Camp NaNoWriMo: Week Four

We’re in the final stretch! April was a fast month.

Camp NaNoWriMo: Week Four | Creative Writing | Writing | Cozy Mystery | Mystery | RachelPoli.com

I say this about every time I rewrite George Florence and the Perfect Alibi, but I have to say it again – this draft is coming out so much better than previous drafts!

While I’ve gotten into writing slumps, I’ve never lost passion for this novel. I’ve had novel ideas and have been excited about them before. I write them, edit them once or twice, and forget about them. Sometimes, I don’t even get to the editing stage or don’t even complete the first draft.

George Florence is different though. He came to be in January 2011 (if I remember correctly), so it’s been nine years. I’ve written and rewritten countless drafts and, as I said, even though I get into writing slumps here and there, I’ve never lost my passion for this novel, for this series. I love these characters and I can’t wait to publish them someday. (Someday, hopefully, soon.)

With that said, I think I’ve made more progress in this draft than I ever have before. I won’t go into too many details (it’s confusing and… well, spoilers) but my characters did me a favor.

I know, usually, they run amok and argue with me every step of the way. This time was different though.

A lot of ideas I had for this book (for the series as a whole) have continued to exist in this draft but they make a lot more sense. The major plot point, however, hasn’t changed. Yet, I always had a hard time connecting the dots.

Well, guess what? This past week, I wrote a chapter. My characters had a heart-to-heart (totally unexpected, I was just trying to get some words down) and – lo and behold – their heart-to-heart lead to a major breakthrough in the case. That breakthrough was the one piece I needed to complete the puzzle of this mystery.

They did it and it actually makes sense.

Needless to say, the novel is going pretty smoothly. I reached 50,000 words on the novel on April 23rd, so I reached my goal for NaNoWriMo. I’m still writing 2,000 words a day, but I did skip one day. I’m still taking that as a win.

Daily Word Count

Day 21: 2,200
Day 22: 2,820
Day 23: 2,058
Day 24: 2,036
Day 25: 0
Day 26: 2,232
Day 27: 2,231

I’ll reach 60,000 words today. Let’s see how far I can go with this draft before the month ends. I hope this month has been a productive writing month for you as well.

Are you participating in Camp? If so or if not, what are you currently working on and how’s it going? Let me know in the comments below and let’s chat. If you enjoyed this post, please share it. 

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What To Include In Your Mystery Novel’s Outline [Mystery Month]

It’s Mystery Month and we’re starting right at the beginning of creating a mystery novel. I know most people don’t care too much for outlining, but when it comes to writing a mystery, I find an outline really helps. So, here’s what to include in your mystery novel’s outline.

What To Include In Your Mystery Novel's Outline | Mystery Month | Mystery Writing | Creative Writing | RachelPoli.com

A List of Characters

This probably goes without saying, but it’s always helpful to have a list of characters handy. So many people are involved in a mystery novel. There’s the detective or police officers, witnesses, suspects, any assistants, the victim, and their family and/or friends, the culprit and anyone who knows them, etc. Even if you just write down their names and their title for the novel (witness, for example), at least you have something. I personally like to write down their first and last names, title, age, and any major plot points that affect them or they had an involvement in.

A List of Clues and Evidence

With crime comes evidence, clues, witness statements, you name it. It’s a good idea to have a handy list of what these clues are and what they mean. Also, how and when they’ll be discovered. Not to mention you can always strategically place them throughout the book. Which one should be discovered and discussed in which chapter and the like.

The Details of the Crime

Who, what, where, when, why, and how. That’s really all you need to know and it’s better to figure it all out before you start writing. Or else you’ll be ripping your hair out later.

A Timeline

Going along with the details of the crime, it’s always a good idea to have a general timeline of the events of the book as well. Not just for the crime but also for the investigation. Despite it being fiction, it’s pretty unrealistic for a homicide to be solved in one day or within a few hours. Evidence needs to be processed, bodies need to be autopsied, travel time to the crime scene, and so much more. There are only so many hours in a day, remember.

An Outline is Not Your Book

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story, but an outline makes that first draft easier to tell… and it also relieves a lot of pressure on the editing part. Outlines are optional and even if you create one, it’s just a guideline for your book – know that things will change. Still, it’ll help in the long run. Your ideas will be in order and it’ll be less remembering for you later.

