Sunday, March 8, 2015

Guide to Writing the Mystery Novel: Barbara Gregorich

Description provided by the author:
Guide to Writing the Mystery Novel: Lots of Examples, Plus Dead Bodies, is aimed at those who are contemplating writing a mystery novel and those who have written one or two but are looking for fresh insights on how to think like a mystery writer. In it the author draws on her years of experience as a mystery reader, a mystery writer, and a writing teacher. The book illustrates the author’s points with numerous examples from her mysteries, as well as with charts, graphs, and diagrams that show how much or how little is called for in the way of planted clues, exposition, and presence of a minor-character villain, for example. An index serves as an additional aid for those who want to seriously pursue advice on any particular topic such as dialogue, foreshadowing, or casting suspicion on the innocent.
Even though I have no ambitions or plans to write a mystery novel, reading this guide was both educational and entertaining. I knew I would like this book because I am interested in writing and the process used in writing. I never imagined all the elements that need to be considered in writing a novel, including the specific considerations when writing a mystery. Deciding who will be the victim and who will be the culprit is important, although the writer may change their mind as they write.

I have always been interested in the differences between novels written from various points of view. Thus, I got a lot out of the discussion of first person POV and third person POV and the advantages and disadvantages of each. The author not only discusses a variety of topics related to writing a mystery, but also addresses why these steps are useful. Some of these that were interesting to me were: Subplots, Plot Complications, Timelines, When to Introduce the Villain, Foreshadowing, Dialogue,  Solution and Denouement, Outlining, and Rewriting.

In addition to the wealth of information, I found the author's style of writing to be accessible and easy to follow.

The author's website provides information on her fiction and nonfiction for adults and children. The author's two mystery novels are Dirty Proof (1988) and Sound Proof (2011). Gregorich has a strong interest in baseball, and has written both fiction and nonfiction books on that topic, including Women at Play: The Story of Women in Baseball.

See other useful reviews at: Windy City Reviews, San Francisco Book Review, and Julia Buckley's blog, Mysterious Musings.

 -----------------------------

Publisher:   CreateSpace, 2014
Length:       207 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Genre:        Nonfiction
Source:      The author provided a copy for review.

20 comments:

  1. Love books about writing. Will have to look for this one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do too, Patti. This is a good one.

      Delete
  2. Tracy, I read such books occasionally and more as a reference material. I particularly enjoy reading about writers at work, such as the terrific author interviews at "Paris Review."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Prashant, I always find it interesting how many different approaches there are to writing.

      Delete
  3. TracyK: I am somewhat reluctant to read books on how to write as I am uneasy I will find myself reading subsequent books more focused on how they were written than enjoying the story. Has that happened at all to you?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bill, I don't think that has happened to me yet. Often I am too absorbed in the story to get distracted. When I do find myself thinking about the author's methods, it may be because the writing doesn't keep me focused. But it probably also depends on my mood.

      Delete
  4. This sounds like a good book to learn how to break down a mystery. There are examples of the mystery formula online too. It's interesting to see how many mystery novels and movies follow the same plan.
    Ann

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a good description, Ann. Of course there are many different approaches to story telling.

      Delete
  5. Thanks, Tracy. This sounds like an interesting addition to a writer's library. It's always good to learn what writers have found works for them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Margot, I have many, many books on crocheting and knitting although I don't do a lot of either right now. If I wrote books, I would probably have tons of books on that subject.

      Delete
  6. Like you I have no aspirations to write myself, but I think I'd enjoy this. Her two mystery books look good also.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I plan to try her mysteries, Col. I probably will start with the first one, as some examples from the 2nd one are used in the book. Sounds like a very interesting setting though (folk music festival).

      Delete
  7. I'm always a bit suspicious of books like this as it can make the process seem so mechanical but I'm glad to hear it's worthwhile - thanks TracyK.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I see what you mean, Sergio, and I am sure each writer approaches the process differently. Being a programmer, I like to look at the mechanics behind things.

      Delete
  8. Thanks for the review, Tracy. I'm very happy to know that you enjoyed both the information and the writing style.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was definitely a worthwhile read for me, Barbara, and I would think it would be helpful for the writers that you aimed it towards.

      Delete
  9. An interesting perspective --you as curious reader, reading about writing your preferred genre, just to know how writers must think and approach the writing process.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting, Teresa. I cannot view the book as a writer, but I have idly wondered what it would be like to write a mystery, and it seems like a lot of hard work.

      I checked out your blog and you have some gorgeous photos of some lovely places. I would love to visit northern Louisiana sometime (but it isn't going to happen because I travel very little and if I went that direction it would have to be to Alabama).

      Delete
  10. A very interesting book for you to choose Tracy. I think I am tempted to try this author's crime novels.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Moira, I had a couple of other books about writing mysteries years back, one by Lawrence Block. I don't even remember if I ever read those books, but I knew the topic would interest me. Barbara has a lot of varied interests, which I think adds to her writing. I want to try her mysteries also.

      Delete