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Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America Paperback – 28 Apr 2002

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: F&W; 2nd Revised edition edition (28 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582971021
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582971025
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 972,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
I bought this book on the recommendation a lady who managed to get her first crime novel published and has gone on to become a sucessful writer. The thought-provoking articles and insights helped her enormously. They've helped me too.

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.
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Format: Paperback
Surely, this book is great if you always TALKED about writing that mystery novel... But it does not provide any actual help in writing your novel. There are bits and pieces of advice scattered around the book, but you have to read through 270 pages to find them. I am sure the most important clues in this book could be reduced to a 25 pages book. The rest are just useless anecdotes from the lives of writers - in my opinion anyway.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars 41 reviews
169 of 174 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Empty advice - scrambled eggs with not enough ham 15 Jun. 2004
By Daniel M. Hobbs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A favorite device of the Writer's Digest Books imprint is to collect a couple dozen magazine articles under some organizational headings, add an introduction by a well-known genre name (Sue Grafton, in this case), and publish it as a book. I've found these collections to be uniformly unsatisfying, short on real how-to information and long on shopworn cliches. Writing Mysteries is no exception.
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.
44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good advice, but not very user-friendly 17 Nov. 2000
By Karina A Suarez - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a kind of "anthology" reference book on writing modern mysteries for want-to-be authors. Everything from where to look for inspiration, building a good plot, mastering ambience and effective character and dialogue development is here. What is also here - and very much present - is, in fact, the influence of crime writers. For example, the first chapter discusses the general "rules" for writing a mystery. I find it too partial to the modern, American crime writers, depecting the use of violence, certain cities, etc.; as the optimal places to write mysteries about.
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.
50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything you'll need to finally write that mystery! 16 Jun. 2002
By Ellen Zuckerman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Writing Mysteries, 2nd Ed.: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America
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.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good handbook for the novice mystery writer. 4 April 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Novice writers of this genre and those who just love to read mystery books will get a lot from this book. The essayists are all published writers of the genre who give expert advice with excellent examples to guide the reader toward better understanding.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do NOT Wait to Get This Book If You Want to Writer Mysteries 16 Sept. 2003
By iqhope - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
WOW! I just finished reading this book and I NEVER read a book twice, but I plan on going back and re-reading every chapter in this book at least twice to make sure I didn't miss anything in the first go-round.
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.
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