Writing Your First Mystery (or any) Novel

I’d like to give some advice to those who are attempting to write their first novel so you don’t make the same mistakes I did.

Some books are easier to write than others are. My earliest writing was academic, where I wrote Introduction to Psychology for a university of which I was a fulltime instructor, contributed a chapter to the ABC-CLIO publication, Adolescence in America, as well as authored and co-authored several academic articles on harm prevention and data quality.  🙂  This last article could also be an effective substitute for a healthier, non-addictive sleeping pill). 🙂

Writing for myself, I started with a blog, which was invaluable as far as becoming a better writer and working up the nerve to try my hand at professional writing. I even garnered some great advice through my first Melindaville blog, when a woman I didn’t even know contacted me to say that she liked my stories but that I needed help with writing. I was not at all offended—I was thrilled that she wanted to help me! She gave me some great advice. I wish I could credit her but it was in 2009 and I no longer remember her name, since I (unfortunately) lost all my former blog files in a computer meltdown where I hadn’t done a proper backup in way too long (smacks my hand at that failure that will never happen again).

After blogging for a while, I decided Is wanted to write a novel. My first idea for a novel (and it’s still a WIP (work in progress, as I have written about 6 chapters of it) was a time travel novel about the Titanic, of which I have long had a fascination. Instead, I decided to focus on The Purified and I did so for many reasons. First, I knew the subject well, since I am a former call girl, I knew I could write professionally about such a hidden industry. Moreover, I had an idea that I had floating around in my noggin for a long time so I decided to go with that direction instead.

That’s where I made many mistakes. Big ones. Mistakes that took me on a four-year journey to write a book that should have only taken me two years to write. The problem was that I didn’t have an outline, which is more important for a mystery novel than any other kind because it simply cannot ‘organically grow.’ My memoir was a different story—the book wrote itself because it was based on my own experiences and I knew what the climax and ending would be, long before I started the writing process.

But a writer must look at a mystery as a piece of intricate interweaving of each character’s storyline and merging those storylines into one cohesive story that ties up each end neatly in a well thought out conclusion. Without an outline, this is near impossible to do. It wasn’t until my fourth revision, when I again came to a point (at this point, well into the novel) where I realized the contradictions and inconsistencies in my book. Oh, the virtual wastebasket—how many ePages were lost to those failed endeavors.

But the good news?

I learned. And I keep learning. We should always be lifelong learners no matter what our field (or new field) because there is always improvement. I believe I’m a decent writer now but I have a long way to go—and that excites me because I love to see myself improve. When I look back at that unpublished memoir, I see a promising writer but one that needed much more honing of her craft. I still need that—but I need less of it than I did before I completed The Purified (which took eight revisions, multiple heartaches with agents and publishers who were on the brink of a book deal, only to have those dashed).

Writing is not a career for the thin-skinned or the faint of heart. You must have motivation, perseverance, and a total dedication that what you are doing is worthwhile. I remember what Stephen King once said about his own writing: “First, I write to please myself and then I hope to please others” (or something to that effect).

That’s where I am too. I loved writing The Purified and I am enjoying writing The Deceived (Volume 2 of the series).

And yes, this time I have an outline!



2 thoughts on “Writing Your First Mystery (or any) Novel

  1. Fortunately you have a past as an actor…another career choice which is not for the thin-skinned! 😉 I have always loved reading your musings my dear sister-friend. Thanks for sharing! (((hugs)))

    1. Oh Sweetie–I am still getting used to WordPress and just saw this. Thank you so much for stopping by and saying hi. I love you sweet sister!

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