Writing the Cozy Mystery, Nancy J Cohen

Tomorrow, I’m flying to San Diego to host a bridal shower for my sister-in-law. Consequently, this week has been spilt between keeping up my word count for Camp NaNo, editing November’s NaNo novel, and double-checking that all the details for the party are in order. I’m not the best party planner, and it turns out, it’s much harder to organize an event I have to fly to. I’ve been leaning heavily on the advice of the friend who planned my shower years ago; she seems to do such things effortlessly, and with her help, I’m only minimally freaked out about playing host to twenty women I don’t know (and one who I very much want to feel pampered for a day).

Between word sprints and remembering to pack ribbon for decorating favors, I really haven’t had much time for reading. Fortunately, Cohen’s guide, which I’ve had in my queue since February, is a blessedly brief book. (Of course, I highlighted about forty percent of it, since my mother and I are teaming up to write a mystery this summer, which essentially guarantees I’ll have to reread practically the whole thing when I move into productivity for that project…)

I’ve been writing fiction for a long time, and part of me felt silly reading a book like this, but I’m also the kind of person who thrives on directions. I love guidelines, and prompts, and advice about how to set up pre-book-writing data. Cohen’s book was perfect for this. She’s concise, informative, and has years of experience in the genre to back up her suggestions. It was written to target writers new to both the genre and to fiction in general, but I didn’t feel condescended to; instead, it was like having a cup of tea with someone who has already gone on a vacation I’m planning to take. Sure, I can imagine my packing list, the best hikes, and where to eat while I’m there, but it’s still nice to pick the brain of someone who’s made the trip already.

Happily, it will serve as an excellent planner for our venture into unknown territory. My mother and I have actually written a few novels together, but we never do much plotting in advance. Instead, we’ve always treated it as almost a surprise – one person writes a chapter and sends it along, then the next person adds one, and so on – eventually, we meander into the meat of the story and resolve all of the loose ends we’ve littered along the way. It’s a surprisingly fun way to write, but not necessarily the best tactic for a mystery. I suspect a little planning beforehand will save us a lot of headaches later, and even after this initial reading of Cohen’s book, we’ve already created a joint Google doc and started filling it with ideas (and let’s be honest – I also took my twenty percent discount from NaNo and finally purchased Scrivener because an org nerd like me should not be without such a program any longer).

Now, if only I could have been as satisfied with the resources I found for planning that shower…


For more about Nancy Cohen, go here.

3 thoughts on “Writing the Cozy Mystery, Nancy J Cohen

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