Seeing that I’ve written a murder mystery novel (First Feature), I thought some folks might be interested in how to write a murder mystery novel and get it published. In this case self published.
Writing a murder mystery novel is in many ways similar to writing any other type of book but there are some differences. The first difference is quite obvious, a murder mystery novel is about a murder first and foremost. The first step to writing a good murder mystery is to have a good murder to solve.
In a previous life, at least it seems that far away, I was a cop so I know a thing or 2 about murder most foul But if you have even a passing interest in human nature or humanity generally you can come up with a good murder mystery.
Let’s give it a try. I’m looking out of my window right now and across at the neighbour. She’s cleaning up something on the floor. Could it be blood? Why yes of course, especially if were wanting to write a murder mystery novel.
Whose blood is it? The babysitter’s. That just popped into my head. Did she kill the babysitter? Maybe, maybe not, could be someone else, but let’s say she did. Why did she kill the babysitter? And it is here at this question where a good murder mystery takes root. You should have several red herrings or people that could have killed the victim.
In this case, we could suggest that the husband could have killed the babysitter because he was having an affair with her and she was going to tell the wife. Perhaps the babysitter’s stepfather killed her. It was known that he was abusive to her.
Maybe a jealous girl friend on the school’s cheerleading squad because our victim had just become head cheerleader and the jealous girl’s boyfriend was flirting with her.
The key ingredient when writing a novel and especially when outlining a murder mystery novel is to have a few good motives for a few people to want to have killed the victim. Before you even get pen to paper you should have a good handle on the who of the whodunit and you should have a few other plausible red herrings to lead your reader astray.
Now I find that it is reasonable to write a novel in 100 days if you have the plot element pretty well outlined. I also like to have the chapters outlined too. Even if just a sentence or two to capture the main element or theme of that chapter in my murder mystery. Plan for anywhere from 20+ chapters as you’ll want your murder mystery to run at least 150 or so pages long and many readers appreciate a longer mystery novel of 180+ pages.
Writing a novel in 30 days is not recommended even though there are writing competitions and events that promote writing your novel in 30 days. It is much better to learn how to write a novel in 100 days, and that my friends only requires a solid 1,000 words written every day or less depending on how long your novel becomes.
Of course if you’re asking how many words in a novel you’ll likely get a range as there is no definitive authority or guide to the number of words required in a novel. I personally like to see 60,000 words and up and most of novels end up being over 100,000 words, but the National Novel Writing Month competition requires novels to be at least 50,000 words long and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America require at least 40,000 words to be considered a novel.
Aim for 60k or more words or as I mentioned aim to make your novel around 180 pages long or longer.
There are many novel writing tools out there, but frankly, the only tool you need is a text editor and your time. I have not found any tools to be particularly helpful or effective, and I’m sure most of the great novelists didn’t either. I write novels on Microsoft Word only because it is the most common word document format and it makes it easier when you have your novel copy edited and proofread.
Now I don’t believe it matters whether you are trying to learn how to write a novel for kids or how to write your first novel the step by step guidelines are pretty similar.
After you’ve buttoned down plot which should happen alongside character development you’ll get to the writing. As I mentioned, outlining chapters is helpful and having brief descriptions of your main characters to refer back to if handy too.
Next you just need to sit down and write your novel. It’s a marathon so my best recommendation on how to begin writing a novel is just to start. But more importantly the key to successfully completing your first novel or your tenth is to keep the momentum going. Write every day. Even if it is only 1 page which is only 300 or so words, even at that slow rate you can finish a novel of approximately 60,000 words in 200 days. After proofreading, editing and then publishing, you should be able to have that novel ready to be read by the thirsty reading public in about a year.
This post is well over 1,000 words long and took me about an hour to write. My most important tip in this guide to writing a novel is persistence. That is the only criterion that marks novelists from folks who wish they’d written a novel. Persist and you will have written a book within a year.
Writing a first novel and writing a great novel require the same thing… time. With time comes experience and the ability to turn on your bullet proof bullshit detector as Hemmingway would say. So let your novel simmer for a month or 2 or 3 if you think it needs that long. Then go back and re-read it with a very determined and vigilant editing mind. Remove the love and emotion you feel for your “baby” at this time and just edit. Reading it out loud helps to pick up on the lack of flow and grammatical errors that WILL be present.
Once you’ve done a very tight and thorough job of editing it, go to Elance or some other place like that. Perhaps even your local college or university and have someone with mad skillz edit it also. Ask them to check not only for grammar and other obvious mistakes but for lack of flow, leaps in logic and other errors that detract them from the story. Ask them to read it not only as an editor but also as a reviewer.
I would then go through it once more to be sure you like the changes as well as to make the changes that you want and need to.
Now you’re ready to find an artist for the cover and to publish it to Kindle and Smashwords. This post is turning into a novel itself, so if you’ll allow me, I’ll return another day to show you how to find a designer for your novel’s cover and how to publish to Kindle and Smashwords.
I hope these steps on writing a book and more specifically how to write a murder mystery novel and get it published were helpful.