Building a Mystery

Power of Words

The Power of Words by Antonio Litterio

Recently I was asked about my drafting process, so I thought I’d share a bit about it here on my blog.

My drafting strategy has changed over time, and I won’t be surprised if it continues to evolve as I write more books in the future. When I first started writing novels, I was a complete panster. In other words, I’d start writing without doing any plotting or planning beforehand. That didn’t work out so well for me though. I’d end up with a weak plot that sometimes dwindled off into nothing as I wrote myself into a dead-end.

When I wrote my first mystery, Dead Ringer (which was my fourth novel), I did a bit of planning before writing, but not a whole lot. That strategy worked at the time, but when I approached my next mystery in the same fashion, the results weren’t so great. I ended up with a manuscript that was way too short and had to spend a lot of time and effort reworking it into a full-length story.

Since that experience, I’ve been doing a lot more planning before starting to write, and so far I’m finding that it makes my life easier. I’m not the kind of person who can plan out the entire story before drafting, with every scene outlined in detail, but I do like to have a framework to build on, especially for mysteries, which can get confusing with all the suspects, clues, and red herrings involved.

When preparing to write a mystery, I now start out by planning the basics. I come up with the killer, the victim(s), the motive, and the means. Once I know those elements, I make a list of suspects, people who have a reason to want the victim dead. I also include each suspect’s apparent motive. Then I move on to listing the things that each suspect will do or the information the main character will find out about them that makes that person seem guilty. Sometimes I’ll also make a note of what could end up exonerating that suspect in the end.

I assign each character a colour and then merge all the suspect notes into a timeline so I have a general idea of which events will occur in which order and when the main character will discover each piece of information. That timeline usually changes along the way, but it at least gives me something to work with. The colour coding helps me to see how the things related to each suspect will be distributed throughout the story, and also makes it obvious if one character needs more added to his or her part of the plot.

Once all that is done, I write a basic outline for the first two or three chapters, and then I start writing. Generally, I’ll outline between two and five chapters at a time. That allows me to have some direction while also letting the story take me places I couldn’t have anticipated beforehand.

So while I do work with an outline, that outline changes and evolves along the way. I guess that puts me somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between a plotter and a pantster. Probably a little closer to the plotter side now, which is proving valuable in my current circumstances. Now that I have deadlines to meet, I find it far less stressful to end up with a relatively strong plot at the end of the first draft, rather than having to spend weeks later on revising substantial parts of the structure of the story. Of course, that’s just what works best for me. Every writer is different, after all. 🙂

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Cover Reveal: Deadly Overtures

Deadly Overtures (A Music Lover’s Mystery #3) will be released in June 2016, first as an e-book, with paperback to follow. As with the first two books in the series, Deadly Overtures follows professional violinist Midori Bishop in her adventures as an amateur sleuth. I’ll share more about the book below, but first here’s the cover:

Deadly Overtures

I love it so much and I’m so grateful to the art department at HarperCollins for designing such fabulous covers for each book in the series.

Here’s what Deadly Overtures is about:

Four talented classical music composers have been named finalists in a composing competition hosted by the Point Grey Philharmonic. With money and egos on the line, it doesn’t surprise violinist Midori Bishop that the competition has brought out jealousy and bitter rivalries among the entrants. What does surprise her is finding one of the finalists murdered in the theater. With a cloud of suspicion hanging over the symphony’s esteemed concertmaster, Midori orchestrates her own investigation, uncovering a medley of dark secrets and motives for murder. But can she can bring the truth to light before the killer silences her forever?

Again, Deadly Overtures is due out in June 2016. The ebook is currently available for pre-order on Amazon, Amazon Canada, Chapters, Barnes & Noble, and from other online book retailers. You can find out more about the first two books in the series (Dead Ringer and Death in A Major) on my author website.

I’ve had so much fun writing this mystery series and I hope readers will enjoy it!

Writing Update

Blue_pen_on_paper

Photo credit: Revital9

Writing-wise, the last few months have been very busy for me, but in the best possible way. I’ve been working on two cozy mystery series, both of which have books coming out in the next few months. In January, the second book in the Music Lover’s Mystery series, Death in A Major, was released as an e-book, and the trade paperback was released in mid-February. While that book was getting released into the world, I was working away at the third book in the series (Deadly Overtures) as well as the first book in the Pancake House Mystery series (Crêpes of Wrath).

At this point, Deadly Overtures and Crêpes of Wrath are with their respective copy editors. The manuscripts will come back to me one more time for final review, and then I won’t see them again until they’re published. (Exciting!) Deadly Overtures is due out in June 2016 and Crêpes of Wrath will be released in September 2016.

I’ve seen the cover for Deadly Overtures and absolutely love it. I’m hoping I’ll be able to do a cover reveal soon to share it with everyone. I hope you’ll all love it as much as I do!

While I’m waiting for the copyedited manuscripts to come back to me for final review, I’m working on the second book in the Pancake House Mystery series. Although I’ve been doing some brainstorming and plotting for a week or two, I only started drafting it this weekend. Aside from reviewing my other manuscripts one last time, this is the book I’ll be focusing on for the next few months.

I hope readers will enjoy both series! 🙂

Dead Ringer on sale!

Dead RingerAmazon currently has the ebook of Dead Ringer on sale! Dead Ringer is the first book in the Music Lover’s Mystery series, featuring Midori Bishop, professional violinist and amateur sleuth.

The ebook is currently available for $0.85 on Amazon.com and $0.99 on Amazon.ca.

Here’s what the book is about:

Midori Bishop’s life is hitting all the right notes. She has her dream job playing violin in the Point Grey Philharmonic Orchestra, and is embarking on a new relationship with the symphony’s hot maestro. But when Midori finds a cellist strangled to death during a rehearsal, the maestro soon becomes the number-one suspect and Midori his only supporter.

Midori sets out to prove the maestro’s innocence, but soon discovers that he and many others have secrets they would rather keep hidden. For someone who was only a ringer—a temporary member of the orchestra—the dead cellist had certainly made a lot of enemies. And as the investigation takes Midori closer to the truth, the killer gears up for a grand finale—with Midori as the intended victim.