I’ve always loved a mystery. And not just books either.
Along with my well-worn copies of mystery novels by Chandler, Block, and the Macdonalds (Ross and John D.), I also treasure my videos of old “Columbo” and “Magnum, P.I.” episodes, and I always stop to watch “Murder, She Wrote” whenever I’m on the couch, channel surfing.Though she’s around when so many murders occur I haven’t decided whether she’s the world’s best amateur detective or the world’s most cunning serial killer.
So, for my first novel, the natural choice for me was to write a mystery. Of course, starting any large piece of writing like a novel can be frightening. It can even paralyze you, as you look at the blank screen (or blank piece of paper in your Royal typewriter) and think, “I have to come up with around 70,000 or so words?!” I know that before I started my first novel, I thought that I wasn’t up to the task, that novels were something that “other,” “real” writers did.
But I eventually started. Though I don’t pretend to know all the answers (I believe a writer should never stop learning), by reading all the how-to books, reading a few hundred mystery novels, and talking to a few other mystery writers as well, I think I can help you, too. This isn’t a definitive guide, but it will certainly help you as it helped me. Little by little, the entire process begins to make sense, becomes less daunting, and, believe it or not, becomes more fun.
Tip #1: Just start the novel.
That’s the big secret. You have to actually start the book, even if you don’t know where it’s going or what’s going to happen.