Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America Paperback – 28 Apr 2002
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Top Customer Reviews
I liked the multi-view approach. (There are 35 articles). I find the single perspective of most How-To guides an obstruction. What worked for the author doesn't necesarily work for me. With this book, I could read differing viewpoints. I got detailed explanations of how the authors approached, say, an outline - there was even an article on 'building without a blueprint'.
It worked for me and sparked some ideas for finding my own style.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
Other writers, like Tony Hillerman, who writes mysteries about the Navajo indians, writes a kind of pedantic chapter, very much geared towards people like him, who are established writers; but that the novice can find discouraging.
I find the most helpful, and best written chapter of all is one of the last ones, written by Ruth Gavin, a mystery editor; where she tells exactly what an editor is looking for in a mystery and what the readers are looking for as well. She definitely helps the first time writer to get published.
I find the traditional, cozy or not, British mystery the most enticing, entertaining and relaxing. If you are this kind of writer, this book is not going to appeal much to you. Although I would still reccomend you browse it, I suggest "You can write a mystery", by Gillian Roberts. On the other hand, if you are a Sue Grafton fan - who, by the way, is the editor of this book -, and you also like Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum; you will find this volume very appealing.
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.
So there you have it--everything you'll need to know to write a mystery--from the inkling of your first clue to the portrayal of the hero/sleuth your audiences will clamor to read about again and again. The best of the best are here--Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, Tony Hillerman, Michael Connelly, Stuart Kaminsky, Sara Paretsky, Joan Lowery Nixon, Lawrence Block, and a host of other unique voices to guide the beginning mystery writer on the journey from idea to publication. With humor and honesty, a varied assortment of very different writers share their thoughts and even some of their "trade secrets" in this excellent writer's resource. Every aspiring mystery writer should have a copy of Writing Mysteries within arm's reach.
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.