Posts Tagged ‘writing advice’

A Memoir Book Coach Can Help You Write a Book That Sells!

A memoir book coach knows what agents and publishers are looking for. She can help you prepare your manuscript to give it the best chance of success. She’ll also guide you as you prepare your marketing materials. These include query letters, synopses, and a nonfiction book proposal (if you need one).

Your memoir coach will likely start by helping you identify exactly who you’re writing for. Once you have a clearly defined target audience, she’ll show you how to engage their interest—and prove your book’s marketability to agents, too!

What you need to sell your memoir

In addition to a great writing style, agents and publishers will be interested in your hook and your platform. Also, you may need to create a nonfiction book proposal, as well.

The hook for your memoir

A hook captures readers’ (and agents’) attention. It’s what sets your story apart. For instance, many memoirs (sadly) have been written about childhood trauma. Since the market is saturated with books on this topic, if a writer is focusing their book on early trauma, they would be wise to consider what makes their story unique.

Perhaps the environment in which they were raised directly impacted the difficult events they faced. For example, they may have grown up in a circus, or in elite boarding schools, or in a series of foster homes. In any of these cases, their memoir writing coach will suggest they home in on the unusual environment (or any other distinctive element of their childhood) to offer readers a fresh angle on the theme.

Create a platform for your story

A writer’s platform describes the various ways they connect with their target audience. If your memoir is about the healing energy of horses, for instance, your platform might include a podcast on that topic—or, more broadly, on horses in general. Or maybe you’ll have written a series of articles about equine therapy or belong to a list serve that discusses the value of time spent with horses. You might also regularly blog or give talks on the subject.

Agents and publishers put great value on a writer’s platform. A robust following on social media or a dedicated readership of your blog provide a ready-made audience for your book. This is important because it means your book is more likely to sell, making your memoir a sound investment for the company.

While blogging, podcasting, and regular posting take time (away from writing your book!), the bottom line is this: platform matters. You will be rewarded for creating a strong platform by the interest shown you from industry professionals.

Nonfiction book proposal

A nonfiction book proposal is basically a sales proposal or business plan for your memoir. You’ll submit it to agents and publishers to convince them that your book is marketable. Your book proposal will include a table of contents, two or three sample chapters, a marketing plan (referring to your platform!), and a literature comparison.

Currently, many agents and publishers require book proposals for memoir submissions. Although this hasn’t always been the case, now it is quite likely that you’ll need a proposal to win a contract with a larger publishing house. If you’re a first-time book writer, you’ll also need to have at least half of your manuscript complete as well. (Smaller presses may only ask you to submit your manuscript, not a proposal.)

While the book-proposal process may seem daunting, it’s actually a wonderful way to organize your thoughts about the business end of having your book published. A well-constructed nonfiction book proposal will make you look like a pro!

Want to write a successful memoir? An experienced memoir book coach can help!

Memoir book coach Jamie Morris, pictured smiling. Both writing and marketing your memoir are big undertakings. The more you understand the current memoir market, the better prepared you’ll be to give your story the launchpad it deserves! Wondering if a coach can help? Start by scheduling a free writing consultation with me. You might also want to check out THE WRITER mag article Should I Hire a Writing Coach.”

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Writing Coaching for Older Writers

In the past week, I’ve been contacted by four writers, all in their sixties or seventies. Each of them is relatively new to writing. And they are all excited to finally embark on their long-held writing dreams. But where to start? When I offer writing coaching for older writers—perhaps like you?—I suggest we begin by exploring your wealth of experience, looking for the aspects that will most benefit you on your writing journey.

Writing coaching for older writers gives direction to writing dreams!

All your life lessons apply!

If you have reached your middle or later years without gaining literary traction, you may wonder, Is it too late for me, now? As a writing coach for older writers, I’ve learned that older writers may be much better-prepared for learning their craft than younger writers. Mastering the writing craft can take time. And as older writers (yup, me, too), we may have developed the patience that will help us onboard those important skills.

In fact, by fifty or sixty or seventy, many folks have learned how they learn best. We can capitalize on that knowledge to make the most of educational resources and opportunities.  For instance, will we do better with an online class or with personalized instruction? Or maybe we’ve found that we are actually autodidacts, able to teach ourselves what we need to know?

