Unlock the Secret of Writing a Mystery Novel

Writing a Mystery Novel

Writing a mystery novel have always been consistently trending on bestselling charts. Whether it’s The Da Vinci Code or Gone Girl or an Agatha Christie novel, a mystery book is definitely attractive for readers.

If your questions is how to write a good mystery book, how to write a childrens mystery book, or how to write a great crime novel or write a thriller, how to write a mystery short story? The rules for mystery writing remains the same.

Suspense at First Sight in a mystery novel

The first line and chapter of your story should present an image that instantly pulls the reader in. It’s crucial to be straightforward with what is at the core of the crime from the first few pages. One of the many ways most mystery novels begin is with the crime itself. Even when they don’t, they introduce the murder or crime pretty early in the book. This helps establish what the reader can expect from the book and arouses the reader’s curiosity and anticipation right at the beginning.

Make the Reader a Cheerleader

If your mystery story has a detective known for being efficient, introduce flaws. The flaws can be personal conflicts, maybe a personality that is not entirely likeable. It can be a particular setting which restricts them from investigating with complete freedom (a lot of crime mysteries novel have detectives going to a small town where everyone knows each other and is suspicious of the outsider). If your protagonist is not a detective but a regular person, usually the relative of the victim, have them go through sudden changes like suspecting a close friend or family. Do not hesitate to take your character on a roller-coaster ride.

Which Mystery Are You?

Even if suspense is at the core of your story, it is a genre which works very well with other genres. Apart from the classic murder mystery, literature also has romance mysteries, comedy mysteries, paranormal mysteries, historical mystery, etc. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is a classic romantic mystery while Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is a brilliant example of comedy meets mystery. We recommend picking up a book similar to what you would like to write and see how the author plays with the storyline.

Stick to Details

If your mystery novel has a murder (or murders) in it, then not only do you have to be realistic about the murders, you also have to make a timeline of the crime. Details, like the time of the murder, number of wounds, if multiple, exact cause of death, etc. are important to keep the narrative consistent. Though most of these details are to help keep your story on-track and have enough action to keep the reader engaged and guessing through the book. The author has to be cautious that the reader knows as much as the protagonist. It would be no fun if your detective magically knows something which wasn’t mentioned at all! It will be no fun if all the elements of the story do not add up or have no relevance to the story and are just thrown in. Making a detailed chart to keep the various aspects and characters in the story logical.

Another good tip is to make a graph of your story for example, if the protagonist encounters a question, make the line go down. If he finds the answer to a question, then make the line go up. If there are non-mystery related scenes, then make the line go straight. This will help your story gain balance. It will also help you introduce excitement, areas of elation and despair for the reader in your story.

Red Herrings

One formula for writing a mystery novel is to introduce false leads! While you write a mystery story have a few characters lie so that the protagonist isn’t sure of who to trust. Encourage the reader to investigate while reading by giving them false clues, then unravel their truth within a few chapters.

Introduce few characters that look suspicious so the reader is constantly guessing who the murderer/bad guy could be. Remember, while introducing red herrings, they must logically fit into the story.

Red Herrings are fun as they keep the reader on their toes, but don’t overdo it to the extent that there’s a false lead in almost every chapter!

Use the Setting to Create a Mystery

If your story is set in a village use the village church, a cottage, the village postman, to build up the mystery in your book. If story is set in an office, then perhaps the office peon, the café in your office can be used to create suspense.


Feel free to pick up inspiration from the newspapers. There is an endless number of crimes ranging from murder to kidnapping to robberies that are reported in your local news. Look for a story with an intriguing headline and then ask yourself, why did the headline interest you? There are common elements to some of the world’s most interesting mysteries. Search the Internet for real crimes, and make a note of all the different reasons why certain cases are still unsolved (did someone misplace important evidence? did someone lie in their testimony?)  Sometimes reality is wilder than fiction.

These are just some of the tips for how to write a mystery novel outline that we hope will inspire you to write your mystery novel. It is a genre which readers can never tire of! how to write a mystery novel outline

Read an interview of a bestselling mystery novelist.

To know more about writing a book in other genres, childrens book, biography, memoire, poems, short-stories

A 2019 list of popular mystery books of all times.

To publish a book, contact Zorba Books