Do you outline your mystery novels? Or for any genre? Let me know your thoughts on this post in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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7 Elements Of A Mystery Novel [Mystery Month]

We all know what goes into a story – plot, characters, settings, etc. However, there’s more to it depending on the genre you write. Since I main in mystery and it’s Mystery Month, we’ll be talking about the 7 elements of a mystery novel.

7 Elements of a Mystery Novel | Creative Writing | Mystery Writing | Mystery Month | Mystery Genre | RachelPoli.com

Cliffhanger Hook

This goes without saying for every book, but you want the beginning of the novel to really hook your reader. You want them to sink their teeth into the words and frantically turn the pages for more. The hook can be anything though introducing the crime right off the bat is a good way to do it. Of course, not everyone does it that way but do what you think works best for your story. A cliffhanger on the first few pages is a fun way to go too.

Suspense All Around

Of course, you want your mystery novel to be suspenseful. It doesn’t matter what sub-genre of mystery you’re writing it, you want to keep your readers on their toes. The characters need to have high stakes – what if they don’t solve the crime? Or, what if they do? Why is this particular crime such a big deal? What sort of evidence is just evidence or damning evidence?

Red Herrings

Red herrings are “leads” that turn your characters (and readers) in the wrong direction. In some ways, red herrings can be pretty predictable. I know a few books and TV shows that the first person they accuse is a red herring because they do it so often. Still, if woven into the book correctly and the evidence line up, red herrings are a lot of fun to write. It added meaningful filler and add some in-depth character development. Plus, it’ll keep your readers guessing.

Strong, Compelling Characters

If you’re going to write a mystery novel, you want to have characters with purpose. Why are they involved in the case? What does it have to do with them and why do they care about it? Your characters need to have meaning or maybe even a personal involvement in the case. The case, in the end, will only make them stronger. During, though, it’ll push their limits.

Evidence The Makes Sense

While evidence can serve as red herrings as well, each piece needs to make sense. You need to connect all the evidence to one person or a group of people as well as to the crime as a whole. Why is each piece of evidence important and what does it mean? If a clue is a red herring then you need to explain why they thought it pertained to the case and what it actually was when they figure out it had nothing to do with the case in the first place. Everything should be tied in together in one way or another.

Reader Involvement

Part of the fun of reading mystery novels is that I get to play detective. There are some novels where it’s easier to take a look at the crime than others. Depending on the POV of the protagonist, your reader can easily follow along and make their own deductions. Sometimes readers know only what the detective knows or sometimes they’ll know more than the detective and rip their hair out when the detective overlooks something crucial. Still, that sort of involvement is fun, engaging, and adds so much more suspense for the reader.

A Satisfying Ending

Like all good books, we want a good ending. Whether it’s happy or sad, we want it to be satisfying. For a mystery, everything should make sense and be wrapped up neatly and clearly. If there’s a book two, it’ll make your reader rush out to get the next one.

What are some other things you like to see in mystery novels? Let me know your thoughts on this post in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Editing/Rewriting A Novel During Camp NaNoWriMo

I started writing a mystery novel way back in 2011 (or 2013… I honestly can’t remember it’s been so long).

I wrote the first draft, edited it, then wrote the second draft. Then I realized I needed a serious POV change.

I rewrote the novel, edited it, rewrote it again, and edited it again. Sort of. I’ve been trying to edit it, but my editing skills weren’t great. I’d end up just finding typos, get discouraged, then put the manuscript aside to write something else.

All to avoid editing.

Rewriting A Novel For Camp NaNoWriMo | Creative Writing | Mystery Writing | RachelPoli.com

My editing skills have grown a lot over time. I feel more confident editing and I actually do a good job (I think so, anyway).

Surprisingly enough, I did learn a thing or two in my creative writing courses in college. I’ve also experimented and tried different styles of editing.

The method I use the most and that seems to work best for me is Rainbow Editing. I have different colored pens and use each color to zero-in on different parts of the story such as plot, character development, pacing and tension, spelling and grammar, and more.

My problem was always that I’d read my novels and never see a way to make them better other than to check for typos. I didn’t know what to look for. I don’t read each paragraph six times, once for each color, I just read it slowly and ask myself, “What else can this character do other than nod and shake his head?” It works.

My plan for Camp NaNo this month was to rewrite or retype, the first book in my mystery series. I’ve been stuck on this book for so long now and I think it’s high time I get my butt into gear and do something with it.

