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Are These Mystery Writing Mistakes Sabotaging Your Success?

Are These Mystery Writing Mistakes Sabotaging Your Success, on The Writer's Cabin

Most Common Mystery Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Writing a successful mystery requires a delicate balance of suspense, intrigue, and well-written characters. And although I made that sound like a simple formula, you may still find yourself struggling.

There are a number of common mistakes that mystery writers can make, and I see them come across my editing desk regularly.

But by acknowledging these common pitfalls and implementing strategies to avoid them, you can significantly improve the quality of your writing and hopefully create an engaging mystery that is so good you make it look as easy as I described above.

I'm going to get into this list in a second, but first, I want to discuss the two biggest issues with most mystery novels that get rejected by publishers and annihilated by editors. These are the large things that can't usually be fixed without some major rewriting.

One of the most prevalent mistakes in mystery writing (but really all writing) is inadequate character development. Your protagonists and antagonists need to be captivating and possess realistic motives that drive their actions throughout the story.

It's imperative that you invest the time into creating multi-dimensional characters with relatable backstories who are uniquely appealing and who can connect with the audience on a deep emotional level.

Well-developed characters are the backbone of any good novel, regardless of genre.

The other biggest mistake is failing to maintain (or even achieve at all) suspense and tension throughout your story. As a mystery writer, your aim is to keep your readers guessing. They should always be curious about what is going to happen next.

Not indifferent.

To get them there, you need to provide subtle clues, master misdirection, and build tension around the mystery without giving away the plot twist.

Strive for a steady pace to maintain your tension and a feeling of suspense. Plan your whole story out ahead of time to strategically place each reveal and plot twist at the exact right moment.

There is a lot to character development and building tension, so I am not going to discuss them fully in this post, but the links in the text above will help direct you to the solutions if you need them.


Victorian era in the parlour - Image made with
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Common Writing Mistakes in the Mystery Genre

The following list of mistakes includes some of the most common issues I see in mystery manuscripts as a fiction editor.

Some of these are easily rectifiable, while others might require a decent amount of rewriting. But none can be left unremedied if you want to write a great mystery novel that readers will love and pass on to their friends.

Revealing the Culprit Too Early

I just mentioned above that it is essential in this genre to maintain suspense and tension throughout the novel. Revealing the culprit too early can ruin the entire mystery all at once because it hinders just that.

Is it possible to keep the tension going if you do? Well, sure, anything is possible. But 9 times out of 10, revealing the bad guy's identity too early will put the kibosh on suspense.

And you run the risk of your reader getting bored after the reveal.

Save the culprit's unveiling for the climax of the story. Build anticipation by dropping subtle hints and clues without giving away the identity of the villain.

Related Posts >>> How to Plant Clues That Hook Readers: The Key to Bestseller Mysteries!