Ten Tips On Writing Mysteries

First off, these writing tips are not just for mystery writers. Gail Bowen is the author of the Joanne Kilbourn mysteries. She’s written 16 of them so far and if you’re a fan of Joanne Kilbourne you’ll learn a lot about her in this book. Secondly, the tips aren’t just for writers of series although quite a long section in a chapter titled Creating a Robust Series is devoted to that.

  1. When writing take breaks. Well, this is hardly new advice but the author suggests writing for twenty-five minutes and then take five-minute breaks. I’ve tried it and set my timer for twenty-five minutes which works marvelously well and am always surprised at how quickly the time goes by and how I get into my writing although my five-minute breaks tend to be much longer.
  2. Write early in the morning. She gets up at five am to write claiming that two hours of writing in the mourning is worth four hours of writing later in the day. I’m with her on that although not that early!  
  3. Select brief but telling details about weather and its effect on character in order to create a mood to draw the reader into the story.
  4. Make your characters deeply flawed so that your reader will be able to identify and connect with them.
  5. Use minor characters to lighten the mood while still keeping the plot moving.
  6. Give your first draft a rigorous edit before sending it off. Rigorous being the operative word.
  7. Try to give your book a title as early in the process as possible. This will guide you in keeping to the theme of your novel.  
  8. Almost every piece of writing can be improved if you cut it by a third (ouch!)
  9. Your first obligation as a writer is to offer a powerful human story.
  10. If you can’t imagine your life without writing, then you’re a real writer. Stay the course.

25 thoughts on “Ten Tips On Writing Mysteries

  1. “Use minor characters to lighten the mood while still keeping the plot moving.”

    That! That is a good one. I use minor characters as pure plot devices with a minimal set of attributes and only the most necessary things to say. God, no funny bizniz! Not on my watch. Maybe I should fatten them up a little?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Really good tips. The one about the weather–to create a mood to draw the reader into the story–excellent advice. I’ve heard the same about clothing. Don’t describe the clothing. Show how it affects the characters, plot..

    Liked by 2 people

    • I like blogging late in the afternoon or evening. I too like writing early in the morning. Well, after I’ve had breakfast, gotten dressed, take the dog for a walk, do a yoga class. So by then it’s about 9. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for sharing the information!.. for me life is a mystery so I write about life letting my fingers do the walking and the heart do the talking!… 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May your troubles be less
    Your blessings be more
    And nothing but happiness
    Come through your door
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

      • My efforts to be an early morning writer are failing (no surprise ;-)). I think I’ll try instead the 25-minute writing blocks. Seriously, how hard can it be to carve out 25 minutes to write … lol 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Great advice and I find the five-minute breaks tend to stretch a bit! If not early morning but morning writing works best for me too … although I’ve been known to have writing bursts later in the evening around ten pm – in between a definite dip! Yes to ‘Stay the course!’

    Liked by 1 person

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