So, you think you’re done writing a book and then, you realize you’re not. (I am speaking now of my first mystery novel, Character-Driven, featuring lapsed actress and amateur sleuth Paula Berger.) My friend and writing buddy Addy Whitehouse had a good experience with Chris Roerden, the author and freelance editor. Addy mentioned that before taking on a new client, Roerden insists that the client self-edit his/her manuscript according to the principles spelled out in her book, Don’t Murder Your Mystery. Challenge accepted!
Oh, the agony. My opening is good. There’s tension all over the place. Characters all want something. I already took out almost all the numerous references to coffee, as a result of a previous reader commenting “There’s an awful lot of coffee-drinking in this book.” I was SORT-OF guilty of introducing a character and immediately describing him/her physically, but not egregiously so. References to sex are few and tasteful. (Or I think so, anyway.) I used vocal mannerisms appropriately to differentiate my characters, particularly after I went through and took out all the italics for Ned Hinshaw, having decided that “gay-speak” was offensive. (Sorry for the phrase “gay-speak,” actually. It’s offensive, too.)
But when it comes to reusing favorite words, I am clearly a word abuser. Roerden says only one “suddenly” per book. I had at least 20. “Definitely” came up at least as often as “suddenly.” And “really?” “Really” definitely came up really often. I’m telling you, 100 “reallies.” It took me a few hours to investigate Character-Driven from the perspective of clues #1-23. #24? All afternoon.
The book is truly a godsend (note, please, how I avoided the word “really”). Tons of examples, from authors I’ve read and books I’ve enjoyed. Highly recommended to anyone who has written a mystery or who intends to write one.
And now I am ready. Prior to querying, though, I’d like to get one or two volunteers to read the manuscript and give me feedback. My parents and husband don’t count, they already worship the ground I walk on. And writing colleagues have already read multiple iterations, so probably can’t bring fresh eyes. If you are willing to read Character-Driven and give me your thoughts, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!