Liz here. Please welcome guest Jane Munro, author of A Deadly Homecoming, to Mysteristas. She has some wise words for anyone who is thinking about writing a book.
When writing your own book, keep these things in mind:
Genre: It’s a good idea to write the kind of stories you like to read. I write mysteries because that’s what I like to read, starting with Nancy Drew when I was a child. I don’t mind the occasional romance or chick-lit, but mysteries are my first love. That’s my genre. Some genres have sub-genres; for example, mysteries can be cozies, thrillers, horror, police procedurals, women sleuths, medical, legal, etcetera.. My mysteries are cozies with a woman sleuth who is medical.
Point of view: Your point of view can be either first person or third person, and it’s important not to mix them up. My mysteries are first person. It’s Toni Day who’s telling the story and I have to be careful not to attribute thoughts or feelings to other characters besides Toni, because how does she know how another person is feeling or thinking? She knows because of the way they act, and that’s what I have to have her describe and deduce from that what she thinks they’re thinking or feeling. In the third person, where the writer tells a story about characters other than the writer, that’s not a problem. Some authors will alternate POV, with the protagonist telling the story in one chapter, and the villain telling it in the next, but they have to let the reader know who’s talking at the beginning of each chapter.
Audience: Who is your book directed at? Adults? Youth? Children? Professionals? Men? Women? It makes a difference what you put in it: for instance, you couldn’t put sex or profanity in a book meant for youth or children, but you can if it’s meant for adults. My mysteries don’t have a lot of sex, but they do have language, even the occasional F-bomb, so they’re meant for adults, and to appeal to medical professionals as well as mystery lovers.
Write as yourself. Don’t try to be someone you’re not.
It’s all very well to read other author’s books and figure out what it is that makes you like to read a certain author. In fact, you should read at least as much as you write. But at the end of the day, it’s you who’s writing. If you’re not a person who normally uses big words or flowery phrases, don’t use them when you write. It will sound stilted and unnatural and put people off. It’s best to write the way you normally speak. I occasionally speak to book clubs and I like it when people say that when they read my books it’s like they’re listening to me talk.
Write what you know.
All writers, regardless of genre, have to do some research to make sure they get the details right. So, it’s best to write about something you know well to cut down on research and make your story sound real. My mysteries are set in the world of a hospital-based pathologist because that’s what I am. When I put medical jargon into them, it sounds authentic and then of course I have Toni explain it to Hal or someone else so that the reader will understand it too. But I don’t try to write as a nurse, or a teacher, or a lawyer, because that’s not who I am, and it wouldn’t sound real, and I’d make a lot of mistakes, besides.
Last but not least:
Keep the action moving. Regardless of genre, it’s important not to let the story get bogged down. You want the reader to keep turning pages, not lose interest in the middle of the book. You can do that by ending each chapter with a cliff-hanger. You also need to start a book with something that grabs the reader’s attention. You don’t want to start a book with a lot of backstory; you can insert little snippets of it in strategic places but keep them short.
That’s just the beginning. Then you have to get it published and market it. That would require a whole ‘nother blog post!
Jane Bennett Munro, MD, is a hospital-based pathologist who has been involved in forensic cases during the course of her forty-year career. She is the author of Grievous Bodily Harm, Murder under the Microscope, Too Much Blood, Death by Autopsy, The Body on the Lido Deck and A Deadly Homecoming. Now semiretired, she lives in Twin Falls, Idaho, where she enjoys gardening, music and reading. To read more about her, visit janebennettmunro.com.