Although I’m a fan of how-to writing manuals, I don’t read them voraciously. In fact, a number of books are still on my to-be-read pile and have been for a long time. I used to subscribe to Writer’s Digest and bought a number of books related to mystery writing. I have about of dozen titles, and one of my favorites is Deadly Doses: a writer’s guide to poisons. I’ve also read a number of good how-to books including ones by Dean Koontz and Michael Seidman.
Three years ago, I was at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference and attended a workshop on point of view by journalist and mystery writer, Hallie Ephron. She too had written a how-to book called Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel. I bought the book because I enjoyed the workshop so much, but I didn’t get around to reading it until last week. The reason is that I’ve discovered the benefit of going through a how-to book whenever I’m working on a new novel, and that doesn’t happen often. I’m now working on my sixth mystery, and as I started reading Ephron’s book, ideas were already flowing for my book before I’d finished the introductory chapter.
I don’t know if this happens to other writers, but I find how-to books completely inspiring. The ideas flow so fast that I wind up using two notebooks: one for making notes I want to remember about mysteries in general, and a second for specific notes regarding my current WIP. All these notes slow down the reading process a fair bit, but it’s worth it. Ephron’s book is geared toward those who are planning to write their first mystery and while I already knew a lot of her tips, there’s some great stuff I learned and need to remember when incorporating my own red herrings and plot twists. If you’re interested in writing mysteries, I recommend this book, but regardless of what you write, pick up a how-to book and see if it brings inspiration as well as knowledge.
My amateur sleuth, Vancouver-based, Alex Bellamy mysteries can be purchased at
FATAL ENCRYPTION, http://tinyurl.com/ddzsxl
TAXED TO DEATH, http://tinyurl.com/czsy5n