A new novelist asked me whether a beginner can write a mystery novel.
She wanted to know whether our new program, Write Your Bestseller: Write HOT Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, is suitable for a writer who’s just starting.
In a word: yes — the program will kickstart your career. As for mystery fiction in general, it’s my firm belief that Mystery/ Thriller/ Suspense fiction provides an inbuilt structure which makes writing easier for any author.
If you’re a new novelist, you can write mystery fiction
In a recent blog post for new mystery authors, we said that one of the benefits of mysteries is that you’ve got something to write about:
If you’re a new author your novel can seem like a trackless wilderness when your inspiration wears off. (Sadly, it will.) However, when you’re writing a mystery novel, the writing becomes easier, because the crime forms the spine of your novel, or short story.
Let’s look at some tips which will help you to get started writing a mystery novel.
1. Start with the crime: curiosity matters
For a new novelist, the best way to start writing a mystery, thriller or suspense novel is to choose a crime: one which appeals to you and makes you curious.
An “appealing” crime? Yes, because you’ll be living with your novel for a few weeks or months. Arousing emotions in readers is challenging; you need feel those emotions first.
I’m happy writing humorous caper novels and cozy mysteries. Puzzles and laughter appeal to me. I like to avoid unpleasant emotions; this means I’d never consider ghostwriting serial killer fiction or similar. (Shudder.)
Curiosity matters too. Writing isn’t so much “write what you know” as it’s “write what you’d like to learn more about.”
What are you interested in learning more about? Do you read mysteries? If you don’t, start reading. Think about the kinds of mysteries and thrillers you most enjoy.
2. Choose a sleuth (avoid choosing someone who’s just like you)
After you’ve chosen a crime, it’s time to choose a sleuth. Although you certainly can choose someone who’s much like you, that tends to be restrictive.
You can choose a cop, an investigator or a lawyer; someone whose business is crime.
Alternatively, you can choose an unlikely sleuth. In thrillers and suspense fiction, someone’s often either accused of a crime, or outright framed for one. The innocent person is forced to defend himself by searching out the real criminal.
3. Round up some people: mystery fiction is all about people
People read fiction to read about other people; this is especially true in mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels.
Many mysteries have an educational element to them because readers enjoy learning something new, so spread your net widely for interesting suspects.
For example, instead of making a suspect a harried working mother, make the suspect a harried working mother who works as a professional chef. Or wildlife photographer…
Research your crime and suspects, but avoid dumping your research into your novel. Choose details, rather than explanations. As we said in Kill The TMI Habit: 3 Ways To Write Better Fiction:
When authors break their habits of over-describing and over-explaining in their fiction, their writing improves for one simple reason — a reader’s curiosity ensures that he’ll keep reading.
Readers’ curiosity is gold to novelists and short fiction writers. Readers read fiction to experience by using their imagination, so give readers every opportunity to do that.
Have fun with your mystery. If you’re a new novelist completing your novel will give you confidence that you can make a career out of fiction.
Discover what sells in mystery fiction — YOU can write it
Check out our new program, Write Your Bestseller: Write HOT Mystery, Thriller & Suspense now. You can write a mystery, even if you’re a new novelist.
Why write serial fiction?
Everyone's busy today. A serial is by its nature, faster to write, and publish, than a novel.
It's a quicker read too, and many readers appreciate this. While a reader may hesitate before committing hours to a novel, he can read an episode of your serial in minutes.More info →
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels.More info →