If you have been wondering how to write a mystery series, you have come to the right place.
Now, while this article will not teach you every little nuance on how to write a mystery series, it will help give you an overview of what to expect and show you some beginning steps you can take to put it together.
Writing a whole series is a great way to keep readers hooked for multiple books, but it will certainly take the time to plan it out.
When you have a whole series in mind, you will need to approach it differently from just a stand-alone book.
Let's dive in and first define what makes a series different from a single mystery book.
How To Write A Mystery Series
What Makes A Series?
While this is not an in-depth article on how to write a mystery story (although we will go over it lightly), a series is a sequence of books that continues to tell a similar story or have the same characters.
It will be up to you as the author if you want to have each book wrap up with a story inside of it or if you want the story to continue to flow throughout the whole series.
You could also do some kind of mix of both. However, you need something that continues throughout each of the books, ultimately tying them together.
For example, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series had individual stories in each book, but some of the main characters and storylines continue across the whole series.
In another example, Agatha Christie wrote a series with Miss Marple as the main character, who is an amateur consulting detective. Each book is its own separate mystery to be solved, but Miss Marple is a constant character throughout every story.
Why Should You Write A Series?
If you think of a fascinating story or an amazing character you want to continue to explore and use throughout multiple books, that might be a sign that you should write a series.
If you have never written a book, it might be hard to dive into writing a whole series, so take on something you feel confident about.
However, that should not stop you from trying if you want to write a whole series.
A series is also a good way to attract loyal fans because some readers prefer to have multiple books they can dive into and read.
How To Write A Mystery Series
Now we will dive into some of the basic nuts and bolts of actually planning and writing your mystery series.
#1 – Understand the essential elements of a mystery story
There are some basics you must include in your series that you will need to outline before you get started:
You will also need to know the basics of the three-act structures and storytelling techniques so you can still follow the basics that all books need.
#2 – Figure out what your main story is about
Do you want to center a book around financial crimes? Unsolved murders? A corrupt family?
The heart of almost any mystery story is a main conflict and type of story that is happening.
To have a good mystery, there has to be some stakes involved in needing to solve the mystery. Someone might die, the detective has been threatened, people are going missing, financial crimes keep happening… you get the idea.
There needs to be a reason it needs to be solved as fast as possible and a reason for your main protagonist to care.
#3 – Hook readers right away
Now that you know what the main storyline is going to be about, you will want to figure out what will hook readers right away.
Yes, a lot of mystery books can be slow burns and take a while to get to the dramatic parts, but the sooner you initially grab them, the better.
That way, they will want to keep reading and figure out what is happening because our minds like answers and having things wrapped up.
That is why you often see TV shows that are mysteries start with a dramatic hook, usually someone dying, to pull in viewers.
#4 – Multiple scenarios and red herrings
With any good mystery series, you cannot give away the ending right in the first chapter.
You need the main protagonist to chase down multiple leads and possibilities, giving the reader something to stay invested in. This is also referred to as a red herring.
If you have ever read a mystery book with a murder to be solved, you have probably seen the detective chase down multiple leads, trying to figure out who did it.
It will be up to you if there is a big twist at the end or if it is a straight-forward ending. Even if you choose to have the story wrap up or carry on to the next book, you will need to give the reader something to feel satisfied at the end of your book.
#5 – Characters for people to get invested in
One thing that keeps mystery series alive and readers coming back is great characters that they can't get enough of.
If you have flat, boring characters, rarely will readers keep going with your books.
That does not mean that every character has to be lovable and sweet. They can be angry, complex, and even sometimes problematic. However, they need enough depth for the reader to care and at least one redeeming quality.
If you are going to create a series, it is also essential that you keep track of each character you create and their background stories. You will need to keep it cohesive through multiple books.
You do not want one character to mention their kids in the first book and then mention they are childness in the second, because it is no longer cohesive.
#6 – Create an intriguing atmosphere
Another huge selling point of most mysteries is the city or town they take place in. It is almost its own character in its own way.
You will want to choose scenery that fits in with the main character and the mood of the whole story you are telling.
It is often a small, charming town that has dark secrets that are revealed with time.
#7 – Know where you want the story to keep going
Even if you choose to wrap up the whole first story in the first book and tell a whole new story in the second book, you should know a general idea you want to keep taking the story.
That can help you drop in characters and stories in your first book that will continue on to the next books.
Ready To Write Your Book?
Ready to start writing your book?
We recommend booking a call with a member of our team to learn more about getting your own fiction book writing coach. We'll pair you with someone who's written and published their own books – and is now dedicated to helping others do the same.
In the meantime, get all the tips you need to successfully write and publish your mystery series here!