When Plans Go Awry

We make plans, and the Fates laugh in our face. Life can change like a flash of lightning. In one of my 2024 initial posts this year, I set my writing goals and then said… Of course, the best laid plans often go awry. Who knows what the universe has in store for us?”

Little did I know the divine truth in those statements. Our world turned upside-down when my husband became ill and ended up in the ER. He’s home now but our world has shrunk to focus on his care. We live on a day-by-day basis while managing his illness. These include chemo treatments. It’s impossible to plan ahead or to focus on anything except his immediate needs.

As for my writing, the muse is on a break. I’ll be taking a hiatus from this blog unless a subject strikes me that I want to share. Your understanding and support would be greatly appreciated.


Sowing Secrets in a Mystery

It’s advisable for mystery writers to give each character a secret that may or may not relate to the murder victim. This makes them suspicious in the sleuth’s viewpoint until she can unravel what it is they’re hiding.

In Ladies of the ’80s: A Divas Christmas recent TV movie on Lifetime channel, five former soap stars reunite for a reunion show. But all isn’t as it seems in this character-driven story. (Spoiler Alert!) Two of the members have a long-standing feud. Once best friends, they broke apart when one of them moved to LA to pursue her career. As the group struggles to overcome their differences and make the reunion a success (with a budding romance between the producer and director), secrets come to light. These are the ones I remember (and any mistakes are mine):

The rich matriarch’s diamond jewelry is fake. Her ex-husband embezzled all her money and she’s broke.

The social media fashionista wears a blond wig. She’s gone natural and has gray hair.

The actress who abandoned her best friend moved to LA because her career had bombed, and she was too humiliated to tell anyone.

The health and wellness author is a junk food addict.

In writing a mystery, it helps to give each character a secret. This can be a motive for murder, or it can be an innocent secret like the ones above. Say your suspect is making unexplained payments from a checking account. The sleuth might suspect this person is being blackmailed, but perhaps instead they are funding a beloved aunt’s elder care. Or a character might disappear on regular nights of the week while the sleuth suspects they’re up to something nefarious. But they could be attending cooking school and don’t want anyone to know they want to be a chef.

These are all great examples of good secrets. They’re important to the character but do not connect the suspect to the crime. So when plotting your story and developing your characters, add in some of these hidden foibles to fool the reader and the sleuth.

Can you remember any examples from mysteries you’ve read recently?


Suspending Belief in a Cozy Mystery Series

Reading a cozy mystery requires a certain suspension of belief by the reader. Certain common elements are accepted in this popular subgenre and some are not. Let’s examine each one and see what we writers can do about them. Readers, feel free to chime in with your opinions!


Dead bodies all over town

Ever since Murder, She Wrote aired on TV, the “Cabot Cove Sydrome” has been well known. Set in a small town, this series of murder mysteries had a new dead body—or more—per week. Move these over to a book series, and you have a new murder show up in each installment. Some would say that the town or the sleuth is cursed. Our hapless heroine may be the unlucky person to stumble across the corpse. At other times, she’ll be informed by someone else and is stunned by the news. As the series progresses, she develops a sort of ennui when discovering dead bodies. It’s not that death is disrespected. She still shudders and shakes and feels compassion for the dead person’s family, but then she forges ahead to solve the crime. After all, no one can find peace until the criminal is caught.

A personal connection to the deceased

The sleuth must have a reason for getting involved in solving the crime. Either she knew the dead guy or she has a friend or relative who asks for her help. Even when our gal resolves to mind her own business, a mystery presents itself  and only her unique talents can root out the truth. This personal connection is essential to the cozy genre. Finding the crook isn’t an assignment or a job. It’s her calling, and others recognize it even if she denies the role.

