Today, as a part of Indie E-con, since it is Mystery day over at the main site, I thought I would share with you 5 tips to building your mystery. Mysteries can be complex, full of twists and turns and just generally a pain in the neck. But that’s what makes them super fun to write! So, here are 5 of my tips to building a mystery that will intrigue readers, and keep you from pulling your hair out in the process.
Plot is so important. And, I’ll be the first to admit, that I was a hardcore pantster before I wrote London in the Dark. And when I say hardcore, I mean that I swore I would never plot out my stories. Even when I saw dear friends around me doing it. My closest writing buddy at the time, Julia Erickson (who writes some fun spy fiction that you can check out here) swore by plotting herself and greatly encouraged me to do it. I ignored her advice about as far as I was able. In the midst of pulling my hair out trying to figure out how to create a cohesive mystery, I decided I should give this constrictive thing called plotting a chance and I have never looked back! Writing out the scenes and entire plot before writing the book gave me the head knowledge to how my story was going to go, and the peace of mind to know that it worked. The truth is, I still changed things, but not nearly as much as I would have had to if I hadn’t taken the time to plot the entire story.
This goes along with the first piece of advice, but honestly, I can’t stress it enough. If you plan on your mystery becoming a series of any sort, or even if you just want a this one novel to be a cohesive chunk of words, then you will need to plan. I guarantee you, if you spend the time now, you won’t regret it later. Plan what? And how much, you ask? EVERYTHING. Your character’s, their motives, the setting, the plot (see above), the direction of the story, themes, everything. It really saves you a lot of headache when you plan all of these things in advance. . . You can certainly plan ahead while you are writing, but I recommend focusing as much as possible on this first before you really start cranking out those words.
Procrastinate? What are you talking about? Why would I wait to write my novel??? Isn’t procrastinating a bad thing? My answer? Yes and no. This step is the farthest thing from necessity, however, I found it to be helpful in my own writing journey. I am currently doing it for book #2 in The Light of London series, and I am in the middle of writing the novel. I hit a wall. Something wasn’t right about where I was going, so I shelved the novel for a period of time while I worked on something else. (you can read more about the shelving process here) I am just now getting back to it, and I have to say, the distance has helped in some ways. It has helped me to see the missing gaps in my story, and it has also been helpful in my wanting to attack it with more strength now. I feel like I have a fresh mind, and I can just tuck in and write!
This one ties into the one above as well. Oftentimes in the Indie publishing and writing world, I feel like we get so focused on deadlines and getting our books to publication, that we often don’t take the time that we need. I was a prime example of this, so I’m pointing the finger at myself here. DON’T JUMP THE GUN! You got your whole life ahead of you, you can do this, but make sure you do it right. Take your time, give it some more go over’s. Get more feedback, think it through and polish it to perfection. It’s worth the wait.
Don’t worry, I have a plan for this word, as un-pertinent as it may seem to the issue at hand. This one was a biggy for me when it came to London in the Dark. When going through your story, make sure that everything you share is pertinent to the story. Does it actually serve a purpose? There was a thread in London in the Dark that I thought had a logical place. Somehow, the thread unraveled in the writing, and it no longer actually fit. It didn’t lead us to any sort of knowledge. So, I had to cut it. If you leave that stuff in, it makes no sense and ends up making the entire story muddy and your readers confused. They are going to be wondering how finding that tobacco on the warehouse floor helped solve this mystery at all. . . if your reaction is “well, it didn’t.” Get rid of it.
There you have it! 5 tips to building your mystery! Let me know what you think in the comments below! Have you written a mystery? Do you want to? What are some tips or tricks you would share with someone who asked for advice?
Go check out the rest of Indie E-con and join the Facebook Party on Saturday! It’s going to be loads of fun and there are LOTS OF PRIZES!
By God’s Grace,