I’m further along in my straight mystery and read two chapters of it to my writers’ club this week. Each of us gets 15 minutes to read, and my chapters were short, so I got to read both of them. Some people read their best work when it’s their turn, and it blows us away. Honestly, getting great feedback is just what you need sometimes to keep you plowing along. Mostly, though, I like to read what I think is my WORST writing to see what kind of feedback I get. I always read my first chapter, because, let’s face it, mine usually need some serious work. And then I read chapters I’m not sure about. I worry if they do what I want them to. That’s why I love my group. I get HONEST feedback, and one of my fellow writers said, “Your chapters bounced back and forth between serial killer and cozy.” Not what I wanted to hear. But I had a deep, in my gut fear, she was absolutely right. I just wasn’t sure what to do about it.
And then I read C.S. Boyack’s blog for Story Empire last week, and even though I KNOW I need lots of tension for a straight mystery, I also knew I’d reverted back to my happy, cozy roots. I love cozies, and it’s so easy for me to fall into that pattern, and even though I don’t want to go as dark as some mysteries that I love, I also didn’t want to spend time in the kitchen, cooking and being a happy family too often in this book. Craig’s post helped me sort out what I wanted to change. There IS a big difference between suspense and tension. EVERY book needs tension, be it a romance or a serial killer. Things CAN’T go right for the protagonist or you have a soft chapter. Which is okay once in a while to give the reader a place to catch her breath. But it can’t be a regular part of the novel. Here’s Craig’s post, and it clicked for me: https://storyempirecom.wordpress.com/2021/06/23/the-other-sister/
I’m going back to “happy” chapters and adding conflict today. And it’s going to make my book better. It’s going to make my characters stronger, too. I don’t know who you use for feedback, but I hope you have a couple people you can trust. And if you don’t, think about tension. It’s what keeps readers turning the pages. I’m adding more to mine. I hope you have enough in yours. And happy writing!
Here’s a cover I thought of for POSED IN DEATH. It’s still in the “maybe” phase. But I didn’t want it to look like a cozy to warn readers this book is darker.