Does anyone else have on their reference shelf a useful how-to book, published in 1986, titled Writing the Modern Mystery, by Barbara Norville? I’m not even sure where I found mine, but the other day I was flipping through it and found an interesting discussion I thought I’d share.
Vicki Doudera here, coming to you after yet another Maine snowstorm, with a post based on a section of this book in which Ms. Norville talks about three different types of writers.
The first, she says, will want feedback as they are writing, and will seek out a targeted audience of family and friends who will most likely be pretty gentle with any criticism.
The second approach to writing involves what she calls a lot of “Dutch-Uncling.”
Is this right?No, it doesn’t sound right. How about this?
She says that as this type of scribe is testing her ideas, she is doing “as much worrying as writing,” as well as building a self-image as a writer.
The third kind of writer, according to Barbara Norville, prefers to bear the “entire weight and responsibility of ego and output.” A “type three” writer will wait until a manuscript is finished and ready to show the world.
I’ve fit into this latter category for books one through four of the Darby Farr Mystery Series. Despite my husband’s kind offers to read my drafts at various points, I would always demur until I felt I had some kind of polished whole. I would wait until I typed THE END, not just on the first draft, but on the third or fourth, before giving it to him to read.
The interesting thing is that Book 5 of the series requires a different method.
I’ve never done this, but I decided to give Ed the first 150 pages of the manuscrpt. I gave him 150 pages because that’s what I had finished at the time. Being behind in my writing, I thought that perhaps some feedback would be helpful and motivating. I asked him not to read with his trusty red pen, but simply to read.
I knew this could backfire. My husband is an attorney, trained to read so carefully that it’s scary. But he understood his task and agreed to help me out.
If you work at this business of stringing words into stories, what kind of a writer are you? Do you enjoy feedback as you go along? Do you worry as you write? Or are you someone who prefers to show the world a finished whole?
If you’re someone who reads for a writer, follow my husband’s example and know when that red pen should stay safely in the drawer. Sometimes we need a little encouragement to get those next 150 pages under our belts.
This is still one of my favorite “go to” books when I’m teaching mystery writing, Vicki. Great book.
I’m a never show anyone a single word until the book is in third draft type myself.
Interesting, Kate — I will make an effort to sit down and read Barbara’s book more carefully now that I know you’ve found it helpful. I suppose that no matter how long one is at this business, there is always some new nugget of wisdom that can help.
Yessss! Barbara Norville wrote of the best books on how to write mysteries in the field and I often look at it!!! Thelma in Manhattan
Hi Thelma — good to know. I found mine completely by chance. The library book sale? Or maybe even the “swap shop” at the dump… hate to say it but I’m sure one day all of our books will be in used book sales and in swap shops.
Interesting, Vicki! I have that book, but it’s high on a shelf and I haven’t looked at it in ages. You’ve motivated me to take it down and re-read.
I’ve had a writers’ group more years than I care to reveal. Over the years, we’ve learned what’s helpful at what stage in the manuscript. While the comments are inciteful, they’re also encouraging. So I feel like we’re somewhere between type one and type two?
I hear you. I did say to Ed that I wanted/needed positive feedback… and he understood perfectly what I meant! Whew….
Insightful. Inciteful would be something else all together.
I can well imagine comments being inciteful….
I can well imagine mariticide had I been given the “wrong” comments…
Hmmm. I needed lots of feedback while working on the first mystery in my series. Mainly because I didn’t know if I really knew what I was doing. I exchanged ms pages long distance via email with an experienced mystery writer friend who is also a lawyer and a family court judge. Her critiques were extremely helpful. I also gave pgs to my husband, also a writer, as I finished them, for his comments — also very helpful. I didn’t show my second book in the series to anyone until finished. I plan to do the same with the third, which I’m now working on.
Sandy, good job describing the way our need for feedback can change. Good luck with the third mystery!
I love that book, glad I am not the only one who does. I’ve been meaning to reread it.
I like to have a finished draft to show my first reader.
I sent off the first (supershort) article I ever wrote without telling anyone at all, forgot about it until my husband asked me what that $50 check was for. (Obviously not what one would usually advise anyone to do and not what I ever did again, but it was a simple story & I edited it for months before sending it off.)