Joyce Oroz BookHow to Write a Mystery Novel

By Joyce Oroz

Writing is something you can do between other things such as school or work. Chances are you will not write a popular novel right away. It could happen, but most likely you will have to study and write, work and write, think and write, keep writing and hope that you will be “published” some day.

I don’t mean to sound bleak, but there are millions of “writers” in this world struggling to get their work noticed and published, and unless you know how to promote your book properly, it’s unlikely you will get noticed by a publisher right away. It does not matter how fast you write, it matters that you are like the turtle-you don’t give up. Anything worthwhile is worth working your fingers to the bone and then some. Writing isn’t “work” if you enjoy doing it.

Write what you know about, your experiences, thoughts, beliefs. If your character is going to the Congo, research the Congo thoroughly. Want to include a fox terrier, research it. Be able to describe its bark, the color and length of its hair, etc. You must be able to convince your readers that they are looking at the thing you describe. Show how the thing looks, smells and runs-make it seem real even if it’s a three-headed toad wearing miss-matched socks.

I have been writing a journal for ten years. Writing about the days events helps me to honor my own life experiences, no matter how minor. Some of those experiences will end up in my mystery stories. Your life experiences are all your own. Draw from them in your writing. The habit of writing for five or ten minutes in a journal every evening will help to form a habit of writing which will carry over to your novels and a lifetime of serious writing. Just think, if you wrote one page a day-every day, you would have a 365-page book in one year. Set realistic goals and follow through.

When you take Creative Writing classes (which I recommend) you will be encouraged to write an outline or a time-line of your story before you begin the first chapter. Most writers do this, but not everyone. It is helpful to know your plot in the very beginning. I wish I could come up with an outline, but the plot doesn’t appear for me until I am halfway through the book. Instead of giving up, I created my own methods.

I write mystery stories in an unconventional way. When I am ready to start a new book, I think up a quirky or unusual murder which usually happens in the first chapter. I spend months and many chapters trying to figure out who, why and how this murder happened.

Example: In the first sentence of the first chapter of my fifth book, my protagonist’s neighbors’ house blows up in the middle of the night. I am only on page 92 and the plot is starting to reveal itself to me. I think I know who murdered the neighbor and why. Of course I can always change my mind. My characters tend to lead me where they want to go.

In my head I am the protagonist searching for clues, wondering what happens next. Usually I set up three or four characters who might be the murderer, dropping clues along the way. At some point, I decide who’s guilty, but Josephine and my readers don’t find out until the end of the book. By that time the plot is clear to me and I can push it to the finish line.

Simple rules for writing an interesting book are:

1. Set realistic goals and follow through.

2. Start the action early so the reader is quickly drawn into the story.

3. Everything you write should push the story forward.

4. Showing what happens is better than telling what happens.

5. Create a good mix of dialogue and narrative.

6. Create characters readers will “love to love” and “love to hate.”

7. Take Creative Writing classes-daytime, evening-whenever you can.

8. Learn to write a perfect query and synopsis.

9. Write about what you know and write, write, write!

If your book is published without doing half a dozen rewrites and your walls are not papered with rejections-you are one-in-a-million! Good Luck!!

Joyce Oroz is a freelance journalist, muralist and author. She lives in Aromas with her husband and their Labrador retriever. Joyce writes about our beautiful central coast, its people and murder-not bloody murder, just enough of a murder to create a fast-paced mystery story. Her novels pull you in and don’t let go until the very end. Adding to your entertainment is the fact that many California locations are recognizable, making the scenes easy to imagine and follow. Oroz has just released a third novel in the Josephine Stuart Mystery Series, “Shaking In Her Flip Flops” that is now available from Kindle.

For more information: 831-726-9923

Thank you, Joyce for your practical tips–they serve as useful reminders to the experienced writers, and as motivation for the aspiring writers.

____Etiquette is an attitude.

Rosalinda Randall is an Etiquette and Civility Consultant. She provides on-site workshops for your sales team, administrative assistants, new hires, exit package, managers, high school and colleges. She brings a modern attitude and a little humor to the age-old topic of etiquette. Based in Northern California.