Writing the Cozy Mystery

Nov 10, 2018 | 2018 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Nancy J. Cohen

Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of Writing a Cozy Mystery along with a link to purchase the book from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.

Why did I write a book on how to craft a cozy mystery? The answer is simple. There wasn’t one on the market in the earlier days when I began my Bad Hair Day series.

Cozies have always been popular. The focus of these murder mysteries is on interpersonal relationships rather than crime scene details. As a subgenre of the traditional mystery category, cozies involve a whodunit featuring an amateur sleuth, a distinctive setting, and a limited number of suspects, most of whom know each other and have a motive for murder. These books contain no explicit sex, violence, or bad language.mystery

These “clean” stories appeal to a mostly female audience, and writers may feel disparaged for writing these “cutsies,” as I’ve heard them called. But I am proud of what I write. Coming from the romance genre, I grew accustomed to a disdainful attitude toward my work from readers looking for bestsellers or literary fiction. I saw the need for an instructional guide for cozy writers, as well as a boost of recognition and respect for the subgenre.

Books on writing the traditional mystery didn’t explore cozies in enough depth without also going into basic writing techniques. I wanted to offer something more advanced that focused on the intricacies of writing a cozy. This would be aimed at writers who already knew how to structure a novel. And so I wrote an instructional guide that discusses how to develop the sleuth and suspects, establish the setting, plot the story, add suspense, plant clues, and sustain a series.

As I say in Writing the Cozy Mystery: Expanded Second Edition, “These novels center on the connections among individuals, and not on large, impersonal groups like global terrorists, international drug cartels, or secret government agencies. Those are reserved for thrillers that deal with a broader scope. Psychological studies of the criminal mind or profiles of serial killers don’t play a big role here either. These would more likely be seen in suspense novels. Police procedurals, detective stories, and courtroom dramas are other subgenres of the mystery field.

“In a cozy, the amateur sleuth is your average Joe or Joanne. This person is not professionally engaged in hunting down or prosecuting criminals. The sleuth may run into serious danger but isn’t physically damaged to any great extent.”

Cozies have an avid readership that wants a lighter story with humor and romance. Pets, recipes, and crafting tips may be added to the mix. That’s not to say serious issues can’t be mentioned in a cozy. These can be included as long as reader expectations are met.

Why offer a second edition of my instructional guide? Because other writers kept asking me questions. It became imperative for me to answer them, not just for one writer but for anyone out there meaning to start a cozy series. My new edition contains expanded sections, more examples, additional writing exercises, and seven new chapters. Also,

I’ve answered questions such as:

• Can I use real places?
• How many suspects are a good number?
• When should the dead body show up?
• How can you avoid police involvement?
• What is a Red Herring?

I am so pleased to see Cozies growing new fans. And if you want to write your own, now you have a guidebook that shows you how to get started.

Do you want to write a cozy mystery but don’t have a clue where to start? Or maybe you’ve begun a story but are stuck on the plot? Perhaps you’re already writing a series, and you need tips on keeping your material fresh? Writing the Cozy Mystery will help you develop your characters, establish the setting, plot the story, add suspense, plant clues, and sustain your series.

To enter to win an ebook copy of Writing the Cozy Mystery, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “cozy,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 17, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on iTunes and Google Play.

Use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL & indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy:

You can also use this link to purchase the book on Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:

Nancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail. Titles in this series have made the IMBA bestseller list, been selected by Suspense Magazine as best cozy mystery, won a Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal, and earned third place in the Arizona Literary Awards. Nancy has also written the instructional guide Writing the Cozy Mystery. When not busy writing, Nancy enjoys fine dining, cruising, visiting Disney World, and shopping. The latest titles in her series are Hair Brained and Trimmed to Death. You can learn more about Nancy on her website.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases using those links. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. This sounds like it would be a great resource!
    donah42 at aol dot com

    • The book is useful for new writers, seasoned authors, or mystery fans who want to learn more about the behind-the-scenes process.

    • Good luck, Debbie, and thanks for joining us.

  2. Love your Bad Hair Day series. Thanks for the chance to win.

    • Thanks so much, Renee. Good luck in the contest!

  3. Sounds like a great resource!

  4. Thank you so much for writing this expanded 2nd edition of Writing The Cozy Mystery! What a wonderful book for Cozy fans like me who are interested in writing them too. I loved your post and I thank you for the giveaway chance!

  5. Thanks, Sharon. I hope you’ll check out my book. It’s fun for cozy fans to see what goes on behind-the-scenes and helpful to writers wanting to write a cozy.

  6. I seriously need to read this book. Over the last few years I’ve decided I really want to write a book. I’ve become a very avid reader and reviewer for a number of authors and they all inspire me. I start a story…and I get stuck and give up. A while later it happens all over again. It’s pathetic, really. I thought about taking a community ed course but even those are spendy. Thanks for writing this Nancy! And thanks for the chance to win too!

  7. Hi Amanda. If you are getting stuck on your story, you may need to lay the groundwork in more detail. My book discusses plotting as well as what to do when you get stuck. See if your local library has any critique groups or writing workshops. Nancy

  8. We have a winner!


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