Write Like This... Why?

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Fictional Chef
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Write Like This... Why?

Postby Fictional Chef » Tue Feb 27, 2018 11:16 pm

Writers today live in a very different world than writers of yesteryear. If you wanted to be published, you followed the publisher's rules for writing. To an extent, I understand that because they're the experts. But, so many writers today have come up with their own rules; their own formulas for success. Some have reinvented that metaphorical wheel that they were told not to. Some helped redefine genres; or at least add new themes to sub-genres. They did this by writing their stories their way and persevered until they either found, or created, a market for their stories.

In so many areas of success in life, the old rules don't apply anymore. Success today is more often achieved by thinking so far outside the box that the box is deemed old-fashioned and irrelevant!

I say all that to ask you this: Are writer's chances of being published still too tightly bound to the old ways and rules of publishers? Are they open to genres being bent a little? To that same point, are readers open to it? For example, I love cozy mysteries. I love the quaint towns, quirky characters, lack of sex, violence and vulgar language. Yet, it's generally expected (by readers and publishers) that the amateur sleuth solves a murder. There are very few exceptions where the mystery is a crime other than murder. Nonetheless, I would like to write a cozy mystery series where, instead of murder, or theft, the sleuth solves mysteries. Mysteries that often contain unexpected adventures.

But, I'm constantly told that wouldn't be a cozy mystery even though all of the other elements are there. Some say that would just be called a mystery novel. Others have said the other cozy elements of the story are too soft to be considered a mystery at all. If these are true, then where would my stories fit? Would agents and publishers even consider a novel that doesn't neatly fit into their definition of a genre or sub-genre?

Either way, I'm writing them! I'll pioneer a new sub-genre if I have to! But, with successes in so many other areas of life today coming from doing things in ways that no one else is, or providing a service/product that follows it's own unique recipe, is my series doomed due to the traditional definitions and formulas prescribed INSIDE the box?

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ostarella
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Re: Write Like This... Why?

Postby ostarella » Wed Feb 28, 2018 12:44 am

It's definitely possible to write a type of mystery that doesn't involve murder - there's a partial list here:

https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/4729.Non_Murder_Mysteries

(You can Google "non-murder mystery novels" to find more)

Granted, looking through that list, I, personally, would refer to some of those as thrillers, some as children's books, but nevertheless, non-murder mysteries do exist.

I would say go ahead and write your book, and don't be overly concerned about a "new" genre or sub-genre or groundbreaking or anything else. Obviously publishers aren't afraid of these types of mysteries, so just write it as well as you can and submit. In the end, what publishers really want are well-written books that people will want to read - and hopefully will then want to read the next book that author writes as well. I'm assuming that's also what writers want to write.
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LadySeshiiria
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Re: Write Like This... Why?

Postby LadySeshiiria » Wed Feb 28, 2018 12:58 pm

If this helps anyone is anyway, as an avid reader growing up I would have loved it if things were shaken up more, if things didn't always fit a mold. It was refreshing. Not to say that I didn't search for tags or specific styles of stories though. I think if you can execute it in a good way a publish would have no issue publishing it!

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Re: Write Like This... Why?

Postby Fictional Chef » Sat Mar 03, 2018 8:05 pm

Sorry about the late reply. End of months are beyond busy for me.

Ostarella, I understand exactly what you're saying, and I agree. Of course there are non-murder mysteries out there. They're just not very common in the cozy mystery genre. One thing I've learned is that cozy mystery readers are fiercely loyal and they have their expectations, which are not to be toyed with! Murder is the expected mystery to be solved. Non-murder mysteries in cozy fiction are very few and far between.

Like you said, how they're written defines which genre they'll end up in whether it's middle grade, thriller or cozy. The series I have planned will be written in cozy fashion for sure. My hook just won't be quilting, cats, cooking or Sudoku with dead bodies strewn about town in every book. I've not made up my mind how to describe the types of mysteries that will be solved yet. They're not paranormal but, at times, might be thought to be. Sometimes local lore and urban legends. Other times just strange and unusual events.

What makes me nervous about writing this series (which I fully intend to do anyway) is finding an audience with cozy enthusiasts. Not to mention finding a publisher of cozies who's willing to take a chance with something that stretches cozy readers who are used to solving small town murders.