Not leaving it all to the police

If the heroine were smart, she’d dust her hands off and leave the crime solving to the cops. But no, that’s not possible in a cozy. The homicide detectives are too clueless, or too intent on the wrong suspect, or too busy with more important cases to follow through. Or they lack the heroine’s skill to get townspeople to talk because she’s one of them. Perhaps she’s better than the gruff police detective in coaxing people to spill the beans. Whatever her reasons for thinking she could do a better job, she still should consult the authorities and share relevant information with them. In some stories, the police may serve as an obstacle to her goal. In others, the handsome detective may turn into a potential love interest. Either way, she can’t just charge ahead on her own and ignore the cops unless she has a good reason.

Too Stupid to Live (TSTL) moments

This is where the plucky amateur sleuth goes to meet the killer on her own. She has no backup and oops, she left her cell phone in the car. As my editor would say, this is a no-no. We don’t want our heroine to appear dumb. She’s a smart woman, and she knows enough to at least text the detective where she’s going or to take a friend with her. She can have the best of intentions, and they may get sidetracked, but make her appear to be smart. Then things can go awry.

Time and energy for sleuthing

Does your protagonist have a job or a family? If so, how does she squeeze in the time to investigate a crime? Is she eating properly, feeding the pets, taking the kids to school, doing laundry, and fulfilling all the dozens of chores that capture our time? Making her life seem real includes all these daily activities. If she’s single and has her own business, it’s easier to free her schedule. But if she has inflexible job hours and family obligations, make sure she takes some down time and fits in her crime solving with everything else.

This is a big reason why I had a gap in my series books between when Marla, my hairstylist sleuth, had a baby and then the series resumed a year later. After seeing what our daughter went through with a newborn and a steady job, there’s no way my sleep-deprived heroine would have been able to think clearly enough or have had the energy to track down killers. Yes, Marla could have hired a nanny, but she was also nursing the child and not getting enough sleep. Would you have the energy under those circumstances to solve crimes? I couldn’t accept this for her reality, and so I skipped an interval in her life. Maybe I’ll fill this gap in later with a milder mystery that she can solve from home or between pediatrician visits.

A happy ending

In the real world, an amateur investigating a murder may very well end up dead. Or she’d be smart and run in the opposite direction when a crime is committed. We have better things to do than chase down murderers. But not so in a cozy. The sleuth investigates. Nobody gets badly hurt. Animals and children are safe. And the bad guy is caught. All’s well that ends well, which isn’t very realistic. Even if the crook gets caught, he might slip through the bars of justice, or his lawyer will find a loophole in the case. Nothing is guaranteed, except in a cozy which ends up like a gift package with all the plot threads neatly tied into a bow. Our heroine lives to see another day and another installment in the series.

What would you add to this list?

Suspending Belief in a Cozy Mystery Series #cozymystery #writingcommunity Share on X

Taking the Plunge into AI

You may have noticed that AI, or Artificial Intelligence, is suddenly in the news. This new technology could be a valuable tool for writers. However, authors are concerned about copyright issues since the source material for AI’s algorithms is based on previously published material. The Author’s Guild has a letter calling for AI industry leaders to obtain consent, give credit to, and fairly compensate authors.

There’s also the issue of disclosure. If your idea derives from AI, do you need to announce it? If you’ve written an article or blog using AI, are you truly the author? And what’s the danger of AI taking over for audiobook narrators and writers entirely?

Artificial intelligence lacks our human emotions, our compassion and empathy. How can a program write a story that derives from the writer’s deep well of experience? While I wouldn’t rush out to read a book written this way, I admit that AI can be useful for other tasks.

Until recently, I’d been ignoring the online commotion about ChatGPT. Don’t even ask me what this stands for. I couldn’t see myself using it until I read an interesting article on using Prompts to get the results you want. As an experiment, I wrote this into the box at ChatGPT:

My prompt: “I write a mystery series featuring a hairstylist and amateur sleuth. Give me six unique story ideas centered around national holidays.”

After the first round, I repeated my inquiry and asked for six more unique story ideas.

AI Response: “These holiday-themed mysteries will challenge your hairstylist amateur sleuth and keep readers entertained with the perfect mix of beauty, suspense, and intriguing puzzles.”

