My name is Kathy Harig and I have been invited to blog on this site about mystery writing. First to introduce myself. I retired after 28 years in 2001 as a branch librarian/manager of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Roland Park in Baltimore. In 1991 I co-founded Mystery Loves Company Booksellers. We now have two stores, but our Baltimore store will be closing on Dec 31 2008, and we will consolidate to our Eastern Shore store in Oxford MD. You can read about the store at www.mysterylovescompany.com and our blog www.mysterysalon.com
Mysteries to me are a passion and for 18 years I have tried to promote local authors whenever I can. I take the "Buy Local" concept very seriously, indeed. Maryland and the Delmarva region have a long history of wonderfully talented writers, especially mystery writers. I work with three such groups of writers, The Eastern Shore Writers Association www.easternshorewriters.org/home.htm Sisters in Crime -Chesapeake Chapter www.chessiechapter.org/ and Mystery Writers of America - Mid-Atlantic Chapter www.mwa-ma.org/ I mention them only to tell you that there is a huge network of folks writing in the area. I urge you to contact them and attend their meetings, if possible, since they are the best source of information about mysteries and writing.
As far as advice for writers in the field of mysteries, I would advise to read widely in the sub-genre you are interested in writing such as cozy, noir, thriller, espionage or literary. This way you won't duplicate plots that have already been overused. What's your favorite mystery? What elements about it made you choose it? Develop your special "voice," one that is unique to you and engaging to the reader; a voice the reader will care about and relate to. Develop a way to organize your thoughts, usually in a outline or diagram, or by composing a summary of the book with a breakdown by events and chapters. This you will use to show an agent. Know the "conventions" of a mystery novel. If they are not obeyed, it is not a mystery, it is a novel. We have non-fiction books at the store that talk about these conventions. These conventions include being true to the reader and not introducing a villain at the last moment who hasn't participated in the action of the book. Have the detective be an agent of detection and justice. As P. D. James has said, the most difficult thing for a mystery writer is letting the detective explore the inner workings and motives of the criminal mind without giving away the murderer until the end.