How to Write a Gripping Mystery Novel: 9 Mystery Writing Tips

Alfred Hitchcock on writing a Mystery Novel:

“Mystery is an intellectual process…But suspense is essentially an emotional process”

While the mystery genre exists from time immemorial, Edgar Allan Poe is best known as the father of mystery novels. His writings date back to the mid-19th century and his first short story was The Murders in the Rue Morgue, featuring the world’s first fictional detective, C.

So what does it take to write an engrossing mystery novel with a nail-biting end? Let us try to enlist some tips that might prompt you to try your hands in this field of writing!

#1. Cultivate the habit of reading mystery literature

Quoting what Walt Disney once said about reading “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.” This is so true because books not only unravel a story, they also hold the key to their writing techniques, if read attentively.

So, the next time you plan to read a mystery novel or a short story, be watchful of the manner in which the author drops clues and tries to divert your attention to undo the entangled wires while intensifying the mystery.

#2. Research the crime and its associated details meticulously

Planning well is the first step while setting out to write a book enveloped in mystery. It becomes pertinent to create the first draft while understanding the crime, its motive, and the who, what, where, when, why, and how (popularly referred to as the five wives and the one husband approach).

Make sure that you spend ample time researching the crime, criminal psychology so that you know the rules of the game and can write a convincing piece that can even trick a seasoned criminal into believing that you are one amongst them.

You need lots of inspiration to write a Mystery Novel.

#3. Setting the stage

Make sure to keep the audience engaged from the word go! Try to start your narrative with the crime being committed followed by rising tension as the story unfolds. 

Even if you are planning to start with a background, make sure it is an integral part of the main plot and not a standalone feature. Use red herrings, cliffhangers so that it will leave unanswered questions that will prompt the reader to come back to learn what will happen.

#4. Characterisation is the key

Readers tend to forget the novels and their authors but what lasts forever are the fictional characters that liven up the story.

For instance, we may not remember the names of novels written by Arthur Conan Doyle, but his fictional characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson dwell in our memory.

Hence, develop the characters strongly, so that they can actively communicate with the reader while being relatable and fallible. This holds true for the bad guy too!

#5. Multiple dubious characters

It is always interesting to solve a crossword or a puzzle. Writing a mystery is no less than phrasing a riddle. 

Plan several suspicious characters so that you can create distractions while giving the reader some mental exercise along with the pleasure of reading. However, ensure that the characters motives are logical, well established and come to the fore upon the conclusion of the thriller.

Writing a Mystery Novel can be challenging but equally rewarding!

#6. Use elements of contrast and variation

Try to use opposite and contrasting ideas, to make your arguments stronger, as it is likely to be a long-term memory for readers owing to the emphasis placed on them. 

Also introducing an element of humour, which is well integrated into the mystery, will make the story a breeze for the readers and trust us that they will be glued to the book until they have unravelled the mystery.

#7. Location is important

This is another ingredient that can make your offering interesting. Plan your mystery in multiple and unexpected spots.

It is good to explore several locations as you unwind the narrative as the sense of the unexpected, and the idea that turbulence can erupt at any moment will keep your readers on the lookout.

#8. Facilitate your reader to uncover the mystery

Refrain from making the story a cakewalk for the readers. Let them be a stakeholder in the action. This way you give them an opportunity to untie the knots and identify the culprit.

#9.     Read, Rewrite, Reread

The three crucial Rs to writing a successful mystery novel is to read the first draft to see if there are portions that can be rewritten to make the narrative more gripping. 

Once you have rescripted, make sure to re-read again with an open mind. On average, it might take about 10 drafts, and at least a year of real editing before your work is ready for release.

In current times, online writing classes are a boon for beginners learning to write. It is believed that you can be good at writing if you are disciplined, have an eye for detail, and have a strong vocabulary. Use this time to not just learn but also read books of different genres.

At the same time, if learning from experts is your preference, we have just the right person for you.

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