Monday, March 29, 2010

Before You Write a Mystery (5): Preparing to Write a Series

It's popular to write a series of books using the same main character. Often this happens accidentally when an author writes about a character who is so engaging that readers beg for more. Other authors plan to write a series from the beginning.

If you think you may want to develop one book into a series, it's important to plan ahead to ensure the backstory is deep enough to accommodate more than one book. Here are some points to consider before you write a series of mysteries:

1. Main character development: Develop a full biography of your main character including many idiosyncrasies and details about his/her childhood, youth, and early working years. You may not need all of it in your first book, but over time, you will draw on the details in your character's biography time and time again.

2. Secondary characters: If you are writing a series of books, it'll add to the depth of your story and the enjoyment of your readers if you have a small cast of recurring secondary characters for your main character to interact with.

Backstory development for each of these secondary characters is important to give your characters consistency from one book to the next. Readers like the predictability of these details and they often come back to read subsequent books due to the quirks of secondary characters as well as the appeal of your main character.

3. Setting: Unless your character will be in a different location for each book of your series, you will need to spend a bit of concentrated time developing the overall setting and several familiar settings within the area. I'll go into this in more detail later. For now, give the main setting and sub-settings some thought. Be sure to choose locations that will accommodate your main character, his/her type of mystery business, lifestyle and friends.

For example, if you want to develop a series about a bookish, middle-age woman who just happens to have dead bodies fall at her feet, such as Jessica Fletcher, a small town setting would probably work best. However, if your main character is a police detective, a big city setting might be better.

Before you write, it's important to give the setting considerable thought so it will work best for not only the first book but for subsequent books in the series.

You will write from greater authenticity if you develop the details about your main and secondary characters and your setting fully before your write your book. Rather than making up details later, you will have them at hand. Doing this detail work before you write will ensure the consistency and accuracy that readers demand.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A New Look for Writer's Creative Studio

Received a couple of comments that the yellow of the old blog template was a bit hard on the eyes... Therefore Writer's Creative Studio has a new look... Hope this is easier to read.

Tomorrow... the next episode of Before You Write a Mystery.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Before You Write a Mystery (4): Notes

I started working on a book once and was so anxious to get going, I didn't stop long enough to devise a way to keep track of everything. Needless to say, I found myself having to untangle all the details in the middle. A frustrating job.

The plots of mysteries are particularly complicated and the details of the settings and characters require special attention to those details. It will make your job much easier if, before you start writing, you set up a system to keep track of things.

You can choose to keep track of details by hand by writing notes on file cards or in a notebook, on the computer by setting up some sort of searchable database, or on a story board.

Regardless of the system you set up, here are a few of the things you may want to include in your notes:

1. Characters. As you go along, you will invent details about your characters that will enhance their presence in your story. Keep a list of those details, so you don't have to search the manuscript for them later.

2. Note all setting information, including:
  • geographical locations and descriptions
  • scene settings should include details of rooms, furniture, building quirks that may be important to the story later
  • the atmosphere of each location is important to ensure you convey a consistent mood
3. Books and articles. Keep track of references as you go along. It'll be a big job to redo it at the end.

4. People. Keep track of the people who help you and their contact information. You will want to mention them in the acknowledgment section of your book and you may want to send them a copy later.

5. Ideas. Set up a file for ideas that come to you along the way. Don't rely on your memory to recall every brilliant thought you have while showering or driving somewhere. Write them down and put them in one spot.

6. Outlines. Set up a system for plotting out your book. Fill in parts ahead of time as they come to you.

7. Rough drafts. Set up a system of keeping track of your rough drafts. I put a date in the header or footer to keep it all straight. Some other system might work well for you. You'll save time if you employ a consistent system for keeping your computer files straight from the beginning.

Okay..., there's a start to the organization of your work. Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Before You Write a Mystery (3): Read

During the last two episodes of Before You Write a Mystery, I suggested that reading is important to determine what sub-category of mystery you may want to write. It is doubly important to read, read and read some more in order to get a good feel for the mystery sub-category you have chosen.

By reading, I'm not suggesting that you merely skim through books to see if you enjoy them. I'm suggesting that you take a book and:
  1. read it once for general understanding of the story;
  2. read it again for the pace;
  3. read it again to pick out the pivotal characters and to identify the function of each character in moving the story forward;
  4. read it again and make a detailed outline of the story; and
  5. read it again and mark the outline to show the important points of the plot that lead the reader through the mystery (paying particular attention to recurring climax and resolution).
Multiple readings of not one but many books will give you a view of the inner workings of the mystery sub-category you have chosen. All of the books will not show the same results, but you will discover a pattern that will be valuable to you when you start writing.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Before You Write a Mystery (2): Types

Before we get into the nitty gritty of the Before You Write a Mystery Series, let's consider the types of mysteries so you can get a feel for what you want to write.

There are four traditional types of mysteries. They are:

Cozy Mystery: The traditional cozy mystery is usually about an amateur sleuth who has no intention of becoming a detective. The setting includes a small town and a limited sphere of people. Often some of the characters recur in the books within a series. In many cases, the sleuth is a woman, middle age or older, who has some other responsible job, such as librarian, etc. The murder in a cozy is usually quick with little gore to upset the reader. The story revolves around the interesting untangling of facts that lead to the discovery of the murderer. Sometimes, cozy mysteries are not about murder, but usually they are. Examples of cozy mysteries are: Agatha Cristie books, books about Miss Marple, Lillian Jackson Braun's The Cat who... series, and the TV series Murder She Wrote.

Police Procedural: The simple explanation of this type of mystery is that it is a novel that deals realistically with police work. Accuracy is important in police procedurals. You can not make up procedures for them to follow in investigating a crime. The readers know what is authentic. In many cases, the characters will be investigating a primary case but will be shown attending to other current cases as well. Also, it is usually written from the point of view of the policeman or detective investigating the crime. Sherlock Holmes is an example of this. On TV, Law and Order is a police procedural.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ready...Set...Tweet! A Speedy Guide to Twitter by Lou Belcher

Good morning. I just received copies of my book Ready...Set...Tweet! A Speedy Guide to Twitter and it is now available on Amazon.

If you are new to Twitter or know someone who might need some help getting set up and started on Twitter, I've written this book for you. The book is short and to the point. It tells the how-to of it all, complete with screen shots to help you understand what to do.

In addition, it covers the uses of Twitter and particularly how to use it to help market yourself or your book or product.

I hope you enjoy it. To read an excerpt, go to

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Before You Write a Mystery (1)

A while back, I wrote a series of blog posts on what to do before you write non-fiction and then what to do before you write fiction. Recently, I was asked to blog about getting ready to write a mystery. This is the first in that series. It's an introduction.

Many of the elements of writing any book are similar. You probably always need an outline of sorts and you need to do some research before you start writing.

Mystery writing has its own preparation. The first step in preparation is to identify what type of mystery you want to write. We'll start in the next session with the different types of mysteries. Your assignment from this blog post is to look through your book shelves and see what types of mysteries you read most often. Consider each novel of the mystery genre that you have read recently and determine how much you enjoyed it.

My suggestion of course will be to write one in the same niche as the ones you like the most. First you must carefully consider those you have read and what you liked about them. Get started on that and we'll talk about types of mysteries next time.

If you're interested in ensuring you don't miss a post of this series, I have recently put up a follower gadget, feel free to sign on to receive notification when I post. ...