Succeed with those three easy steps and you’ll have a contract before you know it. OK—maybe they aren’t all that easy. It took me years to learn the writing craft (and I still am!) and it may take you that long as well.
The writer’s first task is to hook the reader. Starting with a murder is always good, but it’s not the only way. The key is to arouse the reader’s curiosity so they will want to turn the page to see what happens next.
BEST BEGINNINGS for any novel, but especially mystery/suspense starts with action—action—and more action! Today’s mystery/suspense readers don’t have time or patience for characters sitting and pondering life’s heavy questions. They want action!
The important thing is someone must be doing something interesting and it can’t be a dream or a nightmare. Why not? Two reasons—first, it’s tricking the reader into believing something is happening that’s not. And more importantly, many editors list novels starting with a dream as one of their pet peeves. Why risk irritating them on the very first page?
Once you’ve written your best beginning, it’s time to tackle the hard part—avoiding the sagging middle syndrome. But how? Here’s a few ways to ensure MARVELOUS MIDDLES:
- Introduce a new character. If they have a secret—even better!
- Blow something up (or have another murder).
- Add a ticking time bomb to the original problem.
- Add a red herring, give the reader several choices for the murderer.
- Keep the tension high.
- Avoid all that back story you are dying to write. No matter how much you love it—it doesn’t move the story forward.
Whew! Now you’ve got your best beginning and a marvelous middle, so on to that EXPLOSIVE ENDING that will wow that editor and have them clamoring for your manuscript.
One of the keys to creating an explosive ending is to resolve all the story plots, not only the major one. Readers have invested time and emotion in your story. Don’t cheat them by not giving them the resolution they want and need to enjoy it.
A famous quote from Mickey Spillane says it all. The first chapter sells the book. The last chapter sells the next book. Your ending will either give you a satisfied reader who will recommend it to others or one who won’t read another book you write—ever.
Many books actually have two endings—mine usually do. Often the crucial resolution scene (stopping the murderer—rescuing the damsel in distress) happens in the next to the last chapter and the final chapter is used to tie up all the other story lines in a happy little bow. Nothing wrong with that. It’s a good plan.
And there you have it—the perfect formula for the perfect murder mystery/suspense novel. BEST BEGINNINGS + MARVELOUS MIDDLES + EXPLOSIVE ENDINGS = Great Story (and a book contract). Now, get busy writing.
Meet the Author:
Lillian Duncan…Stories of faith mingled… with murder & mayhem.
Lillian is a multi-published writer who writes the type of books she loves to read—suspense with a touch of romance. Whether as an educator, a writer, or a speech pathologist, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.
To learn more about Lillian and her books, visit: www.lillianduncan.net. She also has a devotional blog at: www.PowerUpWithGod.com as well as her personal blog, Tiaras & Tennis Shoes at www.lillian-duncan.com
Click on pics for info on buying Lillian’s novels.