Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America

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"Across the darkened basement something creaked, and I tightened my grip on the Colt Diamondback. I'm not usually timid, but my palm was sweaty. That worried me; if I had to shoot this thing, I didn't need it flailing around in my hand like the snake it was named for." Tough spot. And you love it. You're a sleuth in your soul and a writer at heart. You can't resist the lure of the lurid, the thrill of the chase, the artful turn of a word, and the battle of wits in solving crimes of the imaginary kind. Still, as you know, mystery fiction is a
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Overview

"Across the darkened basement something creaked, and I tightened my grip on the Colt Diamondback. I'm not usually timid, but my palm was sweaty. That worried me; if I had to shoot this thing, I didn't need it flailing around in my hand like the snake it was named for." Tough spot. And you love it. You're a sleuth in your soul and a writer at heart. You can't resist the lure of the lurid, the thrill of the chase, the artful turn of a word, and the battle of wits in solving crimes of the imaginary kind. Still, as you know, mystery fiction is a species all its own, and writing it can be a special type of puzzle. But this is a special book, a writer's conference of sorts. In this book, your partners in literary criminology are among today's top mystery authors. Through informal essays, they'll show you how the pieces fit. More than a score of writers are represented here: Warren Murphy and Molly Cochran reveal the perils and pleasures of collaboration; Sara Paretsky - creator of the V.I. Warshawski series - comments on the promise and problems of inventing a recurring character; Tony Hillerman argues against plot outlines; John Lutz writes of endings and suggests knowing where you're going before you set out. With this book, you'll learn how to make your stories more taut, more real, more immediate, and more fraught with tension. "I heard the triple-click of a revolver's hammer being thumbed back. I fired. And a split-second of muzzle-flash illuminated what had first bothered me about the neon sign buzzing in the midnight fog." The solutions are up to you. But now you're armed with all the clues you need to solve the mystery ... of how to write a mystery.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Have you thought of joining the ranks of the world's top mystery writers? Sue Grafton, queen of the Alphabet Mysteries (A Is for Alibi, B Is for Burglar, and so on), and co-editors Jan Burke and Barry Zeman cover everything it takes to write a successful mystery, from preparation to specialties. The ingredients for brewing up an unforgettable plot and compelling characters, choosing a point of view, infallible structure, dialogue that works, and rippling pacing, are served up here in a host of contributions from some of the most respected writers in the genre.

The book is itself a journey through some still-uncharted territory -- the great mystery of the writer's art. It serves as a superb guide -- with shared anecdotes regarding both successful and failed attempts at various techniques -- by writers who have managed to find their niche and triumph in the genre. In the section entitled "In Search of the Novel," George C. Chesbro sums it up by recognizing "one of the greatest thrills a fiction writer can experience: discovery." The art of discovery is the true journey of writing mysteries. So, all you aspiring mystery writers -- discover, plot, craft, and most of all write, write, write. The next spellbinding mystery to hit the bookstores may be yours. (Evie Rhodes)

Sue Grafton
Mystery writers are the magicians of fiction. We're the illusionists, working with sleight of hand in the performance of our art. With this book, we'll be taking you behind the scenes so you can see how the riddles are created and the illusions sustained.
Library Journal
Like many Writer's Digest publications, this work serves as an excellent resource for the published and the would-be author. Editor Grafton, herself the successful author of the Kinsey Milhone series, orchestrates the contributions of many distinguished detective/mystery writers, including Tony Hillerman, Lawrence Block, and Ed Hock. This how-to book differs from other Writer's Digest books in that the articles move sequentially through the process from preparation to publication. The specialties section focuses on mysteries for young people and short story mysteries. A good choice for both public libraries' and writers' book shelves.-- Martin J. Hudacs, Solanco H.S., Quarryville, Pa .
Booknews
A comprehensive mystery writing guide. The contributors, all members of the Mystery Writers of America, present informal essays on the special aspects and problems of writing mystery fiction, including making stories more taut, more real, more immediate, and more fraught with tension. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582971452
  • Publisher: F+W Media, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/28/2002
  • Edition description: 2ND
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 312

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Pt. I Preparation
1 The Rules and How to Bend Them 6
2 Sparks, Triggers, and Flashes 13
3 On Work Schedules 20
4 Writing With a Partner, or ... What Part of "No" Don't You Understand? 26
5 Expertise and Research 33
6 Where Do I Find a Jewish Indian? or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Research 41
7 Background, Location, and Setting 48
Pt. II The Process
8 Characterization 57
9 Rounding Up Your Characters 65
10 Writing a Series Character 72
11 The Amateur Sleuth 79
12 Vivid Villains 86
13 In Search of a Novel 91
14 Building Without Blueprints 98
15 Outlining 105
16 Perspectives on Point of View 112
17 Dress for Success: Developing Your Personal Style 121
18 How to Write Convincing Dialogue 129
19 Pacing and Suspense 139
20 Depiction of Violence 148
21 Clues, Red Herrings, and Other Plot Devices 160
22 The Book Stops Here 166
23 In the Beginning Is the End 173
24 Revision 180
25 How to Find and Work With an Agent 190
26 Dial M for Market 197
27 The Mystery Novel From an Editor's Point of View 205
Pt. III Specialties
28 Writing Mysteries for Young Readers 217
29 The Joys and Challenges of the Short Story 224
30 The Medical Thriller 233
31 Legal Thrillers 240
32 Historical Mysteries: The Past Is a Foreign Country 246
33 From the Cradle to the Pen: The Evolution of a True Crime Writer 253
34 E-Media - Crime Fiction E-Volves 262
35 The Best of the Genre and a Reference List of Books on Writing and Technical Information 271
About the Contributors 293
Index 305
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