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Re: Write Like This... Why?

Postby Fictional Chef » Sat Mar 03, 2018 8:25 pm

LadySeshiiria wrote:
> If this helps anyone is anyway, as an avid reader growing up I would have
> loved it if things were shaken up more, if things didn't always fit a mold.
> It was refreshing. Not to say that I didn't search for tags or specific
> styles of stories though. I think if you can execute it in a good way a
> publish would have no issue publishing it!

Thanks for your thoughts, LadySeshiiria! Your last sentence is why I've decided to take a chance stretching the normal boundaries. Your average cozy readers seem to be middle-aged, and older, women. THAT'S what concerns me with writing about mysteries about urban legends and out of the ordinary events in a small, quaint town with quirky characters! Will it appeal to the average, existing cozy reader? Or do they want to stick with chocolate chip cookies and needlepoint? I guess I'll find out because I surely intend to write my stories! At least they'll still have a lot of the familiar "formula" that cozy readers are used to and expect. It's just that my hook will be, I believe, a new one.

When I was growing up, I liked stories about things that were different from my life. Yet, I wanted them to still feel like they were taking place around me. More than anything, I craved really good characters!

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ostarella
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Re: Write Like This... Why?

Postby ostarella » Sat Mar 03, 2018 9:27 pm

Fictional Chef wrote:
> What makes me nervous about writing this series (which I fully intend to do
> anyway) is finding an audience with cozy enthusiasts. Not to mention
> finding a publisher of cozies who's willing to take a chance with something
> that stretches cozy readers who are used to solving small town murders.

I think you're worrying too much about satisfying a sub-group of mystery fans. They may or may not like your take on "cozies", but other mystery fans may love it. You understand mysteries and what expectations are, and you know where you're pushing the boundaries. Written well, publishers like seeing books that aren't "the usual".

Just one caution, as I've seen this happen too many times - don't get so caught up in being "different" that the story pays the price. ;)
"The trick of the fiction writer is the beautiful lie..." Thomas Fox Averill

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Fictional Chef
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Re: Write Like This... Why?

Postby Fictional Chef » Sat Mar 03, 2018 11:46 pm

ostarella wrote:
> I think you're worrying too much about satisfying a sub-group of mystery fans. They
> may or may not like your take on "cozies", but other mystery fans may love
> it. You understand mysteries and what expectations are, and you know where you're
> pushing the boundaries. Written well, publishers like seeing books that aren't
> "the usual".
>
> Just one caution, as I've seen this happen too many times - don't get so caught up in
> being "different" that the story pays the price. ;)

You're spot on. One of my personal faults, as folks have said to me many times, "You think too much." I'm a perfectionist and that's one of the downfalls. It's exhausting.

Here's why I'm concerned about it. (Please tell me where I'm wrong. I'm NOT thin-skinned! I appreciate the truth and don't need it with sprinkles.) When I think of mystery novels, I think they generally fall into two categories. The heavier, mainstream market that can get quite graphic with sex, violence and vulgar language. Then there are cozies that have none of those things. It's the Hallmark Channel, softer and gentler version of mysteries. Two completely different sets of readers.

If my stories don't appeal to the cozy audience, they certainly won't appeal to the mainstream mystery reader! I'd honestly have a better chance of turning a failed cozy into a middle grade novel.

But you hit the nail on the head. I think too much. I can't help it. I refuse to let it paralyze me into inactivity though. (If I'm not careful, I can fall into that trap.) I'm excited about the series and will definitely have fun writing it! I just need to enjoy it and trust that my audience will find me when the time comes.

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ostarella
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Re: Write Like This... Why?

Postby ostarella » Sun Mar 04, 2018 12:36 am

Fictional Chef wrote:
>
> If my stories don't appeal to the cozy audience, they certainly won't appeal to the
> mainstream mystery reader! I'd honestly have a better chance of turning a failed
> cozy into a middle grade novel.
>
> But you hit the nail on the head. I think too much. I can't help it. I refuse to
> let it paralyze me into inactivity though. (If I'm not careful, I can fall into that
> trap.) I'm excited about the series and will definitely have fun writing it! I just
> need to enjoy it and trust that my audience will find me when the time comes.

