Writing The Mystery Novel [Mystery Month]

Writing a novel isn’t an easy task to do. The difficulty level can vary depending on the genre you write as well. If you’re writing a romance, things may be pretty straightforward. They’re possibly set in our real world and can be true to life.

Meanwhile, if you’re writing fantasy you may have a lot of world building to do. You might have to create new races and cultures of people, new languages, and go through the motions of an adventure.

Of course, all of this depends on you, your writing style, and what you’re writing. There is no right way to write fantasy or romance or any genre – those are just examples.

Mystery, on the other hand, can be more or less the same. While there are many subgenres of mystery, most mysteries have a common denominator – someone committed a crime and someone else needs to solve it.

Writing the Mystery Novel | Mystery Month | Creative Writing | Novel Writing | RachelPoli.com

What should be included in your Mystery

Mystery novels may include:

  • A crime
  • An interrogation
  • An investigation
  • A trail of clues
  • A list of evidence
  • Suspects, witnesses, and victims (or friends and family of the victim)
  • Red herrings

Depending on the type of story you’re writing, some of those will be used, others will not. It depends on your protagonist as well. For example, you might throw in a rival for your protagonist as well.

The beginning, middle, and end

Going from point A to point B can be a pain. I never found beginning mysteries to be all that tough. There are a number of ways you can begin them.

  • The discovery of the victim
  • At the crime scene investigating already
  • Showing your protagonist wrapping up a previous case
  • Showing the crime itself
  • Having the victim, feeling threatened, seek out your protagonist for help

There are many other ways to begin the story too. Although, I would shy away from having your protagonist wake up… I hope I’m not alone when saying that’s been done one too many times.

The majority of the middle is trying to solve the crime itself.

  • The investigation
  • Interrogations/questioning witnesses
  • Discovering clues and piecing evidence together
  • Following leads and red herrings

Endings are, of course, pretty straightforward. The bad guy is caught (or maybe not – justice sometimes isn’t served) and it’s onto the next case.

While middles can sag pretty easily, I always found writing middles in mystery to be fun and the easiest. As long as you can keep track of your clues and evidence, the timeline, and all the who dun it information, you should be good to go.

Keep track of your crime and clues

In order for your protagonist and your readers to follow along with the crime and be able to figure it out, you need to have all the information at hand. Crimes are confusing, otherwise, it wouldn’t be a mystery, and they can take lots of twists and turns. Again, that’s why it’s important for you to understand everything about the crime and the characters it involves like the back of your hand.

To do this, keep extensive notes. Figure out the who, the why, the when, the how, the where. What sort of clues can be laid out for your protagonist? Criminals are careful, but the truth always has a way of finding the surface.

Leave a trail of clues at a nice pace. Don’t make them so obvious and don’t throw them at your protagonist all at once.

Heed your research

It’s called fiction for a reason, but crimes are solved in a certain way with certain rules in real life. Look up anything you’re unsure of and try to make the investigation as realistic as possible.

Unless your protagonist is the coroner, they will not be performing an autopsy.

Have you started yet?

Writing a mystery isn’t an easy task, but it can be a lot of fun. Good luck.

How do you go about writing a mystery novel? Have you tried it before? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

Blog Signature | RachelPoli.comPatreon | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | GoodReads | Double JumpSign up for Rachel Poli's Newsletter and get a FREE 14-page Writing Tracker! | Writing | Blogging | RachelPoli.com

15 thoughts on “Writing The Mystery Novel [Mystery Month]

  1. Definitely agree about avoiding starting the book with your protagonist waking up. It’s one of those things associated with the genre but everyone’s fed up of it. And research is important, too. Great post, Rachel. You made some really valid points 🙂

    • I remember one of my classmates in 8th grade, he wasn’t a big reader but didn’t mind it, and I was reading a book and he bluntly asked, “Did the main character wake up in the beginning? Every book I read that happens. Is that always supposed to happen?” And for some reason, it stuck with me because it’s so true, lol.
      Thank you for reading. 🙂

      • I think it’s been recognised as something that readers don’t like, because I’ve definitely seen less of it recently. No problem 🙂

Let me know your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.