Nancy's Books

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Writing Middle Grade Mysteries/Calls for Submissions

I’m continuing with rules for writing mysteries for middle grader readers. 

Introduce the mystery within the first three chapters. Earlier may work even better, because the mystery is the hook that draws in the reader. 

Make the mystery believable. The reader will be trying to figure out the answer throughout the story. Build curiosity by offering clues. Some clues will help the character unravel the mystery and others will be red herrings, bits of information that mislead the reader. Red herrings are needed to make the mystery difficult for the reader to solve. The writing may lead the audience into thinking that the best friend or the new kid in town is the culprit when it is the kid next door. Reveal each clue that the character discovers with the reader. The curiosity may be as simple as wondering what is behind a locked door or who locked the gate and why. 

Give the reader hints, such as what is around the next corner or where a treasure might be buried.  

One crucial clue is needed to help the character solve the mystery. Maybe Susie hears a bell ring at 2:00 and thinks nothing of it. Later, the perpetrator says he heard the bell, and she realizes he is the only one that could have heard the ringing and is therefore guilty. Of course, much narrative and dialog would have to detail the events for the story to make sense to the reader.

Mysteries need suspense. Taps on the wall. Phone calls and hang ups. A ringing bell. Clues and red herrings keep the reader invested in the story. 

Call for Submissions for Young Writers:
The Louisville Review accepts submissions of previously unpublished poetry from students in grades K-12. We seek writing that looks for fresh ways to recreate scenes and feelings. Honest emotion and original imagery are more important to a poem than rhyming and big topics—such as life, moralizing, and other abstractions.
Call for Submissions for Adult Writers:
BOYS' QUEST. We are looking for lively writing, most of it from a 10-year-old boy¹s point of view, with the boy or boys directly involved in an activity that is both wholesome and unusual. We need nonfiction with photos and fiction stories around 500 words, as well as puzzles, poems, cooking, carpentry projects, jokes, and riddles.
Nonfiction pieces that are accompanied by clear photos with high resolution are far more likely to be accepted than those that need illustrations. The ideal length of a BOYS' QUEST piece, for nonfiction or fiction, is 500 words.
Submission guidelines at


  1. I am enjoying this series of posts. Thanks for the submission tips.