Day 7: The 30-Day Book Launch Challenge

DAY 7. Planning the perfect murder.

This week is all about story development and getting new words onto the page.

W/c Monday 27th November. What has to be done by the end of this week?


1 Work on a pro-forma template 4-Act structure for a cozy mystery story.
2 Develop the list of 5 suspects and their motives, means and opportunities.
3 Select one suspect who is going to be the main antagonist and an equal match for my heroine sleuth. Build up their backstory. Why now?
4 Recreate how the first murder was committed and then create the clues that will lead the sleuth to the killer. Do the same for the second victim.
5 Start filling in the outline text with expanded scenes and dialogue.
5 Track the wordcount for each scene sequence every day.


Now comes the fun part.  It’s time to get creative!

We can chose any murder weapon, means and opportunity, who and when, and in any setting we like.  There are endless combinations and options for our imagination to work through.

In fact, there is almost too much choice.

Which is why readers prefer sub-genres which specialise in certain niche settings. From library cats to coffee shop owners, paranormal investigators to Victorian aristocrats, and everything in between.  Each niche has its own conventions and story patterns.

But at some point we have to decide how the murder is going to be committed and the sequence of events before, during and after the murder.

PROCESS> I have to know how the murder [ or crime] was actually committed.

Then I can work backwards and plan how each secret, clue or revelation will be revealed to the sleuth.

There will be distractions, diversions and side tracks going nowhere, but the clues have to be there which lead to the real killer.

Clues and Revelations for the Sleuth.

These clues are then slotted into the story plan so that they are slowly revealed to the reader.

I know what SHOULD happen in each step on the story flow to move the story forwards for the reader.

For example.

  • I know that there will be a murder/crime in Act One, steps 1 and 2, and the sleuth will commit to finding the truth at the end of Act one, step 4.
  • I know that the sleuth will have a one to one meeting with the real killer in a grand finale at the end of the story, probably step 14 or 15.
  • Then I have fun working through what could happen in this step/scene which would make that happen in an interesting way.

My process is to print out a sheet for each of the 16 story steps, then jot down ideas about what will be revealed to the sleuth in conversation or through the discovery of a clue, in each of the steps.

This morning’s pages looked like this for Act Four, steps 13 to 16.

Open the scene : who, where, when.
Then what happens?
Then what happens?
Then what happens?
Then what happens?
Then what happens?
What happens in the final beat of this scene?


These are very much rough notes, playing the “What if” game and exploring options and experimenting with different ideas.

This is the first pass story development stage and we have to be open to the fact that our first ideas might be replaced with a stronger idea which impacts the whole storyline.

Right now the objective is to create a basic outline which will act as a starting point for the writing.

I won’t give any spoilers, but my killer Rachel is going to find my sleuth on her tail very soon.

Back to it! Have a good one. Nina.