Friday, January 21, 2011

The Care and Feeding of a Mystery Novel by Guest Blogger Kate George

Award winning writer, Kate George, is the author of Moonlighting in Vermont and California Schemin’ (due out March 1, 2011). She lives in Vermont with Dogs, kids, and currently, snow. You can reach her at Her books are available at, or can be ordered from any bookstore.

Pagan Spirits is proud to have Kate George here with a special guest post, "The Care and Feeding of a Mystery Novel."

This probably won’t come as a surprise to my regular readers, but I’m not a plotter. I made a stab at plotting for Moonlighting in Vermont, because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to figure out how to get from point A to point B without some kind of outline. But I couldn’t stick with it. Half the fun of writing is seeing what will happen next. That’s also the hell of writing, but we’ll ignore that for the time being.

I love the discovery process. I’ll be typing along and something will appear on the page and I’ll think, Oh, that’s what happens! Then there are the times I’m driving down the road thinking about my characters, and what’s happened so far, and a crucial scene will occur to me. Sometimes whole blocks of dialog will come to me. Or I’ll get a glimpse into a character’s motivation. It’s kind of like magic.

That’s unless I write myself into a corner. It happens. In fact it happened recently. I went somewhere and when I got there I realized it wasn’t where I wanted to be. Another story maybe, but not the one I was currently working on. Maybe that can happen to writers who meticulously plot as well, but I’m guessing it’s not often. Come to think of it, I don’t write myself into a corner that often, but I hate it when I do. Now I’m going to have to toss at least a chapter.

Remember I said the surprise of what happens next wasn’t just the fun of writing but also the hell? I hate tossing work, I really do. But not as much as I hate trying to make a scene work that clearly doesn’t.

So how do you go about writing a mystery if you aren’t plotting the whole thing out? Well often I know a few key points. Maybe I’ll start with who died and who my protagonist is. If it’s romantic suspense then the hero will probably figure into my initial idea. But then sometimes the guy I thought was the hero turns out not to be. It’s someone else altogether. So I start with what I think I know.

I tend not to set things up ahead of time but jump right into where the action is. The unearthing of the body or in the case of California Schemin’ the un-skying of the body. Yes I said un-sky-ing. The body falls out of the sky. Sort of. Anyway, you know what I mean. I start where the action is and let it carry me along, and before I know it I’ve written an entire mystery. How fun is that?


Kate George/Bodacious Betty said...

Thanks Erin, for letting me ramble on at your place. A change of location is always good!

I'm happy to answer questions - anything, really.

Kaye George said...

I had the main character start falling for a guy that I thought was kind of dorky. She's still with him and I think it will only get more intense.

Sometimes, though, I have to have someone die in the middle to up the ante. I'm totally in control then!

Nice post.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Hello, Kate. Great piece! And thanks, Erin, for stopping by Murderby4 as well as giving us the link to this article!