Writing Mysteries and Thrillers


Mysteries and Thrillers are cousins to Suspense, but they differ in focus.

In a suspense, something is about to happen.

In a mystery, something has already happened.

In suspense, the protagonist strives to get out of a puzzle.



In a mystery, the protagonist often strives to get into a puzzle.

A mystery, focuses on the crime, which usually happens early in the book. The rest of the story centers around the hero’s pursuit of the villain.

Now, about thrillers: The are extremely fast-paced, whereas a suspense story can have just about any pace.

A thriller is large in scale, perhaps involving the fate of the world as we know it—and the hero often knows who the villain is.

The focus of a thriller? Stopping the villain.

And, it’s as simple as that.

“How-To” books you may be interested in:  Writing the Mystery by G. Miki Hayden; Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron; How to Write a Damn Good Thriller by James N. Frey; and Writing a Killer Thriller by Jodie Renner.

Famous Mystery and Thriller writers: Lee Child, Stephen King, John Grisham,       James Patterson, Michael Connelly.

(Next week, we’ll talk about the difference between classic fiction and fan fiction).



Try Writing Backwards



You are beginning to write Chapter Six.

Before you start to type, you ask yourself how the chapter fits into your overall plot. What do you want to include? How should the chapter begin?

You’re stuck.

But, if you do know how you want the chapter to end, try this:

Start at the end (the part you do know) and write backwards until you get to the beginning scene of the chapter.

Even if you’re not stuck, you may find this to be a great exercise. You will be forced to focus on exactly where you want to take the reader—from point A (beginning scene) to point B (the cliffhanger that makes them want to read more).

Sometimes simply getting a visual of where you want to end will inspire you to write a stellar beginning.

Reel Them In



Contrary to popular opinion that a book’s cover, title, and back cover blurb are all-powerful in convincing a consumer to buy your book, may I suggest that there just may be something almost as powerful that some of us have been overlooking?

I say “may” because I have not tried this—yet. But, it IS intriguing. 

Although not necessary, chapter titles present another chance to reel the reader in, and once the purchase is made, they may keep your audience turning pages well past midnight.

First, though, I’d like to mention the positive roles that chapter titles can play for the author. That’s right. Chapter titles can help you, the author, to focus on the mission/purpose of each chapter while you are writing, making sure that each one aligns with the story’s premise.

Secondly, you can use chapter titles to help build the cause and effect relationship between the preceding chapter and the next.

Thirdly, creating chapter titles serves to attract your audience. For instance, Annie Proulx’s maritime stories use them very cleverly. Some of them are: “A Rolling Hitch,” “Strangle Knot,” and “Love Knot.” 

I read a book once, entitled “A Day in the Life of…” Each chapter—yes, all 24—were the hours on a clock, advancing from midnight forward throughout the entire day. Another book, I remember, used song titles.

If you are halfway through the writing of your book, using chapter titles might not benefit your writing. However, if you are just beginning to write and could use extra help in aligning your chapters with your story’s premise, you may want to consider using chapter titles.

Creating chapter titles may be a fun way to add interest and organization to your own writing, while attracting readers that appreciate the extra effort.




Life is full of twists and turns, events, obligations, friends and family…

This requires us to make priorities and, the choices are often complicated.

If you are a writer, you know that the path to spending time at our craft is often blocked—sometimes by people and events over which we have little or no control.

Recently, I have had to make choices between what I might like to do—even feel called to do—and family obligations.

Because of my parent’s failing health, blocks of time have needed to be reallocated from my writing time to family time.

Because I choose to focus on what they need, writing has had to take a backseat.

As life circumstances change, our priorities change.

Although family was always a priority in my heart, I lost sight of this when I “found” writing, often pushing aside those things in life that were really more important.

Knowing that changes are inevitable and impact one’s deepest values, we must be willing to reevaluate, give up “the dream” for a season, and move in a new direction.

Do I still write during these last stages in my mother’s Alzheimer’s journey?

Of course. But, it has just taken on a different focus.

I Remember the Seasons is a work of the heart.

I will never forget the look on my mother’s face when she thumbed through the book and realized it was dedicated to her and Dad.

That one beautiful memory of her smile will last a lifetime.

Stay in Your Own Lane

13366864053_840b7df994Driving home after an evening out, my husband complained about a driver in front of us. “Just look at that guy, weaving in and out of traffic. He’s going to get somebody killed. He needs to stay in his own lane.”

Perhaps writers should heed his advice. Settling on one genre, such as Amish Romances, for example, lets the reader know what to expect when purchasing one of their books.

When a brand is loud and clear, it not only benefits the reader, but it also helps the writer focus their writing.

New writers often have to feel their way through two or three books before they catch the vision for their writing, however.

Recently, I discovered that my books—Runaways: The Long Journey Home and The Choice: Will’s Last Testament—have a common thread: forgiveness. Then I took a hard look at my newest book, Simon Says, and found that this story about bullying  has forgiveness as its central theme, also. (Simon Says is not, yet, completed).

So, I guess I am in full “branding mode” and I couldn’t be happier than to be writing stories of forgiveness because they assure us there is hope after we mess up or make wrong choices.

So, if you don’t want your readers to be confused and you want to bring your writing into focus,

Simply find your lane and stay in it.

Whatever It Takes


I’ve heard that artists, in general, are a quirky bunch. They need certain things in their environment in order to get their creative juices flowing.

Writers might demand that the room needs to be at a specific temperature.

Actors may require that friends or family must be in the audience for them to perform well.

Singers often ask for specific things to drink or that the air be purified in their dressing rooms.

I know I find it difficult to write unless my desk is organized.

Whoever you are, we all perform optimally when certain conditions are met.

For most everyone, being well-rested, fed, and hydrated may apply.

So, let’s say you’re a writer. You’ve met your requirement of having a quiet place to write. You close the door and sit down at the computer.

But suddenly you’re distracted by a bird outside the window or a telephone ringing somewhere down the hall. Isn’t anyone going to get that?

Now, you’re off track.

Unable to focus.

You want to push your chair back and forget writing for today, but instead just rewind.

Maybe you need a walk around the block. Perhaps simply refreshening your water glass with a slice of lemon will do it. Maybe say a silent prayer.

Then, get back to the computer and try again.

Whatever it takes. For as long as it takes. As many times as it takes.

I’ve found that one page leads to another…and that page leads to the next…and before you know it, it’s

a book!

In Defense of Doodling


My husband is a doodler.        32010585111_840dc8b024

I guess it simply gives his hands something to do while he watches a football game on television or waits for his order at a restaurant.

But, I asked myself, “Could doodling actually have some kind of value?”

I recall teaching my elementary students to map and use webs to organize information. Could using simple visual language help people think and solve problems, focus, and retain information?

Turns out that good old doodling activates one’s mind’s eye to access creativity with the subconscious mind.

I put it to the test.

I recently made use of doodling to solve a difficult plot problem in the book I am writing.

So, don’t get stuck on plot, character description, or action scenes. If you need to “see” what you are writing for descriptive purposes or keeping track of details, why not try doodling?

You just might find it to be more than mindless scribbling.