Elizabeth Pantley, author of Old Bones and Ice Cream Cones, a Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic (Book 6), is visiting Ascroft, eh? today to give us some tips for how to write a mystery.
Welcome, Elizabeth. I’ll turn the floor over to you –
One day you say to yourself, I read so many cozy mysteries. I’d love to write one! The thought percolates and grows. But how do you even begin?
There are many articles and books about the technical approach to writing. How to make a plot outline, build characters, create a setting. This article isn’t about any of that. It’s about getting off the ground and beginning to make your dream come true when you’ve never done anything like this before.
Everyone is different, of course. But if you’ve never written a book before, here are some tips for getting started from scratch.
First, You Read
Pick two or three of your favorite books and read them again. But his time, read to learn. Pay attention to more than just the story and take lots of notes. How does the author keep your attention from page to page? How does each chapter end, and each new one begin? What sentences grab you, make you laugh, or cause you to gasp? How does the dialog flow when characters are speaking versus the narration portions of the story? How does the author describe each new character – it’s more than listing height and eye color! How does the author describe the settings? What ways make it interesting to learn about a new character or place?
Examine your Reading History
What kind of books fill your collection? Plan to write a book in the genre of those you read most. If you mainly read books about witches, don’t write a book about dragons! Write what you know, and what you enjoy reading. Your book will have more meaning and writing will be easier.
Don’t Fight a Blank White Screen
It’s unlikely you’ll pen a bestseller from the first word on a blank page. It can be overwhelming to begin from nothing. A better plan might be to come up with a basic person and place, then a rough plot line.
Who is the main character? Where does she live? Who are the people in her circle of family and friends? Once you figure that out, plan a murder! That can be the fun part. Who gets murdered, why and who did it? Once you have these basics you can approach your book in a way that feels right to you. Some people enjoy a complete chapter-by-chapter outline, others prefer to be a “pantser” – writing page-by-page by the seat of their pants and letting their creativity flow.
You might start out believing you’re a free-flowing writer but get stalled every day without a clear path. If that happens, try writing out your plot chapter by chapter and see how that feels. Until you begin you won ‘t really know what’s best for you.
To be a Writer you Must Write!
Set a plan or schedule for yourself. It might be an hour a day, or even just four hours over the weekends. Build a plan that works within your real life. If your goal is too lofty it might scare you away.
Then don’t be afraid to add more hours if things are going well and you have the time. The more you write, the easier it will get!
Read and Learn
Once you get rolling that’s the time to read some articles and books about writing a mystery. There’s so much to learn, so don’t get bogged down by doing too much research. Writing is your top priority. You can always edit later to make your manuscript better!
If you’re thinking it could take you a year to write a book, you’re right! It might take a year. But a year from now you’ll either have your book written, or you’ll still be thinking about maybe, someday you might write one. So, go ahead. Get started. Good luck!
Thank you for your advice for getting started writing cozy mysteries, Elizabeth, and good luck with Old Bones and Ice Cream Cones, a Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic (Book 6).
The novel is available online at Amazon
About Elizabeth Pantley: Elizabeth says that writing the Destiny Falls Mystery and Magic book series is the most fun she’s ever had at work. Fans of the series say her joy is evident through the stories she tells. Elizabeth is also the internationally bestselling author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution and twelve other books for parents. Her books have been published in over twenty languages. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, the beautiful inspiration for the enchanted Destiny Falls world.