Monday, November 1, 2010

ARTICLE: Writing Mystery Murder Fiction - 8 Tips to Getting Your Mystery Book Published

Every Monday, we're having an article series on how to write and publish a great murder, mystery and mayhem novel.

If you'd like to be a guest author, please email me at: with submission to Michigan Murder & Mayhem in the subject line. Thanks

Writing Mystery Murder Fiction - 8 Tips to Getting Your Mystery Book Published

I have to admit I am green in the community of published authors. Our debut mystery book, LIAR LIAR, is scheduled for release September 2010. My sisters and I signed a two book contract with Poisoned Pen Press and are completing the second mystery novel in the Cat DeLuca series now. People ask how we beat the bleak publishing odds and this is what I tell them. If you have no particular qualifications or very little good sense you can get published too.

Here are my 8 tips to writing fiction and getting your mystery book published:

1) Design a book jacket with the name of your novel, drape it over a hardback book and carry it with you. Picture your published murder mystery on the shelves of bookstores everywhere. Imagine radio and television interviews, rave reviews in the New York Times. This exercise may not work magic on the publisher but it'll help you get through the devastating rejections that are almost sure to come. Most importantly, it will cement within you the certain knowledge of who you are. You may have to do this or that to pay the bills, but what you are is a writer. Tell people you know and those you meet on the street. The gods are listening.

2) Read. Read the mystery novels that are being published today and get a feel for what readers want. Read as many debut author books as you possibly can and try to figure out how they escaped the editor's evil recycle bin. Read with a writer's eye. Decide what works for you and what doesn't. Above all learn to identify the energy that is unique to the mystery genre. If you can't feel it, you haven't read enough. If you still can't feel it, you may want to try another genre.

3) Write a crime fiction book that sells. For the time being, forget about the book you've always dreamed of writing and write one that sells. You can write that other book after you've established a fan base that'll follow you anywhere. One good thing about writing a book that sells is that your ego is less likely to get in the way.

Here's another exercise. Visualize that you're in an airport or park and people are reading your book. They're smiling, or chewing their lip and they gasp when they get to the scary part. Your book is a hit. Appreciate everyone who will ever read one of your books. Now think of your book as a gift to the universe. That thought alone will help you write larger than yourself.

4) Give the readers what they want. Mystery readers are smart and savvy. They want a unique plot and a quirky hero who'll amaze them with uncanny crime-solving abilities. They want clues that work and a clean, fast paced delivery. Throw in the ah-ha moment and a blockbuster finish. When you write, forget about what you think the publisher wants. Make it fun and write for the joy of it.

5) Write authentically. Write from that place within you that loves the mystery. Know your readers want to be entertained. They want to experience suspense, laughter, sadness, anticipation, tension, fear, relief, and (finally) satisfaction when they read your book. It's your job to take them there.

6) Write a sharp, eye catching query. Send out a bunch of them. Keep writing fiction while you wait for responses. Work on your next book. It'll keep you from getting too crazy. Don't isolate yourself. You are part of a community of writers. Attend writer workshops, book clubs and classes. Use every resource you can think of to improve your skills and publishing odds.

7) Go after every rejection slip. Find out why you were turned down and if your manuscript needs fixing, fix it.

8) Manuscript preparation tips. Publishers may discard your manuscript just because the punctuation and poor spelling irritates them. Editors have a bunch of anal-retentive rules. Take them seriously. If you need help, hire a starving college student or copywriter.

Now good luck and get writing!

This article is contributed by Kari Larsen from the 3 Sisters Mysteries team. She works together with Julianne and Kristen Larsen on their Cat DeLuca Mysteries. You can find more about 3 Sisters Mysteries by visiting their website at or

Liar, Liar: A Cat DeLuca MysteryPlotting and Writing Suspense FictionHow to Write Killer Fiction: The Funhouse of Mystery & the Roller Coaster of Suspense

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