Combining the two rounds, I received multiple ideas for St. Patrick’s Day, April Fool’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. One of the elements sounded suspiciously like it came from my book that spoke about the “Black Gold” hair trade. It’s hard to know what’s being copied and what isn’t since these suggestions are all based on material that’s already out there.

Here’s an example for Easter from ChatGPT. I’ve already done this holiday in Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in my series. Note that my story includes a missing jeweled Faberge egg.

The Easter Egg Heist: In the weeks leading up to Easter, your hairstylist sleuth has been busy organizing an Easter egg decorating competition for charity. When the highly anticipated event finally arrives, the town’s precious Golden Egg, filled with valuable jewelry, goes missing. With all the suspects in their colorful Easter attire, including rival hairstylists and charitable participants, your protagonist must untangle clues hidden within elaborate hairstyles and uncover the thief behind the Easter egg heist.

Not too bad, huh? Some of the ideas I gleaned from this experiment could be springboards to plot a novel. In this way, ChatGPT can be useful. It may provide the spark of inspiration to get the writer’s brain up and running.

ChatGPT also gave me a step-by-step outline for another story when I gave it a few parameters, but the plotline had quite a few holes and didn’t relate to my series characters. The results were interesting but I don’t want to write a book that way.

My stories stem from my characters and their evolving relationships along with the setting, and much of the plotting happens in my subconscious. Story magic kicks in and then the book takes off on a direction of its own. AI will squash that creativity. But I can see others taking this easy road once AI is more established. Then what will be disclosable and what is not?

Book titles could be generated this way. Ditto for Book Descriptions. Check out the suggestions on this Kindlepreneur site on how to make your own book blurb better using AI. First you need to write a story blurb. Then you paste it into the AI dialogue box and ask for a better version.

I gave it my book description for Warrior Prince, book #1 in the Drift Lords series coming in a new trade paperback edition on Aug. 15. Then I said to the AI: “Make this Book Description Better.”

My Blurb

Nira Larsen’s dream job interview at an Orlando theme park turns into a nightmare when she’s attacked by costumed thugs. She’s rescued by a band of space warriors known as the Drift Lords. Their leader, Zohar Thorald, explains that Nira’s assailants were Trolleks, invaders from another dimension. They’ve targeted her because she has the power to defeat them. The Trolleks have opened a dimensional portal through which they’re invading Earth, and Zohar needs Nira’s help to seal this rift.

As her dormant powers awaken, Nira realizes the ancient myths she’s studied as a mythology grad student are real. Her elemental abilities are derived from the Norse gods. But she also feels an unexpected connection to the Trolleks that she can’t explain.

Zohar falls for the feisty redhead until one of the Drift Lords is murdered, and his doubts about her loyalty threaten to derail his mission. While he’s torn between his duty to save Earth and his love for a woman who might betray him, he has no choice except to trust her. A worldwide cataclysm will result if he fails, and only together can they succeed in saving Earth.

AI Version:

Nira Larsen’s dream job interview at an Orlando theme park takes a dark turn when she’s attacked by otherworldly thugs. Rescued by the Drift Lords, a band of space warriors, Nira learns she possesses the power to stop these invaders. As her dormant abilities awaken, Nira discovers a link to Norse gods and an inexplicable connection to the enemy.

Zohar Thorald, the Drift Lords’ leader, battles his growing feelings for Nira while a traitor among them threatens their mission. With Earth’s fate hanging by a thread, Nira and Zohar must overcome mistrust, embrace their unique bond, and save both worlds from impending destruction.

What do you think? Is the AI’s version better than mine?

How about you? Have you ventured into the deep waters of AI? Do you believe it can be helpful or dangerous for your career as a writer?


