A Chronicle of Progress as I write my fourth novel.
After 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 for 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).
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.
So, 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.