According to Albany author Frankie Bailey, the hardest thing about writing a mystery novel is getting past the middle.
“A lot of people get an idea, get 50 or 60 pages in and stall out,” she said. “Even experienced writers.”
She’ll be sharing tips on how to overcome “the sagging middle” as she calls it, along with other literary lessons at a four-week mystery writing workshop series starting Sunday at the Canajoharie Library.
“Follow the Clues” is the brainchild of Library Director Leah LaFera and funded by the Mohawk Valley Library System.
They host writing workshops every fall, most of which focus on the memoir.
“I had the idea for a mystery workshop in my head for a long time,” LaFera said, “but I always thought it would be a really big gamble and no one would show up for it.”
The gamble paid off: Nine of the 14 slots were quickly filled and the rest are expected to be taken before the first session.
Bailey plans to cover the main points of her craft over the four weeks, starting simply with getting an idea nailed down.
“Mysteries are like no other type of book,” she said. “With non-genre fiction, you just sit down and let your story go where it wants. Mystery readers expect a certain thing.”
She explained that the plot structure of a mystery must adhere to one of a few basic sub-genres.
For example, the protagonist of her own novels is a crime-fighting criminal historian named Lizzie Stuart. Bailey calls this the “amateur sleuth” mystery genre.
“When someone picks up an amateur sleuth mystery, they can expect a small circle of suspects and an exotic form of murder,” she said. “But if they pick up a thriller, they know the hero will do daring deeds.”
She’ll also talk about how to create a sense of place and good characters, as well as the gritty, less-fun aspects of writing, such as time management.
“If you’re going to write a novel,” she said, “you need to plan time to get it done.”
By the end of the four weeks, diligent writers willing to do homework will have a mystery plotted out, a protagonist and corresponding villain and some 50 pages of draft, “depending on how fast you can write,” according to Bailey.
Workshops will run from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Oct. 14, 21 and 28 and Nov. 4. They are free but only a few seats are left. For more information or to sign up, call the library.