Enter Here to win two free books at Booklovers Bench in our August giveaway:

Booklovers Bench Contest Aug2023



Saturday, Aug. 26, Book Signing 3:00-6:00 pm EDT
Orlando Reads Books
Embassy Suites by Hilton – Orlando North
225 Shorecrest Drive, Altamonte Springs, FL 32701
Get your free tickets here: https://orlandoreadsbooks.com/




To Change or Not to Change

I need your opinions on a change I am considering for the opening of Hair Raiser, #2 in my Bad Hair Day Mysteries. I’m wondering if a less suggestive first page would attract more readers. Please read on and see what you think.

Hair Raiser

Original Version

“You must treat her like a lover. Stroke her tenderly, undress her, and zen unleash your desire when you devour her. I guarantee you will be satisfied.”

Chef Pierre Chevalier fixed his class of fifteen wannabe cooks with a stern glare. Holding up an unblemished banana, he waved it in the air like a giant phallic symbol. “Observe ze proper technique. To make Bananas Foster, first begin by peeling ze skin with a gentle hand to avoid bruising.”

With infinite care, he pared one piece after another as though stripping off his lover’s garments. His gaze deepened as he stared longingly at the naked fruit glistening in his hand. “You see? Look at ze velvety smoothness of zis shaft. Ze moist tip and firm inner core remind you of something, no?” A chuckle rumbled from his throat. “Zis we can put in ze mouth, but only after it is properly prepared.”

Marla watched his movements, amazed that such a stout man with a round face could be so sexy. Perhaps that accounted for the popularity of Pierre’s culinary classes. “Never mind the innuendos, I’m gaining five pounds just by sitting here,” she commented to her friend Tally Riggs beside her.

The chef finished slicing the banana into a bowl. Several more fruits met the same fate before Pierre melted a chunk of butter in a skillet. He added the banana slices, sprinkling cinnamon on top until a delicious fragrance filled the air.

Tally’s blue eyes widened in admiration. “I could never get brown sugar to melt that way without scorching the pan.”

“Wait until he adds the rum,” Marla said. “Did you ever think food could inspire such passion? No wonder people flock to his restaurant. Pierre will be a big draw at Taste of the World.”

“Ken and I bought tickets already. He feels it’s important to support Ocean Guard’s annual fund-raiser. You know how he gets a kick out of joining their beach cleanups. It makes me think Ken is a beachcomber at heart.”

“My cousin is getting nervous about hosting the event at her estate. It’s less than two months away now. I can’t believe I let her con me into working as liaison to the chefs. At least I’ve met most of the major participants, including Pierre.”

As Marla watched, he removed the skillet from the heat. His fingers flew through the practiced motions of warming a measure of rum in a separate saucepan. “Zis is le grand finale, ze moment of ecstasy,” he cooed, pursing his lips in an air kiss. “All zat foreplay was just building up to zis eruption of heat. You are hungry, no?”

“Yeah, but not for what you have in mind,” Marla muttered. She watched him lift the smaller pot and pour the rum over the bubbling bananas. A sugary fragrance wafted into her nostrils, making her stomach growl. It was nine o’clock on Wednesday evening, and she hadn’t eaten dinner yet. Everyone was waiting to sample the dishes after Pierre finished his demos. Let’s wrap it up, she thought, folding her packet of recipes and stuffing them in her purse.

Pierre’s tall white toque bobbed on his head as he lit a match and tilted it toward the warmed rum in the skillet. The flame had barely touched the liquid when an explosion rocked the room, sending a wall of fire shooting into the air.

Revised Version

Marla Shore couldn’t help admiring Chef Pierre Chevalier’s deft wrist movements as he sliced several bananas into a bowl. He stood at a counter facing his class of fifteen wannabe cooks. Everyone had a good view of his workspace while he worked.

She nudged her friend Tally beside her. “If I sliced bananas like that, I’d cut my finger off.”

“Hah. You have more risk of hurting yourself with a hot curling iron.”

“Excuse me? I’m a hairstylist. I know how to use my tools.”

“The chef is just as skilled at his trade as you are,” Tally told her. “Practice makes perfect. If you did this all day, you’d learn the same skills.”

“No, thanks. I’d rather have an assistant do the prep work.”

