Category Archives: Mystery Writing Tips

Cozy Mystery Hooks

A cozy scene with a fireplace in the background, a book in the foreground, and the post title, "Cozy Mystery Hooks" superimposed on the top.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Cozy mysteries are a subgenre in a large field of mystery subgenres.  They’re primarily defined by their use of an amateur sleuth, lack of gore and profanity, offstage murder, and focus on the whodunit puzzle. These mysteries are frequently (not always) humorous, character-focused, set in small-towns, and are part of a series.

They also frequently employ ‘hooks’ or special themes, meant to appeal to the primary reading demographic, as part of the series brand .

Types of hooks: 

The encyclopedic site for cozy mystery fans is Cozy Mystery List.  They list hooks under ‘themes’ and include animal themes, culinary, super paranormal, vacation mysteries, holidays, hobbies (everything from antiquing  to dollhouse miniatures), professions, senior sleuth, and religious.

I was surprised to see ‘senior sleuth’ as a theme/hook.  I know that the agents and publishers that I queried in the early 2000s didn’t consider it one at the time (and it was the cause of many rejections for Myrtle).  Good to see that things have changed. Continue reading Cozy Mystery Hooks

Outlining a Cozy Mystery

A black cat sits to the left side of a dark background while the post title, 'Outlining a Cozy Mystery' is superimposed on the side.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

I realized recently that the most common question I’m asked in podcast interviews, during writer’s conferences, and via email is: “What does your cozy mystery outline look like?”

I’ve always kind of blown my answer to this question, I think, because I’m surprised to get it. I never even thought of myself as an outliner until six years ago (I was a pantster until that point).

My outline has been a work in progress.  But I’ve tweaked it a lot over the years until now it’s the basic tool that I need to jump quickly into a new story.

I’m posting a link to it in this post so that now I can actually have an answer to the question I’ve never answered well before.  :)   Hopefully, someone will find it useful.  You can find the template here on Google Docs and can copy it or download it there.

A few notes about the outline:

Continue reading Outlining a Cozy Mystery

Things to Avoid in a Cozy Mystery

A caution sign shows a stick man slipping and falling and the post title, "Things to Avoid in a Cozy Mystery" is superimposed above it.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Believe it or not, there are ways to make cozy mystery writing complex.  And I think cozies are fairly easy books to write.

At first I titled this post “Cozy Mystery Mistakes,” but I don’t think these things are all necessarily mistakes–they’re just elements that could make for potential problems.

Looking at my list, I’ve done nearly all of them at least once. Continue reading Things to Avoid in a Cozy Mystery

The Ten Commandments for Detective Fiction (1929): A Brief History and Update

Photo showing potential murder weapons (rope, knife, )and the post title 'The 10 Commandments of Detective Fiction 1929) is superimposed on the top.

by Gretchen Mullen, @GretchenMdm9524

“Thou shalt not cheat thy reader”

Ronald Knox (1888-1957) was an English priest who moonlighted as a well-regarded author of detective novels and short stories. His reputation was such that in 1928, during the Golden Era of Detective Fiction, when a group of British mystery authors gathered to exchange ideas and collaborate, Knox was included in this elite group. Officially known as The Detection Club, the group formally organized in 1930. Membership was and still is by invitation only. Original members included such greats as Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and first elected president G.K. Chesterson.

Knox co-edited and penned the “Introduction” to The Best English Detective Stories of 1928. Knox’s essay (originally dated February 28, 1929), was later reprinted as “The Detective Story Decalogue” in 1946.

According to the Ronald Knox Society of North America, the Decalogue became known as “the Ten Commandments for Detective Novelists as a set of by-laws for the [Detection] club.” Often reprinted in short form, the commandments (also referred to as Rules of Fair Play) are meant to remind authors that the reader deserves a fighting chance to solve the mystery without the author’s use of cheap tricks. Continue reading The Ten Commandments for Detective Fiction (1929): A Brief History and Update

10 Best Things About Writing Cozy Mysteries

A tabby cat in front of a black background is on the right hand side of the photo and the post title, 10 best things about writing cozy mysteries, is superimposed on the left.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

I like reading many different kinds of books. Everything from biographies to literary fiction and classic literature interests me.

But for writing, I’ve been sticking with cozy mysteries. There are a few reasons for that.  For one, I’m pretty well branded as a cozy mystery writer and that’s what readers are looking for and expecting from me. For another, it takes a whole lot more effort and research for me to switch to another genre (although I’ve done that…once.)

The biggest reason, though, is that writing cozy mysteries is so much fun.

Here are the 10 best things about writing cozy mysteries: Continue reading 10 Best Things About Writing Cozy Mysteries