For me, the easiest way to write a mystery is…oh, I’m sorry, there is no easy way. At least, not for me. But that sure hasn’t stopped me from trying to find one.
Some writers seem to possess that effortless gift for weaving storylines, themes, and character arcs together in just the right way, until a plot emerges fully developed. Like magic. Some writers do this without breaking a sweat. I am not that writer. I’m the writer who considers crafting a credible mystery plot only slightly easier than pulling teeth. My teeth. Without a feel-good hypodermic full of Novocain standing by.
I like making up things as I go along; I think it keeps my manuscript fresh. But the genre I’ve chosen, and love, doesn’t allow me that freedom. Before I start writing a cozy mystery, I have to figure out the nuts and bolts of how the crime was committed, who is guilty and why, who had those old standbys: motive, means, and opportunity, and how to come up with an original plot that is believable. Plotting is a tricky business when writing a mystery. The suspects must have valid reasons to suspect them. The clues must be legitimate. The sleuth must have a compelling reason to solve the murder. Plausible red herrings must be cunningly planted to misdirect the reader. And it all has to make sense in the end. If you decide to throw a romance into the mix, where the couple has internal and external conflicts they must resolve while falling in love, staying alive, and solving a murder, then you have a bloody nightmare. Or at the very least, four to six months of pounding your head against the keyboard.
I’m still searching for that elusive, easy peasy way to write a mystery. I’ve read books and articles and blogs on how to plot. I’ve poured over charts and diagrams and spreadsheets. I even ordered a kit by a well-known writer promising a foolproof method for writing a cozy mystery (or any novel). I ripped opened the Amazon box feeling giddy, like a kid receiving their brand new pencil box on the first day of school. But my heart fell as soon as I removed the contents: 1 tiny foldout instruction sheet, a pack of four-inch colored pencils, a pocket-size notebook, and a stack of 3 x 5 unlined notecards in all the colors of the rainbow looped together on a flimsy wire. Three of the cards were stamped with the words BUT, THEREFORE, and MEANWHILE, which, I guess, was supposed to propel me through the manuscript, plotting and planning like a house afire. All it did was depress me.
Was I missing something? Where was the magic formula? And what the heck were all those colored pencils for? Was I ever going to discover the secret of writing a mystery the easy way?
In a word: no.
But that’s okay. If writing a mystery (or any book) was a piece of cake, I don’t think I’d have such a gratifying sense of accomplishment when I finished a manuscript. To quote the great Nora Roberts—“No writing is ever easy, and I don’t think it should be. If it wasn’t hard, everybody would do it.”
Publication Date: July 14, 2021
When her aunt suffers a stroke, New York portrait artist Emory Austen returns home to the North Carolina mountains to mend fences and deal with the guilt over her husband’s senseless death. But that won’t be as easy as she hoped.
Someone in the quirky little town doesn’t like Emory. Is it the sexy architect who needs the Austen land to redeem himself? The untrustworthy matriarch? The grudge-bearing local bad boy? Or the teenage bombshell who has raised snooping to an art form? Even the local evangelist has something to hide. Who wrote the cryptic note warning her to “Give it back or you’ll be dead? And what is ‘it’? As the clues pile up and secrets are exposed, Emory must discover what her family has that someone would kill for.
Rebecca lives with her husband and a dog named Wilbur in the beautiful misty mountains of East Tennessee, where the people are charming, soulful, and just a little bit crazy. She’s been everything from a tax collector to a stay-at-home-mom to an award-winning professional actress and director. When she’s not churning out small-town cozy-ish mysteries, she loves to travel the world, go to the Outer Banks for her ocean fix, watch old movies, and make her day complete by answering the Final Jeopardy! question. Her Southern roots and the affectionate appreciation she has for the rural towns she lives near inspire the settings and characters she writes about.
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