Writing a Mystery: What I’ve Learned

I took a break away from the hard work of writing another police procedural mystery when I’d finished the third in the series called On Behalf of the Family. At that point I was waiting for the proofreader to finish up. I couldn’t look at the manuscript one more time. The writers among you may know the feeling.

My fictional detective, Dave Mason, is a composite of the homicide detectives I’ve known—and read about. I lived in Santa Monica for many years and love its glitzy mean streets as does my protagonist, Detective Dave Mason of the Santa Monica Police Department. But while I waited for the proofreader to finish up, a compulsion came over me to tell everything I’d learned about the genre.

I didn’t do any of the sensible things I should have done, for example, research the market, think about marketing strategies—any of that. I just started writing: I. Writing Your First Mystery; II. Plotting Your First Mystery; and, III. Creating Killer Characters. Short eBooks of about ten thousand words.

The writing was a joy because it flowed so easily. None of that head-scratching anxiety of write three sentences, delete two. I discovered how much I’d learned in the process of writing four unpublishable novels, then four fairly successful whodunits. I had taught myself how to write, how to plot, and how to motivate memorable characters on the printed page. I decided to make them eBooks and only then I did the hard work of figuring out how to bring them to the attention of someone with a burning idea who doesn’t know where to start.

We’ll see how they do in terms of selling. In the meantime I’ve got another Dave Mason of the Santa Monica Police Department with the proofreader. It’s called A Very Private High School. Sometimes it’s hard to measure where you came from. I can look through these craft books about writing mysteries and say yes, it’s been a helluva ride, but I’ve come a long way. Hope you like them too. Stay tuned for a publication date.

 

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