Chef Pierre glared at them. “In case you are wondering about the origins of this dish, Bananas Foster was created in the early nineteen-fifties at Owen Brennan’s restaurant in New Orleans.” He spoke with a French accent in a loud stage voice to command attention. “Owen asked his sister Ella to create a new dessert for a dinner honoring Richard Foster, who’d been appointed Chairman of the New Orleans Crime Commission. Ella took some bananas, split them in half, and sauteed them with butter and brown sugar. Then she poured rum and banana liqueur on top, set it on fire by the table, and served it with vanilla ice cream. Voilà, a new recipe was born!”

Marla watched, amazed that his description alone could make her crave sweets. “I’m gaining five pounds just by sitting here,” she said to Tally.

Tally patted her stomach. “So am I.”

“I doubt it. You can eat anything and not gain weight.” Tally’s model-thin figure didn’t change no matter what she ate. Marla wished she could say the same.

Pierre melted a chunk of butter in a skillet over medium heat. He stirred in brown sugar then added the banana slices, sprinkling cinnamon on top until a delicious fragrance filled the air.

Tally’s blue eyes widened. “I could never get brown sugar to melt that way without scorching the pan.”

“Did you ever think food could inspire such temptation?” Marla said. “No wonder people flock to his restaurant. Pierre will be a big draw at our Taste of the World fundraiser.”

“Ken and I bought tickets already. He feels it’s important to support Ocean Guard.”

Marla frowned. “Cynthia is getting nervous about hosting the event at her estate. I can’t believe I let my cousin con me into taking charge of the chefs.” She’d taken on the job while already having enough to do managing her salon and tending to her clients. One of the reasons she’d come tonight was to see Chef Pierre in action.

He removed the skillet from the heat and then warmed a measure of rum in a separate saucepan. “This is le grand finale. You are hungry, non?” As the class watched, he lifted the smaller pot and poured the rum over the bubbling bananas.

A sugary scent made Marla’s stomach growl. It was nine o’clock on Wednesday evening, and she hadn’t eaten dinner yet. Everyone was waiting to sample the dishes after Pierre finished this last demo. Let’s wrap it up and eat the food already, she thought, stuffing her packet of recipes into her purse.

Pierre’s tall white toque bobbed on his head as he lit a match and tilted it toward the warmed rum in the skillet. The flame had barely touched the liquid when an explosion rocked the room, sending a wall of fire shooting into the air.

What do you think? Is the second version better than the first, or should I leave things as they are in the original? 

Leave a Comment and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a signed print copy of Hair Raiser trade paperback edition.

A Character’s Voice

Do you ever listen to how story characters speak? I don’t mean what they say, but how they say it. I wasn’t as aware of this factor as I should have been until I put my first four mysteries into audiobooks. Then I realized each character needed a distinctive voice quality.

Now that I’m working on a new book, I need to assign each cast member a voice type. To help me in this task, I’ve devised this list of characteristics.

Then there’s the difference between a person’s speaking voice and their tone. A person with a Southern drawl could give a clipped reply. Or a man with a hoarse voice could speak in a tight tone out of concern for a loved one. How do you differentiate? I would say tone conveys emotions. Voice is what you’re born with in a physical sense, and manner of speech involves cadence, accents, dialects, slang and such. Not very academic, but neither am I. There you have it.


What else would you add to the list?

A Character's Voice #writingtip #amwriting Share on X


I’ve recently been guest author on a couple of podcasts. Check them out here:

Nancy J. Cohen visits The Book and Life Podcast hosted by Kristal Fleming

“Let’s Write a Cozy Mystery” with Nancy J. Cohen on the Florida Writers Podcast


Enter Here to win two free books at Booklovers Bench in our June Contest.

June 1st is the start of Hurricane Season in Florida. On my latest Booklovers Bench post, I discuss how hurricane prep relates to writers. Leave a Comment Here and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a signed copy of Trimmed to Death (U.S. residents only).

