Lois is the author of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, the Empty Nest Series, and several other books ( Website: www.loiswinston.com ), a member of the Liberty States Fiction Writers, and a writer who has won more writing competitions over the years than any other author in the world! (I’m almost sure of that!)
In addition to gearing up for a life-changing relocation, she graciously agreed to do a guest post for us here at Words Count – and so, without further ado, I URGE YOU TO READ HER BOOKS if you are a cozy reader – and enjoy this post as well! Her most recent full-length cozy is A Sew Deadly Cruise, available wherever you order your books! See the links below the post to go right to an order location!
Keep reading and writing – and Happy Spring Holidays to all.
Twelve Steps to Writing a Successful Cozy Mystery Series
By Lois Winston
Writing an ongoing mystery series is like juggling bowling balls. If you follow these twelve steps to keep those balls moving properly, you won’t risk smashing your tootsies—or losing readers.
1. Know your mystery sub-genre.
There are distinct conventions for cozy mysteries, amateur sleuth mysteries, traditional mysteries, police procedurals, detective stories, and noir mysteries. Learn them. You must meet reader expectations for the sub-genre you write.
2. Decide on a limited or ongoing series.
In a limited series the story arc and characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts develop over a set number of books and are resolved at the end of the last book in the series.
An ongoing series features episodic stories that resolve at the end of each book but include the same main characters throughout the series. Plots are independent of each other but can be tied to previous books. Characters introduced in one book may return several books later. In most cases, the main characters continue to grow throughout the series, sometimes experiencing life-altering changes.
3. Develop a protagonist who can carry a series through multiple books.
To create a sleuth who won’t grow stale set long-term goals for your protagonist and place her in different settings. Even though you end each book with the reader learning whodunit, you want readers wondering what happens next.
4. Give your protagonist a job conducive to discovering and solving crimes.
Amateur sleuths need careers that enable them to investigate and interact with witnesses and suspects. Giving your sleuth an occupation where she meets new people offers plot opportunities. If her job involves travel, you can locate books in different locations.
5. Create your sleuth’s world.
Setting should be integral to your series. Decide whether your books will take place in a real town or city, a fictional location, or a fictionalized version of a real place. Whichever you choose, make the location interesting.
6. Cupcakes, crafts and cats.
The three most popular sub-genres of cozy mysteries are culinary cozies, crafting cozies, and pet cozies. Culinary and crafting cozies generally include a recipe or craft project. In pet cozies, the pet becomes a character in the series, one the sleuth often views as almost human. In paranormal cozies, the pet often plays a role in solving the mystery.
7. BFFs and sidekicks.
Most cozies feature a sidekick. This can be a coworker, relative, BFF, or love interest. The sidekick often provides character traits that complement the sleuth.
8. Secondary and tertiary characters.
Juggling the number of characters in your series is a delicate balancing act. Too few characters won’t give you enough possibilities for plots, but too many can become confusing to readers. Not every character needs to be in each book. Some characters may play a major role in only one book or pop up sporadically. Resist the urge to force a character into a story because you introduced him in a previous book. Only bring characters back when it makes sense to the story.
9. Create a series bible.
It’s essential to keep accurate track of all series details—descriptions, ages, professions, back-story, relatives, hobbies, street layouts, shops, etc. Don’t rely on memory. Create a database. Each time you add a character, mention a characteristic, or describe a location, add it to the database. Routinely refer to the database to avoid errors.
10. Decide how quickly your characters will age.
Most authors write one book a year. Will your characters age a year between each book, or will each book take place days, weeks, or months after the preceding one? If your characters age a year with each book, how will aging affect their lives? Will you incorporate technological advances and current events into future stories?
11. Keep a timeline of events.
As you write, it’s easy to lose track of the time elapsing in your story. Keep a scene calendar for each book. Decide on the month and day your story will start. Record the scenes that occur each day to keep your timeline accurate.
12. Don’t leave your readers scratching their heads.
It’s important that each book in your series can be read as a standalone. If a reader picks up a book from the middle of your series, you want her to have an enjoyable experience. However, avoid info-dumps. A few carefully worded phrases at appropriate times is all you need to avoid reader frustrated and confusion.
Bio: USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. Anastasia is a women’s magazine crafts editor forced to become a reluctant amateur sleuth when her husband drops dead in Las Vegas, leaving her with massive debt, a communist mother-in-law, and a loan shark demanding 50 G’s—all before she stumbles across her first dead body. Kirkus Reviews dubbed the series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” Lois has also written other mysteries, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, a children’s chapter book, and nonfiction. In addition, she’s a retired literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer.
Newsletter sign-up: https://app.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/z1z1u5
Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com
A Sew Deadly Cruise
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 9
Life is looking up for magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack. Newly engaged, she and photojournalist fiancé Zack Barnes are on a winter cruise with her family, compliments of a Christmas gift from her half-brother-in-law. Son Alex’s girlfriend and her father have also joined them. Shortly after boarding the ship, Anastasia is approached by a man with an unusual interest in her engagement ring. When she tells Zack of her encounter, he suggests the man might be a jewel thief scouting for his next mark. But before Anastasia can point the man out to Zack, the would-be thief approaches him, revealing his true motivation. Long-buried secrets now threaten the well-being of everyone Anastasia holds dear. And that’s before the first dead body turns up.
Craft projects included.