Phyllis Humphrey, of our chapter (RWASD), has graciously consented to allow me to use her blog post about mystery writing rules so I can compare them to rules for writing romance.
* #2. Concealed Clues. Mystery readers want to solve the crime along with your detective, so if your sleuth knows a fact you haven’t revealed to the reader, Rewrite!
* #3. Plot-Herding Characters. Don’t let your characters do things normal people wouldn’t do just because your plot requires that. If your character, all alone and unarmed, goes into a scary place to confront the villain, you’d better give him a darned good reason, or else... Rewrite!
* #4. False starts. Readers need a mystery, or something exciting, to keep reading, so if you give them an immediate information dump, or a “flash forward” instead, Rewrite!
* #5. Narration in dialog form. Sure, there are things you want the reader to know, but if your dialogue is stuffed with “reader feeders,” Rewrite!
* #7. Too many viewpoints. There’s a reason so many whodunits are written in first person. Readers have no problem following one person and trying to solve the crime when, or before, he does. Your story may require two viewpoint characters, but if you write more than three, and especially if you switch viewpoints in the middle of a scene, Rewrite!
* #8. Sidekicks as Stereotypes. Please, no heart-of-gold ex-hookers, no eyeglass-wearing, clumsy computer nerds, no incompetent cops. Dream up an interesting original or else, Rewrite!
* #9. Zigzag Timeline. Don’t switch between time periods if it can be avoided. If you make the reader wonder if this is 2013 or 1990 too often, you’ll lose her. Rewrite!
* #11. Overstaying your welcome. If your sleuth reveals a suspect to be the murderer, and then decides he’s not and chooses someone else, or the killer escapes and the last hundred pages are just a “007" chase scene, Rewrite!
* #12. The small stuff. Mystery readers are relentless about wanting things to be accurate, so make sure you have no glaring errors. That applies to punctuation and grammar too. Do it right, or Rewrite!