A Damn Good Mystery

Asked my mystery-writer pal Josie for a good book on structuring mysteries. She recommended James N. Frey, who is not the James Frey of the Oprah scandal. Hence the N.

Ordered from Amazon yesterday. Meanwhile,  I do not know what happens next in the WIP. My character needs to make a plan. Guess that means I need to do that, too.


  1. Hello there
    I can’t speak for the James N Frey ‘Mystery’ how-to, though his ‘How To Write Damn Good Fiction’ helped me understand premise amongst other things.

    There is another book called ‘The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery’ by Robert J Ray and Jack Remick.

    This book is worth its weight in gold. It provides a complete ‘roadmap’ for writing a crime/mystery novel. It starts you thinking about the core questions like: why does the killer kill? What is the killer’s relationship with the victim?

    It not only tells you what to do, but also how to go about it eg it explains how something from preliminary character backstory can be used to generate a subplot later on.

    I would say the main strengths are:
    it’s encouraging and well written
    it gives advice on different levels, from the overall process of writing first, second, and third drafts down to creating scenes and specific techniques such as dialogue patterns and using ‘echo words’.
    it’s been written by two guys who are very experienced -and it shows.

    The main disadvantage ( but this may be just me ) is that there are too many examples. I wanted to zero in on the key points but the ‘gold nugget’ key points were mixed in with dozens of examples from other books.

    Leafing through the examples was putting me off using the book so I took extreme measures and cut most of the example pages out, but as I say, that’s probably just me.

    Don’t let this put anyone off. It’s still one of the most helpful and comprehensive how-to books out there.

    Good luck with your mystery!


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