Writing Books/Novels


QUESTION: Dear Catherine,
I wonder if you can help me. I am attempting to write a novel and am trying really hard to do my research for a mystery book. Where can I get help for research on this genre. Also, do you have any tips on beating writers block? Please help. From Michelle

ANSWER: Hi, Michelle!

I'm not Catherine (well, actually, I am---just not the one you asked... LOL!) But I saw your question in the pool and thought I'd try to help out.

What sort of research are you trying to do? Is it plotting the mystery, or characterization, or research of a location or specialty tool? Where I direct you is going to depend on what you're looking for. Let me know and I'll try to help you out! :)


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Well, the novel genre is mystery.
I want to research for information like what questions to ask, and what to look for in a murder investigation.
In my novel, i am thinking that a man is killed by a stabbing. Unfortunately, I have no idea where to start. lol.

Hi, again, Michelle!

Well, a lot is going to depend on your protagonist. There are different kinds of mysteries (as I'm sure you know if you like reading the genre). If your hero/ine is an amateur sleuth for example---a person who has no formal training and just winds up involved in the incident by happenstance---then you have more options. You get to have your character learn along with you, so to speak. You can tell the reader the victim was stabbed, but your main character doesn't have to know the gory details. The person is dead. That's enough for the reader.

Now, in a police procedural, fans of the subgenre ARE going to want to know the bloody details. For this, I'd recommend two books (which are good places to start regardless of your subgenre):

Forensics for Dummies (yeah, they really do have such a book! LOL!) Here's a link on Amazon:


The author, Douglas Lyle, is not only a physician and forensic specialist, but also a writer of thrillers. So, he puts the book in terms a non-doctor writer can understand. He also has a website where you can go and ask specific questions, like: "If I stab the guy in the chest, would the knife break his ribs?" and not have the cops knocking on your door the next day. Heh...

The other is a fairly new book, but it's written by people who really know the business. It should be a good place to get started too.


Hope these get you started. Feel free to ask any other questions that come up and good luck with the book! :)


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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