Writing coaching for older writers: habit patterns and perspective

As we get older, we get better acquainted with our own preferences. This awareness helps when we’re engaging in a writing project that may demand a long-term commitment from us. Knowing, for example, that we’re an inveterate night owl, not a lark, allows us to schedule our writing when we know we’ll be most productive.

And because our years have taught us more about what it means to be a human being, our work will be more meaningful and deeper than anything we could have written earlier in our lives.

First-time writers take heart

NEW YORK TIMESADVICE COLUMNIST ROXANE GAY has addressed concerns that newer or unpublished middle-aged-ish writers may have. She says, Throughout my 20s and most of my 30s, I was convinced I was never going to make it as a writer. My writing was constantly rejected, and I took the rejection personally, as one does. It is easy to fall prey to the idea that writing success is intrinsically bound to youth, she says.

Read more at Ask Roxane: Is It Too Late to Follow My Dreams?

But what about getting published?

THE GUARDIAN recently published an article about the opportunities for older women writers.   In it, Cherry Potts, the founder of the independent publisher Arachne Press, has much to say about the “ripple” opening doors for women over seventy.

She says, “There has been a sea change in publishers’ understanding and acceptance of older women’s experience and their voices, which are no longer dismissed as safe or cosy. It started with small presses like us but our ripple is now working through to the industry as a whole.”

In ON WRITING, Stephen King has something to say about older writers! “Agents, publishers, and editors are all looking for the next hot writer who can sell a lot of books and make lots of money … and not just the next hot young writer, either. Helen Santmyer was in a retirement home [in her eighties!] when she published AND LADIES OF THE CLUB. Frank McCourt was quite a bit younger [66] when he published ANGELA’S ASHES, but he was still no spring chicken.

Kit de Waal’s first novel, MY NAME IS LEON, was published when she was 56.

Harriet Doerr’s first novel, STONES FOR IBARRA, was published when she was 74 years old. It went on to win a National Book Award.

Then, there’s Sir Christopher Bland, who was 76 when his first novel, ASHES IN THE WIND, was published. Today, the Royal Society of Literature has established the RSL Christopher Bland Prize, to encourage the work of older writers. The £10,000 prize is awarded annually to an author who was fifty or older when they were first published.

Starting to write later in life? Writing coaching for older writers can help you get off to a great start!

Writing coaching inspiration with Jamie Morris, pictured smiling. If you’ve waited to explore your writing dream, you have likely seen many trends come and go in the world of literature. I’ve been coaching writers of all ages for over a dozen years. Let’s see if we can put my experience in the publishing industry to good use in the service of your long-deferred writing goals. Start by scheduling a free writing consultation with me. You might also want to check out THE WRITER mag article Should I Hire a Writing Coach.”

Thank you to U.S. Games Systems, Inc. for kind permission to use the image of the Seven of Swords from the DRUIDCRAFT TAROT.

Writing Coaching Inspiration: One River Is Like Another River

Working with writers can be tricky. They’re on a wild and unpredictable journey. As a coach, I want to help—but sometimes a writer’s goals can prove out of their (current) reach. That’s when I reach deep into my bag of writing coaching inspiration. I need to pull out something that both acknowledges the hard truth they’re facing and offers reassurance that there are still fine opportunities likely to arise for them.

Recently, I read a beautiful ancient tale—one of discouragement followed by unlikely success. Told in Dianne Skafte’s LISTENING TO THE ORACLE, it’s the story of a Greek soldier who loses his way in enemy territory. He is supposed to meet up with his troop on the banks of a certain river. They plan to board a ship there and travel to a town friendly to their cause. Having hired a guide to help him get to his destination safely, the soldier is devastated to find he has been led to a different river!

He berates his guide, only to be met with a shrug—and this enigmatic response: “One river is like another river.” What? But in fact, appearing on the shores of this river is a small boat captained by a man who agrees to take the soldier back to the friendly town that was his original aim.

Once the soldier disembarks from the small boat in the town, he learns, to his horror, that the ship with his mates was captured and all aboard were killed.

Writing coaching inspiration

The soldier was not able to reach the river he aimed for. But he was guided to another river that carried him to safe harbor.