Well, I guess I'd remind you of the popularity (both in print and in TV/film) of Agatha Christie. And if others are like me (and I'm quite sure I'm not THAT much of an anomaly :D ), while I will read the "hardcore" stuff, I skip over the gratuitous sex/violence and remain glued to the story itself - at least until the story becomes nothing but the gratuitous crap. And you've got a major advantage - it's a series. Readers may flock to read the first, but if it's written well enough, they'll try the next one. Make your characters people readers will want to keep following, and eventually you'll get there. Rome wasn't built in a day, and that certainly goes for a writer's career. ;)
"The trick of the fiction writer is the beautiful lie..." Thomas Fox Averill

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Fictional Chef
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Re: Write Like This... Why?

Postby Fictional Chef » Sun Mar 04, 2018 2:11 am

ostarella wrote:
> Well, I guess I'd remind you of the popularity (both in print and in TV/film) of
> Agatha Christie. And if others are like me (and I'm quite sure I'm not THAT much of
> an anomaly :D ), while I will read the "hardcore" stuff, I skip over the
> gratuitous sex/violence and remain glued to the story itself - at least until the
> story becomes nothing but the gratuitous crap. And you've got a major advantage -
> it's a series. Readers may flock to read the first, but if it's written well enough,
> they'll try the next one. Make your characters people readers will want to keep
> following, and eventually you'll get there. Rome wasn't built in a day, and that
> certainly goes for a writer's career. ;)

Of course I don't expect a writing career to happen in a day! I have no romanticized delusions of grandeur! I know full well it will take a couple of months, at least. Maybe even three! (It's okay, I'll get through it..)

I honestly thought I had to be the only person who skipped over everything gratuitous when I read. It encourages me to hear that someone else does, too! IN MY OPINION, I don't think there's ever a need for it. I believe you can still write effectively without it. Yes, I'm in the small minority who believes that. I'm okay with that. Folks are allowed the right to disagree with me and I respect that. But, I think it takes a lot more skill to write those kinds of scenes, and emotions, without being gratuitous about it, and still get the point/emotions across.

My series is a bit like Hallmark meets Goosebumps. It'll still read like a cozy, but there will rarely be a murder. Kind of an adult version of a middle grade mystery/adventure novel. The mysteries to be solved won't be juvenile or silly, though. They'll be thought-provoking, imaginative, adventurous and keep you wondering! And it all happens in a lovely little town with attractive benefits to living there. It's just that some of them come with a price!

I wish I had a straight-forward cozy story to write. It would be easier because know that formula well! I'm certainly not trying to be different. But, the idea came... and stuck for a couple of months. Stephen King says that a writer's notebook is the best way to immortalize bad ideas. He says the really good ideas stick around and don't let go. In my case, with this idea, I have to agree. One great benefit is that once I start shopping the first book around, I'm sure I'll have plenty of time to get the second one nearly finished, if not completely done, too. (Based on the fact that my hook, I believe, is nearly new to the genre and will take some time for publishers to get used to/consider.) My hope is to have two books completed before being published so that I can always stay one book ahead.

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Re: Write Like This... Why?

Postby wdarcy » Sun Mar 04, 2018 1:28 pm

My problem with cozies (and I read a ton of Agatha Christie in my younger days and still feel she's a terrific writer who does not waste a single word) is that they tend to devalue human life. That may sound strange, but consider: There's always a murder. But it almost always happens offstage and is totally sanitized. There is rarely any grief or mourning over the murdered person. His/her death becomes simply a puzzle to solve.

Now, human life is much, much more than a puzzle to solve. Human life is a big thing; taking a human life is an even bigger thing. But cozies typically ignore this. It's all about solving the puzzle.

Now, I'm not saying that the murder should be gory and grisly, because if it were, we would not have a cozy. But there should at least be some sense that a human life has been taken, that it's a terrible thing, and that it's worth mourning. Not just: call in the detectives and let's solve this thing.

For those reasons, I would applaud a cozy that did NOT revolve around a murder. So I think what you have in mind is definitely do-able and would probably find an audience.

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"Wagner's 'Das Rheingold'" (Oxford 1993). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 1995.

"Elements of Sonata Theory" co-authored with James Hepokoski(Oxford 2006). Winner of the Society for Music Theory's Wallace Berry Award, 2008.

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