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How to Write a Damn Good Mystery: A Practical Step-by-Step Guide from Inspiration to Finished Manuscript Hardcover – February 12, 2004
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“Confidently guides the novice through the crime-writing basics.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Eminently practical and rich in details. A must for budding crime-fiction authors.” ―Booklist
“Frey ... delivers a witty and entertaining writer's-conference-in-a-book.” ―Library Journal
Top Customer Reviews
I highly recommend _How to Write a Damn Good Mystery : A Practical Step-by-Step Guide from Inspiration to Finished Manuscript_ with two caveats:
1. The author often offers his opinion as fact.
2. The book sometimes reads like an advertisement for the author's other how-to-write-fiction books.
Jim Frey mentions his other how-to-write-fiction books about twenty times during the course of this 267 page book. At an average of one plug every thirteen pages, that doesn't sound too bad. But, Frey tends to begin chapters by talking about his other books, which quickly becomes repetitious and grated on my nerves because I thought it unnecessary: Don't tell me what you said in another book, just tell me again in this book. I can only recall one place where he mentioned a fiction book he wrote. This may be because all the mystery novels he has written are now out of print.
Jim Frey uses his ten years of teaching experience to justify some of his opinions, which he presents as facts. Jim's mystery novels are all out of print and he appears to be making a living putting on writing workshops and writing how-to-write-fiction books.Read more ›
I bought the book thinking that the previous review ("A great guide, but some "facts" are actually opinions," February 14, 2004) was a great kickoff, eager to hear more from Frey himself. For example, the idea of flying through a quick first draft, writing it almost as a screenplay and blocking out the actions in all caps, intrigued me. Frey rolls around to this idea towards the end of the book and admits it wasn't even his own idea but one he'd lifted off a half-ploughed writer at a conference. Having finished the book, I can say I got as much from the review above as I did from the book itself.
Frey treats his own method as THE WAY to write, gives no alternatives, and makes no acknowledgement that there are a number of ways that writers approach their work. Worse, he states that thick, well-rounded characters are preferable, but then peoples his own examples with the thinnest of trope characters. He even advocates these `archetypes' (which read more like stereotypes) as a good way to start framing your characterization, a process I think is completely backwards, and tends to leave writers in the shallow waters where they began to kick about. The examples he gives throughout tend to be uninteresting and lack consistency; when he gives an example of a poor writing sample he does not remedy the ill by making that same sample better or good or `damn good,' he just skips to a new example completely, which tends not to be `damn good' itself.
Most annoying, Frey kicks off nearly every chapter or salient point with a blatant stump for one of his other published books on writing.Read more ›
I would not recommend this book to any writer who is familiar with mystery fiction. However, just as it was for me, it is an excellent book if you are new to the field. Just remember to read it with an open mind (I actually find the author's obvious resent of literary fiction rather humorous - just one of many things that you must grit your teeth and bear as you read onward).
Of course, do not for the life of you depend solely upon his advice for plotting and characterization. It will be death of you. For both plotting and characterization, I HIGHLY recommend reading some of Nancy Kress's writing books. Although not a mystery writer, she gives some of the best advice I've ever read.
This book does not go into all the poisons, weapons, clever plot reversals, etc. that you might find in other mystery writing books, but it does tell you where and how to begin, how to create characters with depth and interest, a plan for a logical and surprising plot, and tips on improving writing style. To me, it is the first book I have read on this subject that makes the writing process clear. I have been a fan of mystery novels since childhood, and I always wanted to write one but did not know how to generate a good enough story. Now, since Frey's book, I have an idea I am excited about and I am, for the first time, writing a mystery novel.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Frey is phenomenal. He teaches writing with wit and wisdom. Anyone interested in writing a mystery should read this book.Published 1 month ago by Janie T
When I first started developing some ideas for mystery stories, I wanted to figure out how to build a compelling mystery from scratch and began searching for books that would help... Read morePublished 1 month ago by L. A. Nicholas
Another great book from the great writing teacher, James N. FreyPublished 5 months ago by Linsey Lanier
Great reference for a point of view or thought provoking look.Published 5 months ago by Raymond D. Spiller
This one was the best, more detail a lot less talking, about had they had make it in the world. Good bookPublished 8 months ago by rev,catherine claudette forster
If you want to write mystery, this is the place to start. Made many things clear for my upcoming work.Published 11 months ago by Alaric
Excellent material presented in a way that makes sense. A real help.Published 12 months ago by Gary Fuller
Mr. Frey has done a great job on this. Excellent, and the book is in perfect condition.Published 14 months ago by beancat
Best guide to writing mysteries I've found. Concise and easy to follow.Published 15 months ago by Roseann Woodward