Similarly, when we set our sights on big writing goals, it may be that we can’t reach them—or not at this time. Whether we want to publish in a major magazine or attract an agent to represent us, our desired outcomes may be (temporarily) unattainable.

That’s when it’s time to scout out another river. Reset your goals. Aim to get published in a regional magazine, rather than in O Magazine. Agents can be tough to impress. Consider submitting your manuscript to small press editors instead. Match your target to your current abilities to meet it.

Fortunately, different from this Ancient Greek tale, no one is likely to die in the literary trenches. But when we’re rejected, it hurts. Still, it’s a wise Modern writer who will remember the motto of that Ancient Greek guide. One river is like another river. So look around. A boat you never imagined might appear on a river you didn’t notice. And you might find, ultimately, you are carried exactly where you want to go.

Need some clarity about your writing goals? A consultation with a top writing coach might help! Let’s chat.

Writing coaching inspiration with Jamie Morris, pictured smiling. Writing is a powerful and compelling endeavor. If you are setting goals but not meeting them, though, you might need a different approach—or more nuanced goals. With over a dozen years’ experience helping writers take their work to the next level, I might be able to show you how to make similar strides. Schedule a free writing consultation with me. Also, check out THE WRITER mag article Should I Hire a Writing Coach.”

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Book Coach Tips for Writing a Successful Novel

As a professional writing coach, I always want to support writers in their quest for success. This month, my post “Book Coach Tips for Writing a Successful Novel” focuses on the most important aspects of novel writing. I also include resources that will help you level up your novel-writing game.

Tips for writing a successful novel: Voice + character

Job one, connect your reader to your main character (MC). While we often think that readers are more interested in the plot of our stories than our characters, that’s not quite true. What’s funny, perhaps ironic, is that while readers generally think plot is the main draw for them, they’re actually wrong! (Most of the time. Generally speaking. In this book coach’s experience.)

In fact, what pulls a reader into a story first is voice. While the back jacket copy’s catchy synopsis of your story is what gets a reader to open your book, the voice your potential reader meets on page one must hook them.

Voice conveys attitude—usually, your main character’s attitude. It’s how you introduce your character, and it sets the tone for your reader’s experience. (It’s similar to a vacation destination: Some readers hate the snow. They won’t book a ski vacation! But another reader might love the crisp chill of your character’s voice.)

If the voice is engaging, you will keep your reader’s attention long enough to reveal your character’s need, goal, dilemma—those elements of story that integrate character with plot. If your reader finds your character sympathetic, they’ll tumble down the rabbit hole of your story, committed to seeing how your character fares.

Tips for writing a successful novel: Plot

As mentioned, readers tend to think that plot drives their reading choices. And a well-turned plot with a strong hook will certainly get your book “read-more” clicks! Whether your story is high concept or not, your plot should drag your main character into situations, environments, and relationships that, in her ordinary world, she would avoid at all costs.

Convince your reader that your MC has no choice but to involve herself in the dire circumstances you’ve built for her. Do this by creating irresistibly compelling stakes: putting her loved ones in danger, perhaps, or forcing her to face illness, financial ruin, or loss of her hard-won reputation.

Once your MC has embarked on the roller-coaster ride of her story, make sure there are no exit ramps along the way (sorry, mixed metaphors). In fact, you want to keep escalating the stakes! Push your MC to continually face new challenges as she tries (desperately!) to either meet her initial goal or to succeed in whatever glass-mountain-climbing task your story has provided her.

However you play it, for your main character, there must be no way out but through. And  every plot point you create should enforce this. (My deepest sympathies to your main character!)

Resources for novel writers

There are many masters of the novel-writers’ craft. And, fortunately for us, quite a few of them have written books to guide us on our writing path. As a long-time writing coach, I’ve found several that I recommend quite often. Here’s a short list for you.

THE SECRETS OF STORY, by Matt Bird

PLOTTING YOUR NOVEL WITH THE PLOT CLOCK, by Jamie Morris, et al

HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL, by James N. Frey

PLOT & STRUCTURE: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish, by James Scott Bell

SAVE THE CAT WRITES A NOVEL, by Jessica Brody

You might also enjoy my article “How to Write a Novel”  or be interested to learn more about how successful authors have used my Plot Clock method to get their novels agented and published.

