This is day two of the Mystery We Write blog tour, and author Jean Henry Mead is my honored guest.
Jean is a national award-winning photojournalist with articles published domestically as well as abroad. She’s also a mystery/suspense and historical writer. Her books include two children’s mysteries, three Logan & Cafferty mystery suspense novels, two historicals and a number of history books as well as five books of interviews with writers, actors, screenwriters, politicians, ranchers and ordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary things. Jean’s website is www.jeanhenrymead.com
Anne – Welcome back, Jean. Tell us about your most recent release.
Jean - The Mystery Writers is a collection of interviews with some of the Mystery genres’ bestselling and award-winning novelists as well as journeymen writers. They represent twelve subgenres: traditional mysteries, suspense, cozies, amateur sleuths, thrillers, crime novels, noir, private eyes, historicals, contemporary western mysteries and police procedurals. The book features Sue, Grafton, Lawrence Block, J. A Jance, James Scott Bell, Vicki Hinze and many others. Some of them are writing from as far away as
, South Africa , the Thailand , UK and Canada . Their advice is invaluable to novice writers as well as veterans of the publishing industry. Brazil
Anne - Are you most proud of one book you’ve written in particular? Why?
Jean - I’m most proud of The Mystery Writers, although I didn’t actually write it. I conducted the interviews on my blog site, Mysterious Writers, and decided they were too valuable to allow them to disappear into cyber space. When I had collected more than enough, I decided to contain them in a book and asked the authors to contribute articles about writing. I then edited the collection. Although this is my fifth book of interviews and second volume of mystery writers, I consider it my best. (My first, Mysterious Writers, was published by Poisoned Pen Press and is still selling well.)
Although I’ve published 17 books, this is the one I’m most proud of because I think it’s so filled with good writing advice that most writers—whether mystery novelists or other genres—will find the book invaluable.
The following is an excerpt from James Scott Bell, former Writer’s Digest fiction columnist:
(1) Thou Shalt write a certain number of words every week
This is the first, and greatest, commandment. If you write to a quota and hold yourself to it, sooner than you think you’ll have a full length novel. (I used to advocate a daily quota, but I changed it to weekly because inevitably you miss days, or life intrudes, and you run yourself down. I also take one day off a week.) So set a weekly quota, divide it by days, and if you miss one day make it up on the others.
(2) Thou Shalt write passionate first drafts
Don’t edit yourself heavily during your first drafts. The writing of it is partly an act of discovering your story, even if you outline. Your plot and characters may want to make twists and turns you didn’t plan. Let them go! Follow along and record what happens. I edit my previous day’s work and then move on. At 20k words I “step back” to see if I have a solid foundation, shore it up if I don’t, then move on to the end.
(3) Thou Shalt make trouble for thy Lead
The engine of a good story is fueled by the threat to the Lead character. Keep turning up the heat. Make things harder. Simple three act structure: Get your Lead up a tree, throw things at him, get him down.
(4) Thou Shalt put a stronger opposing force in the Lead’s Way
The opposition character must be stronger than the Lead. More power, more experience, more resources. Otherwise, the reader won’t worry. You want them to worry. Hitchcock always said the strength of his movies came from the strength and cunning of the villains. But note the opposition doesn’t have to be a “bad guy.” Think of Tommy Lee Jones in the The Fugitive.
(5) Thou Shalt get thy story running from the first paragraph
Start with a character, in a situation of a change or threat or challenge, and grip the reader from the start. This is the opening “disturbance” and that’s what readers respond to immediately. It doesn’t have to be something “big.” Anything that sends a ripple through the “ordinary world.”
(6) Thou Shalt create surprises
Avoid the predictable! Always make a list of several avenues your scenes and story might take, then choose something that makes sense but also surprises the reader.
(7) Thou Shalt make everything contribute to the story
Don’t go off on tangents that don’t have anything to do with the characters and what they want in the story. Stay as direct as a laser beam.
(8) Thou Shalt cut out all the dull parts
Be ruthless in revision. Cut out anything that slows the story down. No trouble, tension or conflict is dull. At the very least, something tense inside a character.
(9) Thou Shalt develop Rhino skin
Don’t take rejection or criticism personally. Learn from criticism and move on. Perseverance is the golden key to a writing career.
(10) Thou Shalt never stop learning, growing and writing for the rest of thy life
Writing is growth. We learn about ourselves, we discover more about life, we use our creativity, we gain insights. At the same time, we study. Brain surgeons keep up on the journals, why should writers think they don’t need to stay up on the craft? If I learn just one thing that helps me as a writer, it’s worth it.
Anne – WOW. The Mystery Writers is on my TBR list.
Jean – Thank you for hosting my blog tour. I'll be giving away a print copy of The Mystery Writers as well as an ebook copy at the conclusion of the tour in a drawing from visitors who leave comments at my blog sites.
Thanks, Jean! I'm midway through and enjoying every interview in The Mystery Writers. Great read! If I didn't have my own copy I'd be leaving a slew of comments to enter your draw. :)
Just a final word to readers, I’m visiting Marja McGraw’s blog today on the Mystery We Write blog tour. Leave a comment to win an ecopy of Frank, Incense and Muriel, book one of the Muriel Reeves Mysteries.
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