The Birth of a Novel

A Chronicle of Progress as I write my fourth novel.

gator official coverAfter completing my third novel, Gator Bait – A Tennis Team Mystery, I wondered which direction my next novel should take. I’ll be honest. I dithered around. I was busy preparing Gator for publication, marketing my other novels, and distracted from writing daily . . . because life happens.

Indecision stalled me at the pre-writing stage. Should I do another in my Backcountry Mystery series, continue with the Tennis Team Mystery series, or work on other half-completed stories in my files? I waited for inspiration to fall from the sky.

Choose a genre

Publishers, people who run contests, interviewers, and readers all want a book to fall into a genre… a neat, one-or-two-word definition of what to expect from your novel. The acquisition editor for20140509_142200 Worldwide Mystery, a Harlequin imprint, just sent me a nice note saying that she loved Rim to Rim-Death in the Grand Canyon, but it doesn’t fit with what their readers expect…. “it isn’t a standard mystery…more of an adventure/mystery, self-discovery story.” I agree.

When I wrote Rim to Rim and its sequel, Wolf Pack-Mystery on Isle Royal, I wasn’t thinking of writing a stereotypical mystery. I just wanted to create exciting stories which took readers on adventures to beautiful places with interesting characters. I love those two books and most of my readers do, too, but publishers and agents didn’t know what to do with them. They needed a category.

So, my third novel took a new turn. I enjoy light mysteries, also known as cozy mysteries. Think Agatha Christie . . . Her murders takes place in a small community, with a limited pool of suspects, there is no gore or explicit sex. The sleuth is usually a woman. I researched the guidelines for cozy mysteries and wrote Gator Bait accordingly. I had fun with the feisty women on the Paradise Palms tennis team.

Several of my author-friends write police procedurals (another sub-category of mystery), and they find greater acceptance with publishers. I considered writing in that genre, but I’m too impatient to research the details of detective and crime scene analyst responsibilities. I’d make mistakes. Readers would know.

There are other genres, of course…..horror (I can’t watch such movies), YA (I never understood teenagers, even when I was one), historical romance (Ha. My husband would think he was the hero on the white horse and then get miffed when he reads he is not.), erotica (we won’t even go there).

Comfort Zones

An author must write in the genre comfortable to her/him, otherwise the story will come across as stilted or forced. Write what you know, they always say, and they’re right. Write what you enjoy reading. Write about your own experiences….you can always exaggerate, twist them around, or transport them into another time or place. This approach requires less research, so you can get on with the fun part…writing.

tennis figure 1 orangeSo, my choice of genre has been made. My fourth novel will be a cozy mystery, the next Tennis Team Mystery — same feisty main characters as in Gator Bait, but with a new issue to tackle while they get to the bottom of why a retiree was murdered on their tennis courts. That’s all I know for now. The rest of the story is a mystery to me.


What to write about? Where do ideas come from? What is of interest to readers? Sex sells.

7 thoughts on “The Birth of a Novel

  1. Trying to conform to genre stilts your style. Write what you want to, it’ll read better and feel right. then get a good commercial editor to help you shape it to the market place, but don’t get too hung up on that. Stick as close as you can to your original story, because that’s the one with your voice in it, and it’s you readers want, not conformist pap.

      1. Too right! I always believe rules are for the obedience of idiots, sycophants and those who can’t think for themselves, and for the guidance of wise folk like thee and me. 🙂

  2. Since you are self-published, why worry about genre? You are so right that you should write what you like, becauser then you flow through your words and your story comes to life. If you try to conform to an artificial format that someone who probably never write more than a rejection letter concocted, you’ll stifle yourself and the story will be pap. Yours are far from that, and we get to see something of the adventurous you behind the scenes. That’s why your books are worth reading an sell.
    The most difficult part of the job is selling your books, but if you don’t have fun writing them, that becomes a drag and they won’t be saleable. Enjoy writing what you want to write, then we, your readers, will enjoy reading it and tell our friends.
    I’m off now to look for Crock Bait! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Ian. “Crock Bait” made me laugh. I do agree that genre shouldn’t matter, but I feel more comfortable having a lable to give prospective readers. We should know the rules of genre…and then break them to make the story our own.

  3. Thank you, Victoria. I appreciate your excellent advice. I am self-published because I don’t care for all the restrictions of the traditional publishers. I’m having a great time with it, too. I’ll go check out your book right now.

  4. Dear Jeanne,
    You are a wonderful writer with great imagination. Leave cozy mysteries for those who like to read and write mediocrity. Write your books and make them yours. There are enough books out there who fit into a genre. Yawn. My first novel, “The Art of Peeling an Orange,” doesn’t fit snuggly into one category. It is like life and like its author. Wild and different. I heard hundreds of THIS IS NOT FOR OUR LIST. I finally self published on KDP and never looked back. It is mine, the cover design is mine, no one had cut it to bits to fit into a certain length, and those who love it ADORE it for its uniqueness.
    All the best to you. Please remain yourself for the sake of your readers.

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