Interested in receiving personalized book coach tips for writing a successful novel? A free chat with a top writing coach can offer just that!

Writing coach Jamie Morris, pictured smiling, can help you learn how to self-publish your book. Novels and their authors are near and dear to my heart. Over the last decade, as a professional writing coach, I’ve helped many novelists take their books to the next level. If you’re working on a novel and wonder how to make it more successful in the current market, let’s chat. Schedule a free writing consultation with me. Also, check out THE WRITER mag article Should I Hire a Writing Coach.”

Writing Coaching: The Hard Stuff

I’ve been in the trenches, coaching writers, for well over a decade. From long experience, I can tell you that, with writing coaching, the hard stuff is the stuff that can make or break a career. And by “hard stuff,” I mean whatever you currently don’t have in your writer’s toolkit.

Most writers have mad skills in some areas, but struggle in others. For instance, you may be a crazy plotting genius, but create flat-as-a-pancake characters. Or, you’re an amazing researcher, but stumble when trying to organize your ideas on the page.

As writers, we all have strengths and weaknesses. But, weirdly, it’s looking our weaknesses straight in the eye that separates successful writers from those who never reach their full potential. It’s natural to want to work around our literary deficiencies. But if we’re willing to really dig in to the less-developed aspects of our writing, we will—eventually—strike gold.

Writing coaching: the hard stuff

Tackling those underdeveloped skills head-on isn’t easy. As a professional writing coach, I often see writers struggle with aspects of writing that feel completely out of their current reach—creating a dynamic plot, for some; finding a convincing voice for others. However, I know that if they keep at it—putting in what may seem an unreasonable amount of time and effort—there will be a pay off.

On the other hand, some writers can’t—or won’t—harness their energies to make the admittedly uphill climb to mastering a tough skill. They truly believe their current (easier, go-to) strengths will carry them to where they want to be in their writing life.

I understand! But that’s not how it works—at least not in my experience.

Hiring a writing coach

So … you know something in your writer’s arsenal needs to be powered up. You hire a writing coach. And it’s going wonderfully! Your coach is an angel on your shoulder. She encourages you, provides accountability, reads your work with enthusiasm and insight. Fantastic!

Of course, she also points out areas of your work that could use some improvement. Many of these aspects are easy-peasy to address. Yes, I can easily be more precise with my verbs, you say. Also, Giving more visual cues to my readers? No problem.

But the hard thing? That “weakness” which is native to you as a writer, your literary blind spot? As you work with your coach, that will become more and more evident. Worse, no matter how hard you try to address this most difficult of skills, you may feel you aren’t making significant progress. And your darned coach won’t let it go!

Fortunately, she will bring myriad ways to help you on-board the skill you most need to master. That’s because she knows how important it is to your career. You can’t maneuver around a deficit without compromising your work as a whole.

Yet, despite your—and your coach’s—best intentions, you may get to a point of frustration. You might want to toss up the whole enterprise and walk away. But—and I am telling you this with the deepest compassion I can bring here—if you keep moving in the direction of excellence, especially when the going gets tough, you will make it through. Then, you will reap rewards you can’t even imagine when you’re humping that huge load of sticks uphill toward your beautiful writing dream.

I believe in you! If you’re ready to dig and find out what you’re made of, a chat with a top writing coach might be your next step on the road to literary success.

Novel writing coach Jamie Morris, pictured smiling, can help you outline your novel. As a professional writing coach, I support fiction and nonfiction writers working in a number of genres. Wherever you are on your writing journey, I would love to see how I can help you achieve your literary goals. Schedule your free writing consultation with me. And take a look at THE WRITER mag article Should I Hire a Writing Coach.”

 

The image of tarot’s Ten of Wands comes from the ASTROMATRIX TAROT, available on Amazon.

How to Write a Fantasy Novel: Quick Tips!

Wondering how to write a fantasy novel? As a professional writing coach, I’ve learned that following a few important guidelines can make all the difference! Here are some magical tips to help you write fantasy fiction, from me—and NEW YORK TIMES best-selling fantasy author Lev Grossman. Dark blue cover of Lev Grossman's book The Magicians writing a fantasy novel

Quick tips for writing fantasy fiction

World-building: Your fantasy world may be an ancient one, filled with a long history of dwarves and elves and dragons. Or it might exist in a contemporary city, where magic hangs heavy in the air.

