “Hope”  and from Tinkerbell:  “Believe!”

10.  from Ann Landers:  “Use it or lose it.”  (Write!)

Good luck!

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