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Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America
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Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  441 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Today's top mystery authors offer a comprehensive mystery writing "how-to", showing writers how to piece a perfect mystery together.
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published March 15th 1992 by Writer's Digest Books (first published 1992)
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Bill  Kerwin
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
I read Writing Mysteries--a product of The Mystery Writers of America which contains 27 essays by 29 novelists on a range of topics--because I am currently writing a mystery--well, actually a mystery fantasy--and I thought this book might help me write one.Did it help? A little, maybe. Not much.

First, this book--or least this edition, published in 1992--is too old. It has one chapter on research that does not even mention the internet, and I suspect that its two chapters on marketing and agents
Oct 06, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As a how-to for fledgling mystery writers, Writing Mysteries offers some solid help pertaining to the genre; the keyword here, however, is "some." Edited by Sue Grafton (who knows her stuff as a writer), this collection might have benefitted from stronger tailoring, namely, steering away from general writerly advice and sticking to discussion of mystery writing, editing, publishing, and so on. My reading got bogged down during essays about characterization, dialogue, and plotting that were not s ...more
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Inspiring: Essays on parade hit at writing mysteries from many and often opposite points of view. I learned a lot, and it kept me writing.
Dec 01, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone Interested
Recommended to Niki by: Cust. Svc. Rep - Books-a-Million
This book is a guide which they have taken multiple mystery writers from across the country and had each writer give their "how to" ideas, writing styles and suggestions on how to write a great mystery novel/book. The book is in three parts, The preparation, process and the specialties. A few areas of coverage are in preparation; sparks, triggers and flashes, which talks to how the writer comes up with ideas, what makes them want to write about mysteries and how they hold onto those thoughts whe ...more
Rebecca Grace
Sep 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to write mystery novels or short stories. Great information even for published writers.
Tom Konkle
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was a great guide for me as I took on the genre. Take a look
Sara Bauer
Sep 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great for newbie writers. Not so great for writers really focused on learning about mystery.
Jul 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is generally speaking a good book of advice, with a mix of general writing advice and some stuff more specific to mysteries. Out of the three books I've read thus far, it's definitely the best one for beginners. I found the chapters on suspense and clues to be especially interesting and helpful. While the general advice could have been tailored more to mysteries, it's still helpful to have. I also appreciated the chapters on amateur detectives and series characters. Some chapters were rathe ...more
Deborah Taylor-French
Dec 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
No secret-Sue Grafton's books sell. And sell BIG. This master of mystery gives new and developing writers a treasure box in this book.

Plus Gregory Mcdonald hits the target in his introduction. "A novel to be novel must be novel." Defining the historical puzzle plot, the literary form mysteries evolved from, he opens the door to the what, how, who and why books in this genre fail or succeed.

Each chapter is written by a successful mystery author. Chapters are carefully focused like "Pacing and Sus
Katherine Cowley
This book is an excellent source for the aspiring mystery writer. It's a collection of essays by well-known writers in the field, and begins with prewriting and idea conception, takes you through various tasks (constructing villains, planting red herrings, writing dialogue) and goes all the way to finding an agent and selling your book.

There is not a cohesive approach outlined in this book--in fact, some of the essays contradict each other on advice relating to outlining, revision, research, et
Jane Night
Dec 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book about writing mysteries. I picked it up because I am planning to write my first romantic suspense and I wanted to understand how the mystery part of the book should work.

Much of the information covered is true for mysteries and other fiction. The book covers work routines, collaboration, outlining vs "pantsing" and many other topics. All the topics were slanted towards the mystery writer so even if someone has been writing in other genres there was much to learn in th
Jan 23, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
Back in October, I read and reviewed Writing the Mystery: Second Edition. It was not all it advertised itself to be. In contrast, Writing Mysteries is everything it claims to be (a handbook) and more, including everything that the previous book touted. I think one reason this volume is so much more successful is that it is written by a collection of successful, published mystery writers. They bring a variety of viewpoints and tips such that the total exceeds the sum of the parts. Each essay also ...more
Denyse Loeb
Feb 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
MWA members and authors such as Phyllis A. Whitney, Edward D. Hoch, John Lutz and others give insight to writing a novel and mystery novels in particular. The book covers not only the specifics to mysteries, but the very basics of novel writing, from preparation to market, and has a half dozen chapters on specialties such as the medical and legal thriller.