Whatever your fantastic world, make sure you establish consistent rules to govern your magical elements. Also, even if there’s not a dwarf in sight, you will still need to include the background of your world.

To do so, answer questions like these: What is the origin of magic in your world? Who is allowed to use the magic? How does the magic manifest? Are there factions in your world? If so, what is the source of their differences?

Limit point of view (POV) characters; Your fantasy may encompass many characters. However, if this is your first foray into writing fantasy, I suggest you limit yourself to no more than four POV characters.

Limiting POV characters makes it easier to map out your story. It also allows you to create an internal arc for each POV character. Those arcs ensure your readers invest in your characters as well as your plot.

Create a stand-alone first novel: Fantasy novels are often developed into series. However, if you’re a first-time fantasy novelist, I suggest you write a stand-alone first novel. Forcing yourself to complete a significant narrative arc in a single book will keep you from drowning in story-line possibilities.

If you love your fantasy world, you may decide to set another story there. Eventually, you may find you have created a series! But if you follow this advice, each volume of that series will be a satisfying read on its own.

Of course, as you dig deeper into your fantasy-novel-writing craft, you’ll be ever-better prepared to commit to a full series, right from the get-go!

Let’s learn from Lev Grossman!

My short list of tips covers what I consider to be the most important for fantasy writers to consider. However, Lev Grossman has written a terrific essay on novel writing that addresses many other points of interest for fantasy—and other—writers.

Check out his Buzzfeed piece “How Not to Write Your First Novel,” subtitled, “It is Okay Not to be a Genius.” (Hm. Reading about Grossman’s chilly, oddly heart-filled journey through six cold months in Maine, I’m pretty sure I see his genius shining through.) Grossman is the author of THE MAGICIANS, THE MAGICIAN KING, and THE MAGICIAN’S LAND, among other well-regarded fantasy titles.

Wondering how to write a fantasy novel? A chat with a top writing coach might help!

Novel writing coach Jamie Morris, pictured smiling, can help you outline your novel. As a novel writing coach, I support writers working in a number of genres, fantasy, among them. Whether you’re world-building or developing your characters, I would love to see how I can help you, too.  Schedule a free initial consultation with me. And also check out THE WRITER mag article Should I Hire a Writing Coach.”

How Long Should a Novel Be?

IN THE BOOK WRITERS’ CRITIQUE GROUP I LEAD, we recently discussed the differences between works of narrative fiction. While word count is not the only distinguishing feature, it’s certainly the easiest to grasp. Perhaps you’re wondering, “How long should a novel be?”

As a professional writing coach, I’m asked about book lengths quite often. That’s why I compiled this quick guide to word count—and a few distinguishing features of long fiction forms, as well.

Word counts for novels, novellas, and novelettes

We call all of the above—novels, novellas, and novelettes—book-length fiction. But they actually vary wildly in length.There are typically other differences in these forms, as well.

Novelettes: Sometimes a term that is used derogatorally. The word count for a novelette is between 7,500 and17,000. In addition to their short length, novelettes are characterized by their sentimental style and, often, on a romantic focus.

Novellas: Not to be confused with telenovelas, a term given to dramatic, primarily Latin American, television series. Novellas have an approximate word count between 17,000 and 40,000. A novella will typically have fewer (if any) subplots than a novel. It will also generally take place in a shorter, more contained time frame and a single location.

Novels: Starting at 40,000 words (except for children’s fiction), with no cap other than what agents, editors, and readers will accept. Given its length, a novel has room for a writer to develop subplots, use multiple points of view, and explore multiple locations—and even multiple periods in time. (Think, time travel novels or family sagas.)

Word counts for novels by genre

Middle Grade: 25,000 – 50,000

Young Adult: 45,000 – 100,000

Fantasy: 50,000 – 150,000

Sci-fi: 50,000 – 150,000.

Romance: 50,000 – 90,000.

Mystery: 40,000 – 80,000.

Horror: 40,000 – 80,000.

