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Writing Mysteries

Writing Mysteries is a handbook compiled by the Mystery Writers of America and edited by Sue Grafton. Originally published in 1992, this review covers the updated second edition published in 2001. The handbook includes such contributors as Lawrence Block, Michael Connelly, Tess Gerritsen, Tony Hillerman, Sara Paretsky, Faye and Jonathan Kellerman, and many more.

Writing mysteries can prove frustrating, challenging, and satisfying. There is much to learn and to master in writing in this genre, and these masters freely give of their time and knowledge as they share the results of their experience. A number of points of view are offered to encourage and support beginning mystery writers. Noting numerous changes in the mystery genre over the years, the field is more popular than ever.

Writing Mysteries is divided into three parts: Preparation, the Process, and Specialties. Essays provided by over three dozen mystery authors include examples from their published works.

The preparation begins with how to bend, not break, the rules of mystery writing. The section continues with how to keep a work schedule, and how to research and create background, location, and setting.

The process involves the beginning, middle, and end of each story. Character development plays an important role in establishing the beginning of a good mystery. Outlining and point of view are also discussed. In the middle, the reader learns the art of writing convincing dialogue, pacing, suspense, including such plot devices such as clues and red herrings.

The end portion of the process notes how important a plausible ending is to the story and how important it is that the writer know what the end of the story will be right from the beginning. Also important is how to revise the story, finding and working with an agent, and how to market the writer’s next bestseller.

Finally, specialty mysteries such as short stories, medical and legal thrillers, historical, true crime, and young adult are addressed.

Not only will the reader of this marvelous compilation glean a wealth of important information geared toward their success as a writer, they will sit at the feet of talented well-known published writers of mysteries, thrillers, and true crime novels.

Sue Grafton successfully entered the field of mystery writing in 1982, and along with the assistance of Jan Burke and Barry Zeman, from her experience has gathered an incredible treasure trove of information. This anthology is highly recommended for any writer desiring to write saleable mysteries, and for those readers who would like to learn the finer points of a good story.



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