Writing Your Gripping Crime Novel

     You know you’re reading a great mystery novel when you’re up at three in the morning, unable to put it down. When you finally fall asleep, the characters go romping around in your dreams. When you get to the final page, you smack yourself in the head because the solution seems obvious in retrospect yet came as a complete surprise.

     Page-turning suspense. Rich characterization. A credible surprise ending. Sounds pretty simple, but writing a mystery novel is not for the faint of heart…Be prepared to keep three or four intertwined pots spinning. Get ready to master the art of misdirection so readers will ogle those red herrings you’ve sprinkled while ignoring the real clues in plain sight. Don’t be surprised when you find yourself riding herd on a load of characters who won’t go where you want them to.

     On top of that, you’ll need dogged determination and intestinal fortitude to stick with it, through the first draft and endless revisions, until your words are polished to lapidary perfection. It wouldn’t hurt, either, to have the hide of a rhinoceros to withstand the inevitable rejections. Talent being equal, what separates many a published mystery writer from an unpublished one is sheer stamina. Only gluttons for punishment need apply.

Halle Ephron, Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel, 2005

     You know you're reading a great mystery novel when you're up at three in the morning, unable to put it down. When you finally fall asleep, the characters go romping around in your dreams. When you get to the final page, you smack yourself in the head because the solution seems obvious in retrospect yet came as a complete surprise.

     Page-turning suspense. Rich characterization. A credible surprise ending. Sounds pretty simple, but writing a mystery novel is not for the faint of heart…Be prepared to keep three or four intertwined pots spinning. Get ready to master the art of misdirection so readers will ogle those red herrings you've sprinkled while ignoring the real clues in plain sight. Don't be surprised when you find yourself riding herd on a load of characters who won't go where you want them to.

     On top of that, you'll need dogged determination and intestinal fortitude to stick with it, through the first draft and endless revisions, until your words are polished to lapidary perfection. It wouldn't hurt, either, to have the hide of a rhinoceros to withstand the inevitable rejections. Talent being equal, what separates many a published mystery writer from an unpublished one is sheer stamina. Only gluttons for punishment need apply.

Halle Ephron, Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel, 2005

from http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com/

Learning to Write

     You learn to write by writing. It’s a truism, but what makes it a truism is that it’s true. The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis.     If you went …

     You learn to write by writing. It's a truism, but what makes it a truism is that it's true. The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis.

     If you went to work for a newspaper that required you to write two or three articles every day, you would be a better writer after six months. You wouldn't necessarily be writing well--your style might still be full of clutter and cliches. But you would be exercising your powers of putting the English language on paper, gaining confidence and identifying the most common problems.

William Zinsser, On Writing Well, originally published in 1975

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William Noble on Writing Styles

     When I speak of good, clean prose, of grammatically correct phrasing, I’m talking about writing that has no redundancies and no awkward, self-conscious parts. You’re carried forward by the lilt of the writer’s style where words and …

     When I speak of good, clean prose, of grammatically correct phrasing, I'm talking about writing that has no redundancies and no awkward, self-conscious parts. You're carried forward by the lilt of the writer's style where words and phrases have purpose, and where the music of words will create a harmony of word sounds. In simple writer-editor language, writing such as this "works."

     But remember, it's style you're really considering, and you don't want to get bogged down in a maze of rules and procedures. Your individuality makes itself known through your style, and sometimes the techniques that don't work for one writer might work for another.

William Noble, Noble's Book of Writing Blunders, 2006

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Novel Writing: A Calling Or A Job?

There is something dreary about wanting fiction writing to be a real job. The sense of inner purpose, so often unmentionable in a society enamored of professionalism, distinguishes a writer from a hack. Emily Dickinson didn’t turn her calling into a jo…

There is something dreary about wanting fiction writing to be a real job. The sense of inner purpose, so often unmentionable in a society enamored of professionalism, distinguishes a writer from a hack. Emily Dickinson didn't turn her calling into a job, and neither did Franz Kafka, or Fernando Pessoa, or Wallace Stevens, or any of the millions of writers who have never earned a penny for their thoughts. A defrocked priest forever remains a priest, and a writer--independent of publication or readership or "career"--is always a writer. Writing, after all, is something one does. A writer is something one is.

Benjamin Moser, The New York Times, January 27, 2015


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When a Novelist Throws In The Towel

Nothing more horrible, no failure of nerve more acute, than to be a novelist and not write, to never write, perhaps to stop, to decide to stop, not to hope for writing or want it, to let go of writing, to swear it off like drugs or sex with the wrong p…

Nothing more horrible, no failure of nerve more acute, than to be a novelist and not write, to never write, perhaps to stop, to decide to stop, not to hope for writing or want it, to let go of writing, to swear it off like drugs or sex with the wrong person, or some other terrible compulsion that will finally tear one apart. The writer not writing is a wholly guilty party, like someone who through anger or neglect has killed off his own life's mate, counterpart, reason to live.

Jayne Anne Phillips in Eleventh Draft, edited by Frank Conroy, 1999

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Thornton P. Knowles on What It Takes to be a Writer

To be a writer you need, besides a little talent and a little time, two personality traits that seem contradictory: extreme self-centeredness and an inferiority complex. Normal people need not apply.Thornton P. Knowles, The Psychology of Writing, 1976

To be a writer you need, besides a little talent and a little time, two personality traits that seem contradictory: extreme self-centeredness and an inferiority complex. Normal people need not apply.

Thornton P. Knowles, The Psychology of Writing, 1976

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The Demands of Writing for Young People

Writing for young people is a great responsibility, because their minds are impressionable and what they read can effect not only their current lives but their future ones as well. Writing for them should be approached with a serious regard for the pos…

Writing for young people is a great responsibility, because their minds are impressionable and what they read can effect not only their current lives but their future ones as well. Writing for them should be approached with a serious regard for the possible influence of your words. Do not plan to write for children because you think it easy, or the writing does not need to be as good as that in books for adults. Requirements for good juvenile writing are far more strict than they are for adult fiction.

Lee Wyndham, Writing for Children & Teenagers, 1988

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Thornton P. Knowles on What It’s Like To Be a Writer

Asking what it’s like to be a writer is a lot like asking what it’s like to be a dentist or an attorney. The answer depends on where you live, what you write, how successful you are, how old you are, if you’re married, and how you think of yourself as …

Asking what it's like to be a writer is a lot like asking what it's like to be a dentist or an attorney. The answer depends on where you live, what you write, how successful you are, how old you are, if you're married, and how you think of yourself as a writer. But there is one thing that most writers do say about the writing life: it's lonely and frustrating. Writers seem to feel misunderstood by people who don't write and under-appreciated or ignored by the reading public. Feeling isolated and forced to compete with other writers, many authors complain that their books are not adequately promoted by their publishers. Otherwise, they're a contented group of workers.

Thornton P. Knowles, The Psychology of Writing, 1976 

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Fiction Versus Nonfiction Writing

Writing nonfiction is like carving a rock. It sits there. It’s hard. It’s big. And you whittle away at something concrete. Writing fiction is like pulling things out of the air. Nothing is there but invention. It’s disconcerting, thrilling.Marie Arana …

Writing nonfiction is like carving a rock. It sits there. It's hard. It's big. And you whittle away at something concrete. Writing fiction is like pulling things out of the air. Nothing is there but invention. It's disconcerting, thrilling.

Marie Arana in Off the Page, Carole Burns, editor, 2008 

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