You Know You’re a Mystery Writer When…

[Missi Svoboda won the paperback copy of A TINE TO LIVE, A TINE TO DIE from Edith’s A Second Life post last week. Missi, contact Edith, and congratulations!]

By Sherry Harris

You know you’re a mystery writer…


Half of your friends have aliases but they haven’t committed a crime.

You have perfectly normal conversations about the best way to kill someone in a crowded restaurant.

Your husband is nervous when you say the Poison Lady is going to be at a conference you’re attending.

Julie with Patrick Towle right before our police ride along.
Julie with Sgt. Patrick Towle right before our police ride along.

You know how to sink a body and make sure it stays that way.

You have an anonymous source.

You’ve been on a police ride along.

Your friend’s husband, who’s a police officer, answers your questions after he decides you aren’t really planning to commit a crime.

You hear an interesting crime story and you start analyzing to see if it would work in your manuscript.

You can’t wait to:

See your cover.

Hold an arc.

Hold the book.

Sign your first book.

Make the first sale that isn’t to your mother or some other close relative.

You try to:

My first panel at Left Coast Crime with Martha Cooley, Lori Rader-Day, Carlene O’Neil and Holly West.

Be funny and interesting when you’re on a panel at a conference.

Be witty and ask insightful questions when you moderate a panel.

Figure out how many appearances you should make and if you should have a launch party.

Promote but not over promote your book on social media sites.

You force yourself out of bed in the middle of the night because something has come to you and you want to remember it in the morning.

You wake up in the morning wondering what the heck you thought of in the middle of the night that you were sure was brilliant and you’d remember it without forcing yourself out of bed in the middle of the night.

You have to cover the word count on your computer so you don’t check every few minutes to see if you’ve reached your goal.

Liz in book jail on our recent retreat.
Liz in book jail on our recent retreat.

Your friends put you in book jail and yell at you if they see you’re online when you should be writing.

Your friends give you word counts, deadlines, and encourage you.

Anyone have something to add to the list?

26 Thoughts

  1. Hi Sherry, great list, esp. the Poison Lady. You’re are a crime writer when you meet a jerk in real life but just give him a weird smile, knowing you can – and will – bump him off spectacularly in a book.

    Hope all is well…

  2. You know you’re a crime writer when you have extended conversations with total strangers about murders they have heard of and/or convenient ways to kill people (and you notice they avoid you after that).

  3. Great list , Sherry! You know you’re a mystery writer when family members call just to tell you about a crime committed in their town.

  4. Love this post! You know you’re a mystery writer when you go to a dinner party, sit next to a doctor, tell her about your writing, and ask some questions. Weeks later she emails you with a better “idea” for your book.

  5. You know you’re a mystery writer when …

    You lose track of what day it is because you’re so immersed in your story.

    You’re shocked when you go outside and it’s hot, because in your story it’s winter time and that feels way more real.

    Every item you see is evaluated for its potential as a murder weapon.

  6. Love this list, and the contributions in the comments, too.
    …when you learn that half the work of writing is not actually writing but instead getting the word out about your books. And when you are out on your walk, no pen or paper in sight, you realize who the killer is, and you nearly run home so you can write it down (even though you haven’t run in years…).

    1. Edith, I’m shocked — you were a Girl Scout — I thought you were always prepared. Note to self some means of recording great ideas with me at all times!

      1. Actually, I always carry my smart phone with me when I walk, and I’m sure there is some way to enter notes in it. If I could figure it out!

      2. Edith, if you have your smartphone, you can email yourself.

  7. A great topic and lots of fun. My contribution: You know you’re a mystery writer when you’re standing in the subway and you hear two strangers talking about a bizarre situation, so you follow them out of the subway, having already forgotten where you were going and concerned only with following the two strangers.

    1. Oh, that’s a good one, Susan! The start of Tagged for Death is actually from a conversation I heard in an airport. A guy was pacing back and forth as he talked so I couldn’t hear everything he said but what I heard sparked my imagination!

  8. You know you’re a mystery reader when you use that to win all your arguments. “I know how to kill you and get away with it.” (I swear I’m always joking when I say it, and none of my friends have died under mysterious circumstances. Really!)

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