Sunday, May 14, 2006

Writing the Private Eye Novel

Although it’s been a long, meandering journey, I’ve been using this blog to document the process of writing my new novel Candy from Strangers, place it with a publisher and bring it to market.

Just to recap, we’re still in the writing phase of the lifecycle, and if you click on the table of contents link to the right, you’ll find that I’ve covered such topics as outlining, research, the actual mechanics of my writing process and some of the benefits of participating in a writers group.

Before I finish with writing and move on to a discussion of finding an agent and placing the book, I wanted to do a few posts on my philosophy about writing the private eye novel. I’m going to draw upon (read shamelessly repost) the slides I put together for a class on the same subject I taught one year for Book Passage’s Mystery Writer’s Conference.

And speaking of reusing material, I need to state right up front that I’ve leaned heavily on ideas from Donna Levin’s book Get That Novel Written!, so if you’re intrigued by the suggestions in the slides in the next few posts, I’d encourage you to buy the book to get the benefit her much richer, more wide-ranging discussion.


Here’s the cover slide with—guess what—my photograph of Riordan’s Desk.

We’re going to talk about writing the PI novel, but the point is not to provide a catalog of conventions you can copy. The point is to look at the elements of craft that are important for all novels and understand the special requirements that PI novels place on them.

The first five topics are common to all fiction writing—but again—I’ll be looking at them from the particular perspective of the PI novel. The discussion of the “PI Helper” character is unique to this sort of book and the use (and over-use) of them is a pet peeve of mine.


At 6:42 AM, Blogger Daniel Hatadi said...

I'm working on a PI novel myself, and it too is a long and meandering journey. I'm interested to see what you have to say about the PI helper. Would that be someone like the Joe Pike character of Robert Crais?

At 9:46 AM, Blogger Mark Coggins said...


Yes, that's exactly the sort of character I have in mind. Stay tuned ...



At 5:30 AM, Blogger carolegill said...

I am working on a hardboiled, PI novel but hopefully with a new take on it all. Can you point me in the right direction with regard to a reference book which would give me information as to how a PI in the 1940s-1950 would have: investigated unsolved murders--as well as other kinds of cases? I find I have loads of books to read (fiction), but I would also want a one, good reference point (non fiction).
thank you!


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