Dystopian: 60,000 – 120,000

Thriller: 90,000 – 120,000

I hope this quick look at word counts and genres helps as you prepare to write your novel. You might also like this article: “How to Write a Novel.” It’s an exciting journey—and I wish you all the best as you get underway!

How long should your novel be? A chat with a top novel writing coach can help you navigate the word-count waters!

Fiction writing coach Jamie Morris knows how long a novel should be. As a top novel writing coach, I help book writers decide how long their novel—or novella, or novelette—should be. We can address practical questions like this and much more in a no-cost phone chat. Schedule a free initial consultation with me, now. And read THE WRITER mag article Should I Hire a Writing Coach,” too! 

How to Write a Mystery: 10 Tips

Writing a mystery is complicated, no doubt! But, since mysteries are my favorite type of fiction, I thought it would be a fun challenge to narrow down my thoughts about how to write them effectively. The following 10 tips will help you understand how to write a mystery novel and create suspense on the page. a light shines on a closed book beneath the word "investigation." how to write a mystery

Since two heads are better than one, when considering such a complex topic, I called my award-winning mystery writer pal Elizabeth Sims. She generously agreed to allow me to pick her brilliant mystery-writing brain.

Together, Elizabeth and I settled on the following 10  tips for writing a mystery. We hope they help you find your way through the tricksy woods of your story!

10 tips for writing a mystery

How to write a mystery: sub-genres and outlines

1) PICK A SUB-GENRE: There are many mystery sub-genres. These include cozy mystery, hard-boiled detective fiction, and police procedurals, to name just a few. Job 1? choose your sub-genre and familiarize yourself with the conventions of that style.

2) READ WIDELY: Once you’ve chosen your sub-genre, read 100 (really: 100!) books of that type. While this might seem like overkill (and maybe slightly insane), reading very (VERY) widely in your genre is the single best way to absorb the rhythms of the category.

Plotting your novel with the plot clock book cover helps you know how to write a mystery3) MAP OUT YOUR STORY: Depending on your sub-genre, your story is likely to be quite intricate and complex. Allow yourself time to identify the various twists and turns of your plot. Mystery writers, even more than other writers, benefit from creating solid outlines before starting to write.

Character arcs, subplot, stakes, and settings

4) GIVE YOUR DETECTIVE PROBLEMS: Allow your main character to struggle in their personal life while trying to solve the crime. Their struggles should force them to make a much-needed inner change. This change is as satisfying to the reader as seeing the mystery solved.

5) RAISE THE STAKES! You might think the very fact of an unsolved murder provides enough motivation for the investigating detective. But acctually, stakes-wise, you’ll want your detective to have some skin in the game. Whether they’re threatened with a demotion if they don’t resolve the mystery or they are actually suspects in the case themselves, raise the stakes by giving your main character an urgent  reason to apprehend the murderer.

6) CREATE SUBPLOTS: Mysteries are meant to be, well, mysterious. If you’re driving your story down an unswerving path, your reader won’t enjoy the ride as much as if you add twists and turns—some of which can be provided by a subplot.

Perhaps you can develop one of your main character’s difficulties (above) enough that it distracts that them from solving the crime at hand. If that distraction puts the investigation in jeopardy, you’ve added an extra dollop of suspense into the subplot mix.

7) KNOW YOUR SETTING: Set your mystery in a location (or era) that you know well. Perhaps you’ve got a deep interest in Colonial Africa. Or lived in Boston in the 1980s. Wherever you set your story, be sure you know enough about it to create a faithful and familiar world for readers.

Also, involve your detective directly in that world. Perhaps they’re an investigative reporter in a small town in Alabama or a political protester in Berlin. A main character who’s actively engaged in your mystery’s location adds depth and interest to your work.

Red herrings, reversals, and reveals in your mystery

8) ESTABLISH RED HERRINGS: Red herrings are clues or information that mislead both the detective and the reader. Use them to create suspense by misdirecting the course of the investigation.

9) NAME CHARACTERS CAREFULLY: Don’t give your characters names that signal to the reader where they fall on the good-guy/bad-guy spectrum. Creating “dark” names for dark characters limits your ability to surprise your readers with a character’s unpredictable behavior.

