Monday, October 29, 2007

Brandilyn Collins.

Deb Raney.

DiAnn Mills.

What do all these people have in common? You guessed it. Newsletters. And not just any newsletters. Fabulous newsletters. Newsletters with layouts the editors at Cosmopolitan would be envious of. In depth articles. Current news and facts. Writer’s helps. Sound like a lot of work? I thought so, too. So why do they do it?

Author and speaker, Randy Ingermanson said it best in a workshop he taught at the 2007 ACFW conference. Marketing.

What did he mean by that? Well, we all want to draw people to our websites, right? We all want to increase our readership and expand our fan base. Randy suggests giving people something for free to help draw them back again and again. The best way to do that is through a quality newsletter packed with outstanding content.

So I started researching. How exactly do I go about putting together a quality newsletter? I’m not a newspaper editor after all. How do I know what’s outstanding content and what’s not? Believe it or not, that part SHOULD be easy. I may not work for Cosmopolitan, but I know what I like, what helps me improve and grow as a writer, what appeals to my eyes and what doesn’t. Creating a great newsletter means fulfilling all of those things, and being satisfied with the look and feel of the overall product.

There are various views on how often to post a newsletter. Some authors insist it should be done monthly. Otherwise disagree and say it should be quarterly. Still others—twice a year. I must admit, my personal preference is a larger newsletter sent out a little less frequently. After all, who wants all those newsletters cluttering up their inboxes every month? (My apologies in advance if you are one of those authors who submits monthly.) Give me a quarterly newsletter with a little deeper content and news that’s fresh. That’s what I like to see, and therefore, what I’ll probably submit, once I get the process of putting it all together figured out anyway. So keep an eye out. The Cozy Corner newsletter should be coming your way soon.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Horror stories…

I’ve heard horror stories about authors who got pages and pages of content edits back from their editors. Deep down, I’ve secretly been biting my fingernails to nubs thinking I’d be one of them. Worse, I had visions of my editor contacting me and apologetically informing me she’d been wrong--my plot was terrible, my writing weak, and she was mistaken to ever have signed me.


My first ever content edit came back surprisingly free of any major revisions. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got corrections to make, but nowhere near what I’d feared. On top of that, my fabulous editor offered wonderful suggestions for clearing up some of the problem areas.

So what does a content editor do, you ask? Well, these hard working people check for inconsistencies, plot weaknesses, and character development. They mark areas in the manuscript that could be made stronger and highlight places where characters acted or spoke in a way not in keeping with their beliefs. All in all, a content editor can be your best friend when it comes to helping you put together a story that flows well and is free of glaring errors that would otherwise trouble your readers. They make sure you’ve been careful to tie up all the loose ends, answered all the questions, and created sufficient conflict to keep the reader turning pages to the very end. In short, they read. And if anything stops them, they let you know it.

Whew. I’m past one hurdle. On to the line edits!

Monday, October 15, 2007

It's hard to believe we're into our last week already! Hopefully, this last lesson will cement everything we've gone over so far, as well as tie up any loose ends we still have hanging out there. And speaking of tying up the loose ends...

Part of any good novel is believability. If the plot isn't believable, or the resolution isn't believable, the reader is going to walk away feeling cheated. So, how do we make our crimes believable? You guessed it...research. I don't know a whole lot about police procedures, so when it comes to making sure my hero gets his facts straight, I call in the experts, namely a friendly police sergeant from Beaumont.

Here is your first assignment: Make a list of possible websites, resources (such as books or articles), or people whom you can contact to help you in your research. TV shows like CSI don't count, because believe it or not, you really can't rely on them for accuracy.

Here a few of my favorites to get you started:


Deadly Doses, A Writer's Guide to Poisons
The Writer's Complete Crime Reference Book by Martin Roth


Monday, October 08, 2007

Plotting can be an awful word--depending on whether or not you are step-by-step, plot out your whole story kinda gal, or a SOTP (seat of the pants) type of writer. Either way, mysteries can throw a monkey wrench into the best laid plans, especially if you aren't careful to keep notes on where your story is going. Here are three important keys to developing a solid plot:

Creating a list of suspects:

Part of plotting out your story is creating a list of suspects, adding a link that connects them to the crime, and giving each suspect a motive. This adds layers to your story and makes your overall plot richer. When creating your list of suspects, include the character's name, the character's secret, their link to the crime, and their motive for committing the crime.

Creating an outline:

Most writers think plotting is a long, tedious process with very little benefits. That may be true. However, having something as simple as a basic outline can help you keep your story on track and ensure that you don’t forget to tie up any loose ends. Here are just a few sample items to include in your outline:

One sentence premise

One paragraph summary

One paragraph setting description

Character sketches

Creating believable clues:

Believe it or not, part of creating a solid mystery means dreaming up believable clues and planting them in strategic places throughout the story. It’s not enough just to have your sleuth stumbling on facts and drumming up evidence. Without clues and red herrings, your reader will be left wondering how in the world the sleuth was able to arrive at the answer. Here again, is another reason why completing a detailed outline is so important.

How about you? Are you a plotter, or as SOTP writer? Why? How do you keep track of your list of suspects and their connection to the crime?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Welcome! I’m so glad you’ve decided to stop by. For the next four weeks, I am completely at your disposal. Pick my brain. Ask questions. Post comments. I’ll be glad to help you in any way I can.

As we all know, the market for mysteries has really opened up in recent years, and cozy mysteries are one of the fastest selling of all mystery genres. If you’ve been considering trying your hand at writing a cozy, this series of lessons is designed just for you. I’m going to give you some practical tools for plotting out your story, incorporating red herrings, even give you some tips for making your villain believable.

But before we do all that, it’s important to understand the basic concept behind a cozy mystery. What makes a mystery. . .well. . .cozy? How does it differ from other novels in similar genres?

Let’s start by laying them all out. Among the types of mystery related novels are:

Cozy Mystery
Gothic Mystery

And the list goes on. So how do we pinpoint the differences? Lets start by matching them with the movies. Wondering why I chose to compare movies to book titles? It is always easier to pick out ideas from someone else’s work before you see it in your own. Movies are an excellent (and fast way—since most movies only last an hour and a half) example of what differentiates one type of genre from another.

First on the list: Thrillers. These are stories that can involve elements of suspense and mystery, but the key ingredient is DANGER. It's the kind of edge of your seat thrill ride that makes MI: 3 and The Bourne Identity so popular. There's a mystery to solve, a main character driving the plot, but bottom line? It's all about the action.

Then there's “Cape Fear” with Robert DeNiro. What made this movie a suspense was that the villain was clearly defined from the get go. I knew who the bad guy was, I just didn’t know if he would be successful in his quest to kill the hero/heroine. The entire movie was based on the question: Will the hero/heroine defeat the known villain?

Are the edges getting a little clearer now? Let's try one more. Cozy mysterys involve an amateur sleuth, quirky characters, and a comfortable "small town" feel. Take the TNT series "Monk" for example. What better crime solver than a former detective with OCD tendencies? LOL!

Seriously though, the crime in a cozy is usually void of the blood and gore that might be found in edgier genres, and while it oftentimes involves a murder, it's not the kind of in your face crime that make up a suspense or thriller.

To sum up, a cozy mystery is a story with a small town feel. It involves quirky characters and an amatuer sleuth. The crime usually occurs "off stage" and it is void of the violence and gore that might be found in other genres. While an element of danger does exist, it is not the driving force behind the story. Best of all, there are plenty of clues and red herrings the reader has to sort through in order to solve the crime!

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