Trimmed to Death

Scenes and Series

When you’re writing a series, you need to be aware of scenes written in previous books that might impact your current story. Has your sleuth encountered a similar character before, researched a familiar topic, or visited the same place? If so, this might change how you approach a scene for your work in progress.

During my revision for Star Tangled Murder, #18 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, I had two scenes that made me realize more research needed to be done. One involved a local history museum and the other a casino run by a Native American tribe.

It suddenly hit me that this wasn’t the first time for either scenario. Marla, my hairstylist sleuth, had an episode in the same museum curator’s office in Trimmed to Death. And she’d interviewed a shaman at a Seminole casino in Hanging by a Hair. I realized I had better look up what I wrote before so I don’t contradict these previous settings.

My casino descriptions didn’t match. This fix was easy. Billy, the shaman in the current story, would work at a different gambling hall. I added a few lines bringing back Marla’s memories of visiting the other place for a prior case.

Regarding the local history museum, again my description didn’t match what I’d written before. That meant I had to modify what I’d written this time around since it was the same place. No need to reinvent the wheel in this instance.

The same precautions apply to conversations. Are you relating what two characters might already know about each other? How much background do you need for new readers without repeating information? This requires a delicate balancing act. It’s best to sneak in this info in small doses.

These are only a few of the hazards in writing a series. You have to remember what came before not only so you don’t repeat yourself but also so you get descriptions right and have your character reflect upon similar incidents from the past.


Oct. 1 – 18 Booklovers Bench
Enter to win a free book at Booklover’s Bench https://bookloversbench.com/contests/win-a-free-book-oct-2022  ‎


Oct. 7 – 31 A Scary Good Giveaway
Enter Now to win a $400 Amazon eGift Card from The Kindle Book Review in A Scary Good Giveaway! Go here: https://www.thekindlebookreview.net/a-scary-good-400-giveaway/


STARTS TOMORROW! Oct. 17 – 26 First in Series Mysteries with Humor
Enter to win a copy of PERMED TO DEATH, book #1 in my Bad Hair Day series, along with 45+ First in Series Mysteries with Humor AND a brand new eReader from BookSweeps. https://www.booksweeps.com/giveaway/october22-win-a-bundle-of-mysteries-with-humor/

Chapter by Chapter

When we write a book, we go word by word or page by page. If we think of the story as a whole, it becomes too overwhelming. Daily and weekly writing goals help us reach the finish line.

Revisions are a different story. The words are written. Now we must hone them into a fine-tuned instrument. It can take me an entire week to polish one chapter. First, I begin by addressing critique group corrections. This may involve moving passages around to tighten the focus, deleting sections, or refining a conversation. Dialogue tags have to be added to get rid of talking head syndrome, and my sleuth’s internal thoughts need to reflect her reactions.

In addition to the above, sentence structure must be tightened. Issues that are irrelevant are removed and repetitions pared down. Inconsistencies become more noticeable and easier to correct. The story begins to take shape in a more precise manner.

What this round of line editing doesn’t do is look at the book as a continuous story. Because I forget what’s happened in preceding chapters, the second round is where I’ll catch the bigger bloopers, or so I hope. This is a read-through from start to finish. Whoops, characters A and B already had this conversation in their last scene together. Or, this information has already been revealed about suspect C. Paragraphs will have to be modified accordingly. Then another round of reading is in order for overall smoothness.

Revision is a slow process but one that cannot be rushed. Just like a gemstone, every facet must be examined and polished. And once we’re done to our satisfaction, we send our work out to editors and beta readers. Then the process starts all over again.

Revising Your Novel Chapter by Chapter #amwriting #writetip Share on X

Where am I now in this stage? I’m on Chapter 16 out of 25. We’re getting there. How about you? Do you rewrite as you go or wait until the first draft is finished?

The First Draft of Your Novel is Finished – Now What?

Your book is not done just because you typed The End. Now begins the hard work of taking your raw material and honing it into a page-turning story. This will mean several rounds of revisions, intense reading sessions, and submitting to editors and beta readers for additional input.