SPOILER ALERT: Think Snape in the Harry Potter series: Learning his dark, nasty name, readers expect him to be a real baddy. But, in fact, he’s a much more sympathetic character than we could ever have imagined. Great work, J. K. Rowling, misleading readers  with a well-considered character name!

10) ADD SURPRISES TO YOUR FINAL SCENES: Twisty endings are appropriate—and necessary—in such a twisty genre. When thinking about how to write your mystery, be sure to leave some surprising reveals or reversals for the last act. You might resolve a red herring or conclude a subplot in an unforeseen way. Whatever you do (“Luke, I’m your father”!), add something unexpected to the (pre-)climactic moments of your mystery.

Writing a mystery in a moral universe

In a way, a mystery novel describes a moral universe. Someone has done something wrong—and we want to see them pay. While you may choose not to bring your antagonist to justice, do your best to create a conclusive ending of some sort.

We’re living in uneasy times. If you can restore order to even a fictional corner of the world, without compromising your artistic vision, I, for one, will be grateful.

Resources to help you write a mystery

Of course, these tips are just the—ahem—tip of the iceberg when it comes to learning to write a successful mystery novel. A search on YouTube, Amazon, or Google will yield another gazillion helpful hints. The resources that follow are particular favorites of mine. Your mileage may vary.

START HERE: When you’re considering writing a mystery—or any other book, for that matter—Elizabeth Sims’s YOU’VE GOT A BOOK IN YOU is a great place to start. Subtitled “A Stress-Free Guide to Writing the Book of Your Dreams,” Sims’s book has garnered tons of well-deserved love—especially from newer book writers.

Plot is central to writing a good mystery. My own book, PLOTTING YOUR NOVEL WITH THE PLOT CLOCK, is a small-but-mighty-tome I wrote with two fabulous co-authors. Its simple—not simplistic—approach to plot can be a game-changer. (Learn more about the Plot Clock!)

OTHER GOOD BOOKS: Larry Beinhart’s HOW TO WRITE A MYSTERY, Patricia Highsmith’s PLOTTING AND WRITING SUSPENSE FICTION, and P.D. James’s TALKING ABOUT DETECTIVE FICTION are just three of many other helpful titles for writers who want to know how to write a mystery.

ORGANIZATIONS: Mystery Writers of America is a wonderful organization. It hosts regional and national mystery writing conferences and provides many other valuable resources for members. Sisters in Crime provides support for women crime writers. And the site The Cozy Mystery Library has virtual shelves full of helpful links for those writing cozies.

Ready to write that mystery? A chat with a top writing coach could help you get started!

Discover how to get your mystery novel off to a great start. Jamie Morris is a mystery novel writing coach. Schedule a free initial consultation. And also take a look at this THE WRITER mag article Should I Hire a Writing Coach.” 

Tarot’s Judgment: Your Writing Coach

When tarot’s Judgment card volunteers to be your writing coach, fasten your seatbelt! It’s time to rev up a manuscript you thought had breathed its last. We’ve all been there, right? (Or is it just me?) We give up on a “failed” manuscript. Then we push it as far away from ourselves as possible, leaving it to die an ignoble death.

But is it really dead?

Tarot’s Judgment card can coach a writer’s draft to life.

Tarot's Judgment: your writing coach is shown as a phoenix rising from the flamesJudgment, in tarot, is about rebirth. In this image, we see a Phoenix rising from the ashes. From the Judgment card’s perspective, we can see that our manuscript did not actually collapse into a pile of cold ashes. It just needed time to settle.

In WRITING DOWN THE BONES, Natalie Goldberg discusses “composting” our ideas. She says that with repeated attempts to express a concept or aspect of our lives, we’ll eventually develop a sort of critical mass of attention. And “something beautiful will bloom.”

This seems to me to be similar to the way we can focus sunlight through a magnifying glass and eventually set fire to a pile of kindling. (Please don’t try this at home!)

Tarot’s Judgment writing coaching moment

It’s been my experience that our ideas, gathered like tinder in the form of a draft, may lay dormant for longer than seems reasonable. In fact, having shoved the darned thing in a drawer or file, we swear we’ll never look at it again.