Impressions: While not as good as Writing the Breakout Novel, this is still an excellent resource, particularly for the mystery writer. I pick
Aug 21, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
A collection of essays, from several years back. It could do with a more recent update, particularly as we enter a changing world of multiple publishing options, and consequential trends in reading genres.

There is very much an American slant to this collection (as you would expect from the title), but after moving through half of the book I was searching for anything I could feasibly see as being related to the Mystery genre. As a book for writing craft in total, it is a good one, starting off
Bad Girl Bex
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was actually very good. Lots of good advice for anyone interested in creative writing - not just those who fancy having a go at crime fiction - as well as an entertaining slew of anecdotes and nuggets of randomness scattered throughout. Nice to dip in and out of for inspiration (also great material for the "littlest reading room" in your home! lol!)

I haven't actually ever read any of Sue Grafton's fiction, but CrimFic is my guilty pleasure, so after having read this compendium she has curat
Jan 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Although an older book that I just happened upon, I did find some very interesting chapters to read in it. I used a couple of things in a writing workshop recently to share with the attendees. A wide range of mystery writers contributed advice such as Sue Grafton, Tony Hillerman, Tess Gerritson, Ann Rule, Julie Smith, and others. I had the library reserve it for me, and I truly enjoyed this book. Each author wrote about a different aspect of mystery writing. Even if you aren't thinking about wri ...more
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
This venerable collection of essays by successful mystery writers was recommended to me by a noted Canadian author of my acquaintance. While dated (1992), it contains the sort of wisdom which authors have been displaying since Edgar Allen Poe redefined the genre. There is an uneveness to the quality of the essays. Not every one will be of equal interest to the reader, depending upon where that reader's immediate interests lie. Overall, it is a useful book to help the budding author focus on ... ...more
Claire Grasse
Apr 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely great nuts and bolts advice for anyone who wants to write mystery novels.This book is actually edited by Sue Grafton, and is a compilation of chapters by such notable mystery authors as Lawrence Block, Jonathan Kellerman, Sara Paretsky, and Ann Rule. The chapters run the how-to gamut from character development, to pacing, to writing convincing dialogue. There are "specialty" chapters on such sub-genres as Amateur Sleuth, True Crime, Legal Thrillers, Historical Mysteries, etc.

Read this
Suzie Quint
Since I'm a hybrid pantser, discovering I had to solve a mystery scares the bejesus out of me. I'm afraid I'll end up with a lame plot, or worse, a lame resolution that the reader saw from a mile away, so when I saw this book by Sue Grafton (actually it's a bunch of essays by different authors compiled and edited by Sue Grafton), I thought, "Great. This will help."

The full review is at
Andrea Judy
If this book had been portrayed as a general writing book I would have given it at least 4 stars, but I came into this wanting specifics on Mystery writing and over a half of this book is more about general writing tips. I was disappointed by the lack of content discussing mysteries as a whole, police procedures, getting inspiration from real crimes, etc.
Great writing advice but if you're looking for a book on writing mysteries, try elsewhere.
L.A. Jacob
Sep 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Although I don't write "mysteries" per se, I write stories with a little mystery to them. This book is a good primer for those who want to write real mysteries, so the 3 stars are not because it's a bad book, but because I picked the wrong book. It helped me a little. If you write mysteries, this book is definitely for you.
Oct 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started reading this book then put it down for quite a while because I got busy on a different project. It was well organized and I found it informative and helpful. The various articles made it easy to find what I was interested in, and I will keep it on my bookshelf as reference.
Jan 05, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference, 2009
I learnt from this book that writing crime novels is really easy - hey I am kidding, writing is never easy and this book is good to see how a whole group of authors tackle the task.
Interesting, enlightening but it wont tell you how to create a great crime novel.
Cheryl Head
Jul 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marvelous technical advice and resources for anyone who contemplates writing a mystery. Edited by Sue
Grafton who is a favorite of mine. Will continue to use this book as a refresher as I write my sleuth novel.
Nancy Savonick
Aug 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Some very helpful articles in here. However, I find the most help in reading lots of mysteries and identifying the elements that make them good. The hardest part, of course, is just sitting down and WRITING--and no book can supply the discipline.
Rather general. A smattering on everything.
Dec 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Each chapter is told from the POV of a different mystery writer, so you learn a great deal about process, in many ways its like reading a school textbook
Jan 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference-books
What a great resource book.
Jan 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
I own two different copies of this book.
This is a good book to have on how to write mysteries and its subgenres like thrillers. I have both editions.
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