I never have because I struggled with the editing. I knew changes needed to be made, things added, others deleted, but I never knew how to go about it. Now I do and I feel confident about it.

So, I was going to retype the latest edited draft and go into May ready and excited to edit the next draft. I’ve given myself until the end of the summer to really make sure this novel is ready.

Except, when I opened my Dropbox I realized I already had a document saved for this current draft. I clicked on it and I already had the first chapter retyped.

Okay, cool. One less chapter for me to do. I opened the hard copy of my manuscript, flipped to the second chapter, and… it wasn’t edited.

Apparently, I had edited the first chapter, “edited” the rest of the story (the pages only had one or two red marks if any at all) and I had deemed that well enough to type up as a new draft.

The document was made in August 2016… Yeah, that’s how long it’s been. Go figure.

So there’s been a change of plans. I’ll be editing the current hard copy I have during NaNo this month. I’m tallying up the words for each chapter and counting that as my word count. It kind of sounds like cheating, but my goal is 80,000 words this month and I’m still making progress. I’m not going to worry about it.

The manuscript is about 65,000 words and I don’t even know if I’ll end up finishing the whole draft before the end of the month. I’m hoping I will but I also want to take my time with it.

I’ve been making great progress on it so far. The rainbow editing has been really helping me. I also created a timeline of events that happen in (and out) of the books, creating a timeline of the books in the series as well. I had done that a while ago, but I’m using it now as a reference and I know where this series is going to go.

I’ve never been excited to edit before and now I actually enjoy it.

How do you go about rewriting a novel? Have you ever done so for a Camp NaNo session? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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8 Tips For Writing A Mystery Novel [NaNoWriMo 2017]

I’m not writing a mystery novel for NaNoWriMo this year, but I’m sure you know how much I love mystery and that I do write a lot of it.

I run a Mystery Month on this blog and 9 times out of 10, I write a mystery for NaNo. So, if you’re writing a mystery novel this month, here are some tips.

8 Tips for writing Mystery

1. Do your research.

It sounds a bit weird to research how to hide a body or how long it takes a body to start to smell if left out for too long. Still, you should fact-check. Despite it being fiction, you should always have that little bit of truth in there. Know what you’re talking about and when your characters are investigating a crime, do the real world some justice.

2. Know your genre and sub-genre.

There are so many different sub-genres of mystery. You’ve got your cozy mystery, you’re courtroom drama, whodunit stories, and much more. Which sub-genre does your mystery fall under? Sure, you can mix them up, but it always helps to define what kind of mystery you’re writing about.

3. Keep your readers always guessing.

Red herrings are a lot of fun, if they’re used in the right way. Red herrings are fake clues thrown in just to throw the detective and the readers off the hot trail. It’s great for a “wow” factor when the real clue is finally found and it certainly keeps the readers interested.

4. Know the crime inside and out.

Whether you like to outline or not, it never hurts to plan out the crime before you write. If you have  a basic idea, know the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the crime. It’ll help you keep track of what’s going on, keep a list of clues and evidence. The more you know and understand, the easier it will be to convey to your readers.

5. Should your readers be able to figure it out? Make it so, but not too easily.

I’ve read my fair share of mystery novels. Some are easy to figure out, some are hard. Some I don’t figure out at all. It’s up to you whether you want to make it so your readers can investigate and infer who the culprit is. You can let them be detectives or just keep them guessing throughout. Every reader has a preference. Either way, you should explain everything to a certain extent in the end.

6. Motive is key.

I’m sure everyone knows that motive is everything when you’re trying to charge someone for a crime. Why did they do what they did? Sometimes the motive isn’t always clear. Sometimes the motive can be a red herring for a suspect. However, there should always be some sort of connection, personal or otherwise, to the culprit and the crime.

7. Give unique and thorough backgrounds for your protagonist and antagonist.

This sort of goes along with the previous point. Why did your antagonist do what they did? And why is the case important to your protagonist? Usually, when a detective solves a crime, they have some sort of connection to it somehow, or it reminds them of something from the past. There are a lot of cliches to watch out for (such as the detective who lost his wife prematurely or something), though some of them can still work depending on how you weave it in.

8. Remember, good is not always good and bad is not always bad.

People do good things for bad reasons and bad things for good reasons. But is it really good or bad? Is your protagonist an anti-hero? Is revenge their motive? It’s up to your readers to decide.

Are you writing a mystery novel for NaNo? What other tips can you come up with? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!

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