And then … one day … it calls out to us. Then, it’s time to bring out the magnifying glass and stare at our draft until it bursts into fiery new life. That moment when the twigs spark, that’s a Judgment card moment! When our book draft (finally) starts to kindle, though, we must be right there to fan the flames.

You see, Judgment may make the call. But we must to be ready to answer with a full heart—and faith that this time our book will be fully born from the flames.

Ready to (re-)commit to your book? A chat with a top writing coach might give you the boost you need!

When a writer is ready to tackle either a significant revision or an entirely new approach to their book, a professional writing coach can offer a perspective that will help them get traction right from the get-go. Would you like to discuss your project? Breathe new life into your book with Jamie Morris writing coach and tarot's Judgment card Schedule your free consultation.and check out Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

Tarot’s Judgment Card as Your Writing Coach uses the image of Judgment from the ASTROMATRIX TAROT.

Two of Coins, Your Book Coach

When Ella called, upset that daily life was eating up her writing time, I knew just where to look for advice. Woman juggling two coins as book coach for balance“If tarot’s Two of Coins were your book coach,” I said, “she’d show you just how to keep all your priorities in play.”

The Two of Coins (aka the Two of Pentacles) has made multitasking a fine art! She juggles resources, makes time for multiple projects, and just generally finds balance amid her myriad obligations. Bottom line? There are only so many hours in the day, and it’s up to her to make the most of each.

So much to do!

As a book writer, Ella, like so many of us, struggles to make her time s-t-r-e-t-c-h. She’d like to work on her novel, sure. But she’d also like to help her daughter with her science homework, take the dog for a run, cook something nutritious for dinner, clean the bathroom—and finish the dratted report her boss tossed on her desk at the last minute!

Can she—or you, or me!—get it all done? Maybe? On a good day, perhaps. But the truth is that for many of us, a busy day shoves our writing to the curb.

Book coaching for busy folks

Out of necessity—life!!—the Two of Coins has developed five writing coaching strategies for herself. She uses them to keep her life in balance and get her novel done! These strategies can help you keep your book project alive and spinning with all the other plates you’ve got in the air.

That’s why, if you find yourself in a similar pinch as Ella, I recommend hiring the Two of Coins as your book coach!

Strategies for book writers

1) First things first: When the Two of Coins gets up each morning, the first thing she does  is grab her tablet and jam out 250 words on her novel. These are not (necessarily) good words. She might try out a bit of dialogue or describe a scene. But good or not, these words set her brain to thinking about her novel for the rest of the day!

2) Catch as catch can: My admirable client Jessica works on her novel in the pick-up line at her kids’ school. A couple of times a week, she grabs a half hour when all four kids are doing homework to add another scene or two. Be like Jessica. She makes steady progress in the spaces in-between.

3) Make a date: Find a critique partner whose life is as busy as yours. Meet monthly to exchange pages—and complain about how little time you have to write! This strategy, based on accountability and camaraderie, will give you both someone who cares that you are writing and who sympathizes with how hard you worked to get that writing done.

4) Buy or barter time: If you have kids—or an aged parent, or dogs, or a yard that needs mowing—could you hire a neighbor to help? Or exchange your skills for their time? If some neighborly support buys you even an hour or two a week for writing, you are the big winner.

5) Keep a book diary: End your day by jotting down notes about your book. Maybe you had a thought about plot or structure during your busy day. Or maybe your morning writing gave you a jumping-off place for tomorrow. Spend ten minutes before lights out noting your progress—and where you want to go next.

The Two of Coins, your book coach, gives you a high five—and says, “Keep going!”

Once you get the hang of prioritizing your book, you’ll discover your own strategies to help you get ‘er done. Keeping in mind that the best lives are full to the brim with family, friends, and good creative work, we can always rely on the Two of Coins’ book coaching to show us how to get it all done.

Would you like some insight from a top book coach?

As a professional book coach, I’ve helped many writers create a workable life/writing balance. Maybe I can help you!Jamie Morris Writing Coach Schedule your free consultation.and take a peek  at the article Should I Hire a Writing Coach” in THE WRITER magazine.

The beautiful image of the Two of Pentacles comes from THE MODERN WITCH TAROT DECK, published by Sterling Ethos.

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