Sunday, February 14, 2016

Want to be a better writer? Then start reading the right books.

by Kasey Tross

As I've mentioned a couple times this year, one of my goals for 2016 is to read 20 books, and for at least 3 of them to be on the writing craft. I find most of my books about writing at the Goodwill Outlet near my home, which means that I get an interesting mix of whatever I happen to find that has to do with writing. And in fact, I'm glad of that because it means that I end up reading books I might not otherwise choose for myself.

This past week it was "Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel" by Hallie Ephron. My novel is not a mystery novel. So why was this a good read for me- and why might it be for you too?

1. In essence, every novel is a mystery novel.* Every novel contains some element of mystery or else why would we bother to read it? And in fact, while reading this book I realized that there is in fact a mystery in my novel that the MC needs to solve (actually, two), but I had never thought of my book as a mystery. Now I know how to play up the mystery elements and make them tighter and more effective.

2. Mysteries have all kinds of goodies that translate well into other genres- things like suspense, action, and character motivation. This book gives some great "tricks of the trade" that have helped me see how I can better write these elements into my novel. 

3. Good writing advice is good writing advice. This book also addresses the basics like avoiding the adverbs, eliminating excess backstory, and practicing good editing- all things that every writer can benefit from.

So the next time you hit the writing section of your local library or bookstore, don't be afraid to look outside the box of your genre and check out some books that cover other styles and mediums: poetry, short stories, fantasy, etc. A well-rounded writer is a good writer!

*I watched Harry Potter with my kids this week and also had a "duh" moment- Harry Potter books are totally mysteries! We don't think of them that way because they're categorized under fantasy/middle grade, but Harry, Hermoine, and Ron are the amateur sleuths, they are in search of clues, there are plenty of red herrings along the way, and after the action mounts and the real "killer" is revealed, there is a period of reflection when other loose ends are tied up. Total recipe for mystery! Can you think of any other books that aren't classified as mysteries but could be?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that insight. I think you're right that all books are mysteries, even if we don't think of them like that.



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