Thursday, January 12, 2017

How to find a plot hole


8 basic steps in a murder mystery

The Problem:

I've been writing book 4 in the Caleb Cove Mystery Series. Doing well--I thought - until I reached about 18,000 words and realized. I had solid characters, lots of action, BUT no danger, no suspense, no tension and now where to go that was interesting in terms of a mystery story.
Major missing pieces.  **BIG SIGH**  

For the last two nights I watched old mystery series and crocheted, my go-to for keeping front mind busy so underneath can brainstorm. No real progress on the story ( did make 2 hats.)

Return to the drawing board:

This morning I decided to forget my location, action and characters and go back to the basics of a murder plot. In other words, backing up and looking at the big picture which needs to include these for starters.

Killing, killer, victim, discovery, reporting, sleuth and solution.

My brainstorming tool of choice:

 -- a mind map. (See Tony Buzan & Mind Mapping)

I started with the bodies, asked questions and fanned out around the central point. And bingo, I found my missing link and wrote down a BASIC plot line. (On left of diagram.) The long curvy arrow is the missing link.

What I found is not visible (x marks the spot) because that would be a spoiler for the book. (Came Home From the Grave - coming in 2017)

 The Result: The Plot

1) finds bodies, 

2) investigates, 

3) learn secrets, 

4) gets found out by killer before telling secret, 

5) ends up in mortal danger , 

6) escapes OR is rescued or a bit of both

7) reveals and catches killer

8) gets reward


Steps 3 and 4 were the missing pieces.

Now I know where to put all that action and character development and what to add to make things worse, to increase tension, and to enhance the mystery.


What is your go-to tool for solving writing problems - plot, character or other?



Saturday, January 7, 2017

How to deal with reviews

The Review challenge

One challenge for self-publishers is getting reviews. Right up there with getting them, is giving them. Reviews can be fun to do. However, if the author is a person who did a review for you, or they are a friend/fellow-group member, it can be difficult. How honest can you be? How objective? Even if the writer is unknown to you, how harsh do you wish to be?

As a reviewer, it’s important to be true to your objective-take on a book. If you always give 5-Star reviews, folks start to doubt the value of those reviews. On the other hand, no one wants to be hurtful or discouraging to fellow writers.

The 5-star rating limits choices. Sometimes a book is a 3.5, or the writing warrants a 5, but the story evolution isn't as stellar. A book can be an enjoyable read without being a 5 Star book.

Additionally genres differ. A reviewer might not “like” a book simply because of the genre even thought it has a story and skilled writing. So what is that assessment worth in the overall scheme of ratings?

 Most writers have considered the pitfalls of this review process and state that consistency in your reviews is important. Know why you like or don't like a book and translate that into an objective review each and every time.

More than one writer has defined a personal system. One way to help understand a reviewer's system, read other reviews they've written. Having a pre-determined system makes reviewing easier. I've read other defining commentaries on ratings and have devised a system I use.

  • 5 Stars – Excellent story, well-written, worth every penny, drew me through the story fast enough to turn off my internal editor
  • 4 Stars – Great book, satisfying read, skilled writing, well-crafted story/plot, would read more by this author and highly recommend it
  • 3 stars – Good overall, generally well written, easy read, has at least one strong component (writing, plot or characters)
  • 2 Stars – Mildly decent story premise, moderate writing skills, possibly predictable or boring, would not read another by this author.
  • 1 Star – Difficult to read line-to-line writing, unlikeable or boring characters, hard to finish or not finished at all, would not recommend it

Based on this ranking tier, I consider a book with a 4-Star review and positive comments well worth buying--strongly recommended. For example this one for Came Home Too Late.

By BMCBookBabe on September 1, 2016

Format: Kindle Edition
CAME HOME TOO LATE is the 3rd book in Mahrie G. Reid’s Caleb Cove Mystery series and I think it's the best so far. The heroine, Emily Martin, is a well-developed, sympathetic character, and the hero, Harvey Conrad, is strong and smart, like a great mystery sleuth should be. The hint of a potential romance between the two adds a little somethin’-somethin’ to this modern cozy but in no way detracts from the plot. The author drops you into the intrigue right from the start with a woman on the run from an unknown threat and works her pacing to keep the reader on the edge up to the very last page as the mystery unfolds. The beautiful Nova Scotia setting is again front and centre with the unique cultural references woven in with a light hand. Anyone who enjoys small town cozy mysteries in an updated Murder She Wrote style is sure to love this series.