This work happens before you prepare the book for publication, especially if you are self-publishing your novel. Regardless of the route you choose, you’ll still need to prepare a marketing plan.

What are the steps you’ll need to take next?

Here are some ideas from my list:

Complete Chapter Outline.

Finish Synopsis.

Prepare a One-Page Synopsis (required by some writing contests).

Make critique group spot corrections.

Do at least one full read-through for continuity and repetitions.

Double check list of Loose Ends to make sure all are resolved.

Send to Professional Editor.

Hire Cover Artist.

Hire Blurb Writer. Assemble tag lines, log lines, long and short book descriptions.

Write blog posts.

Select excerpts for possible blog tour.

Create reader discussion guide.

Write launch party posts.

Search Royalty-Free Photo Sites for pictures that illustrate your Suspects. Purchase these photos. Use them for a Pinterest Story Board or for a book trailer.

Compose book trailer text and match photos. OR hire someone to do a trailer if desired.

Do edits from editor.

Do another full read-through for final editing.

Send to beta readers. Make their corrections.

Assign ISBNs and prepare copyright page if self-publishing.

Send to formatter.

Read through pdf for final corrections. Look for formatting issues.

Set Pub Date.

Book a Launch Party (See https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty/ for examples of posts).

Book a Blog Tour.

Prepare Metadata including Key Words, Book Descriptions, and Author Bio.

Upload to online distributors. Copy Buy Links.

Book NetGalley co-op dates.

Query reviewers and send arcs via BookFunnel.

Write a page of Tweets and FB Posts.

This may simplify the Revision phase and the subsequent Marketing push, but it gives a general outline of what needs to be done. Obviously, if you are traditionally publishing your work, some of these steps may be omitted.

You've Finished the First Draft of Your Novel - Now What? #amwriting #writetip Share on X

For more tips, read these previous posts:
12 Steps for Revising Your Novel
Preparing for a Book Launch



Transitions Can Be Tough

Transition scenes in a novel can be tough to write. These can serve your need to jump ahead in time, have your characters go from one place to another, or act as a bridge between action sequences.

It’s easy when you’re jumping ahead in time. You can leave a space break between paragraphs or start a new chapter to indicate that time has passed. To make things run smoother, you can include phrasing or a snippet of information from the previous section into the new one. Ditto when hopping from one place to the next. You can use a space or chapter break or try one of the techniques below.

Getting your hero from one piece of action to another can be trickier. You need to vary the pacing without boring the reader. Too many exciting scenes running together will become wearying as well as unrealistic. Think about what purpose you want this shift to serve. If you have difficulty, consider your sleuth’s Life Space. I talk about this in my guide, Writing the Cozy Mystery, which can help you plan your story’s structure.

To get inside your sleuth’s head, draw her Life Space. Start with a circle and write her name in it. Then add cartoon-like bubbles around her head. Inside of these bubbles, put her concerns at any given moment in time. This will provide insight into your character’s interests.

Use your character’s concerns to fill in the transitional pages. Here are some suggestions for your sleuth:

  • Mentally review the suspects
  • Catch up on phone calls
  • Visit with a friend or relative
  • Discuss progress with sidekick
  • Have a romantic interlude
  • Deal with personal issues
  • Bring in subplots
  • Reflect on goals
  • Do research related to case

Make sure your passage isn’t filled with mindless chatter, mundane chores, or a laundry list of to-do items. If your heroine is making her favorite slow cooker recipe, for example, have her stew over the suspects or talk about them to her friend over the phone. What happens in these scenes should lead fluidly into whatever comes next.

Writing Tip: Transitions Can Be Tough #writingcommunity #amwriting Share on X

How do you deal with transitional scenes in your work?


Perish by Pedicure is on sale for 99 cents during July only! Click Here to Order

July Mysteries on SaleClick Here for List


Enter Here to win a free book from Booklover’s Bench