Mystery Writing Redrafting
Redrafting any work of fiction can be difficult, but redrafting a mystery can be particularly testing for a writer. Improving the text without damaging the integrity of the story is a balance that can be tricky to achieve. This article gives professional advice on redrafting, editing, and maintaining the mystery for writers of mysteries.
Grammar and Spelling
Ok, it might seem more than obvious, but it simply cannot be reiterated enough: Spelling and grammar must be nothing short of perfect. If you have the creativity and inventiveness, not to mention the motivation, to keep writing and creating this mystery story, don't let it be ruined by little errors in spelling and grammar. You can be completely sure of the fact that someone somewhere will notice the errors, and no matter how good the story is, the mistakes will take away from it. If your own spelling and grammar isn't the best, don't despair, keep writing, but consider a professional proofreader and editor if you want to get your work published.
Keeping a dictionary and a grammar checker with you is an invaluable way of keeping track of your work as you go, making sure you don't leave any potential errors to be corrected later, when they can easily be forgotten or passed by. Even the best writer will make mistakes in terms of spelling and grammar; it is all a learning process and no-one is perfect. Even experts disagree over some particulars of grammar, and spelling varies from region to region.
Remember that spelling and grammar can be outsourced to a professional when you are finished, the story cannot; so focus on your story and developing the piece until you are happy with it. Then, when you are ready to pass the mystery along to an agent or publisher, go through the text carefully, or have a professional do this for you. While publishing houses have their own proofreaders and editors, many will be seriously put off by a piece if the grammar and spelling need much work. Some will even stop reading after the first mistake is noticed!
"Murder Your Darlings"
One of the hardest elements of redrafting any work of fiction is cutting out parts of your writing that you love. You must learn to look at your writing with a critical eye, rather than the affectionate eye of a loving parent! Too many writers, of all levels of experience, make the crucial mistake of keeping sections of the writing that don't work, simply because they are fond of them. Be brutal! Edit harshly and you will soon have a skeleton text that will be crying out for you to flesh it out, you may even be able to add in those sections you have cut out, but this time with a more considered approach.
It's Never Too Late
It really is never too late in the day to edit or add to your story if you feel it will truly benefit. Don't be afraid to put off finishing the piece if you feel strongly that you have something else to add. Some writers are so stuck to a deadline that they find it easier to finish the work while some addition niggles away in their mind. It is always better to let the creative process have its way and give in to any great idea that occurs, however late in the writing process. Bearing this in mind, it is also important to know the right time to stop writing and acknowledge that you have done all you can and the piece is finished, otherwise it can linger on for years without being ever truly "finished.". The best way to find the balance between getting it right and getting it finished is to edit, then leave the piece for a while, perhaps a few weeks. Then when you come back to it, read it like a reader would, taking your time and not skipping over familiar bits that you are happy with. It is important to get an idea of the effect of the mystery story as a whole unified work of art. Print the piece and allow yourself to view it with fresh eyes, perhaps making notes in pencil on the paper copy so that you can go back and edit little bits and pieces when you want to. Any glaring failures in the piece will become very obvious at this point and you will find it much easier to edit after you have had a short break from the piece. Refresh yourself by reading outside of the mystery genre or boycotting the writing process for a short time to allow your mind to relax and recover from the strain it may have been under while you have been battling with your mystery!
Overcoming Mystery Writer's Block
Overcoming writer's block can be a nightmare for any writer of fiction, but this section offers practical, useful advice for the writer of mysteries who is lacking in motivation or inspiration. Get back on track with these helpful techniques for firing up your imagination and creating some mystery.
Stage Yourself Differently
Look at where you write and try writing in another room, or a coffee shop, or a garden or park. Change the time of day you normally write; write at night or early in the morning. If you normally type, try writing with pen and paper, or vice versa. Buy a fresh notebook that might get you keen to write -- or even change font; it can be surprising how small things can make a big difference.
Take a word, phrase, idea, or character and write down everything you can think of, letting one idea flow to another idea naturally. Do this in one long stream of writing, or in the form of a chart or spider diagram. Don't stop any strange ideas that may come; don't allow yourself to interfere with the flow of words and ideas.
Choose a key word and then write down associated words, phrases, and ideas from it. When you stop, choose your favorite word or idea from the list and use it as a prompt for new ideas. At any point, stop and slot the word or idea into your mystery, or let it develop to create a new mystery story.
The best place to find ideas for a mystery that will get you writing and banish writer's block, is the newspapers and television news that are full of real life mysteries. We are talking about writing fiction; so don't go copying stories word for word. Try looking at a minor 'character' from a news story and imagine a similar story from their point of view.
Your writer's block could be caused by bad writing, or writing you aren't truly happy with. Be brutal and cut out what you are not happy with so that the good elements of your mystery can shine. Then read over the new improved version and you will find it much more inspiring to get more great writing added.
Go Easy on Yourself
Don't rush yourself, if you have just finished one project; give yourself time before embarking on the next one, or you may burn yourself out. It is also important not to give yourself a hard time over not writing well enough. Just set yourself a word count to meet every day and stick to it. Even if you only plan to write 500 words every day, stick to this target and keep writing until you reach it, you can always go back over your work later and change anything you are not happy with. There may be days you struggle to meet the word count and there may be others when you get inspired and have ideas that spill over into thousands of words. Let your ideas flow as much as possible without over thinking them or letting yourself get too overcritical of your writing.
Watch, Read, Listen
Get familiar with the mysteries you love. Watch movies, read books, or listen to mysteries on the radio and remind yourself of your inspirations. Read the great stories that make you want to write, and read the bad ones that make you want to do it better! It is fine to feel like you could write a particular story better than the writer, everyone feels like this at times, the trick is learning from the mistakes of others in order to write better yourself.