Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel Revised and Expanded Edition: The Complete Guide to Mystery, Suspense, and Crime

Rate this book
A Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award Finalist for Best Critical/Biographical Work

Discover the secrets to crafting an unforgettable mystery!

To piece together the puzzle of your mystery novel, you need patience, resilience, a solid understanding of the craft, and a clear blueprint for combining the plot, characters, setting, and more. And while patience and resilience must come from you, the essentials of craft and the plan to execute them are right at your fingertips with Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel . This completely revised and updated edition features solid strategies for drafting, revising, and selling an intriguing novel that grips your readers and refuses to let them go.

New York Times best-selling author Hallie Ephron shows you how to:

   • Create a compelling sleuth and a worthy villain
   • Construct a plot rich in twists, red herrings, and misdirection
   • Bring the story to a satisfying conclusion
   • Sharpen characters and optimize pace during revision
   • Seek publication through both traditional and indie paths
Filled with helpful worksheets and exercises for every step of the process, Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel Revised and Expanded reveals the keys to writing a memorable story that will have fans of mystery, suspense, and crime clamoring for more.

304 pages, Paperback

First published January 13, 2017

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Hallie Ephron

24 books536 followers
Hallie Ephron (http://hallieephron.com) is a New York Times bestselling author of suspense novels. Her last five have all been Mary Higgins Clark Award finalists.

Her (August 2019) Careful What You Wish For tells the story of a professional organizer married to man who can't pass a yard sale without stopping. In this respect, Hallie is writing from personal experience. Her husband is a champion yard sailor who's packed their basement, garage, and attic with his finds.

A STARRED review in Publisher's Weekly proclaimed it an "outstanding standalone." Reviewing it for TIME Magazine, Jamie Lee Curtis called it "thrilling and suspenseful." From Kirkus: "Ephron's tidy approach to stowing clues, arousing suspicions, keeping the chaos of the climax under control, then tying up loose ends makes her a professional organizer of this type of entertainment. In a word—neat."

Hallie's Never Tell a Lie was made into the Lifetime Movie Network film.

A book lover, she also wrote The Bibliophile's Devotional and 1001 Books for Every Mood. For twelve years she reviewed crime fiction for the Boston Globe. Her Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel (now in a revised/expanded edition) was an Edgar and Anthony award finalist. She teaches writing at writing conferences and workshops all around the world.

Hallie lives near Boston with her husband and has two fabulous daughters. She is the third of four writing Ephron sisters.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
82 (51%)
4 stars
57 (35%)
3 stars
17 (10%)
2 stars
3 (1%)
1 star
1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 28 of 28 reviews
Profile Image for Wendy Bunnell.
1,268 reviews30 followers
May 28, 2020
I've read quite a few books about the craft of writing novels, and this is one of the best I've read. The author hits all of the genre expectations for mystery, including tidbits about subgenres, and gives readers helpful worksheets to brainstorm their own WIPs.

In the ebook version, the worksheets were links to a website. When I first purchased the ebook, the links weren't working. I sent an email to the publisher and got nowhere, but then I emailed the author through her website. She got them back up and running within a day and was perfectly lovely. Thanks, Ms. Ephron, that was amazing.

The last part of the book about self-editing and paths to publishing includes useful information regardless of genre. This really is a useful resource.
Profile Image for Beth Cato.
Author 109 books538 followers
January 21, 2022
This is a useful handbook for beginning novelists in the mystery genre. It breaks down the writing process into basic building blocks, and while supplying excellent examples from published books, presents worksheets (space included in the book, and links included to print them from online) to assist the reader in developing their own work. The back of the book addresses the subject of publication at its most basic level; really, this book is 95% on the writing process, and publishing (especially traditional publishing) is so complex, it requires more books to address it at a helpful level.
Profile Image for Craig Kingsman.
Author 1 book7 followers
August 24, 2017
As a new mystery author, I've read several books about "how to write". This is by far the best one one I've found. The advice is solid and to the point. There are several worksheets and exercises to help you get the best from every chapter. Before I even finished, I was recommending this book to other writers. It's one that I'll keep near my writing desk and refer to often as I continue forward with my first novel.
Profile Image for Heather Myers.
Author 103 books695 followers
February 14, 2020
Excellent resource

As an author switching over to the mystery genre, this book really helped me understand the nuances that go into writing a good mystery novel. Thanks for sharing!
Profile Image for S James Bysouth.
86 reviews11 followers
September 1, 2018
Pleasant, Not Mind-Blowing Read

I was interested in the mystery genre, but this book is full of advice for any genre. Everything here is good. Maybe great. For me, I didnt have any real lightbulb moments. But that could just be because my knowledge of writing tools and techniques has grown beyond what this book could offer me. I found myself agreeing with everything written, saying “Yes, exactly.” but never found myself saying “Oh wow, I didnt know that!” Without any profound realisations striking my mind, it is not possible for me to rate this super highly. But because I know this is totally selfish and subjective, I’ll give this 4 stars.

I liked this quote about the genre:

A great mystery plot is like a thrilling ride on a roller coaster. The cars go shooting out of the starting gate. Then there’s a slow, steep climb before a deep plunge. There’s a brief respite before the ride gathers speed, going fast and then faster, rising to a hairpin turn and an even steeper drop. You barely catch your breath and the ride gains speed again, rising to yet another twist and plunge. There’s a final twist and a heart-stopping plunge, and then you coast back to the platform, exhilarated and ready to ride again.

This quote made me think of why I love Asimov so much:

Dialogue that sparks with conflict is inherently more interesting than dialogue that merely conveys information.
Profile Image for Kait Carson.
Author 5 books68 followers
October 8, 2017
It's hard to mark this book as read since I refer to it constantly. This is my second Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel. I own this one in two formats, Kindle, and trade. I bought the first one in paper many years ago and literally wore it out.

I've written five books, and I've used this book (in one of its incarnations) in whole or in part to write each of them. It's never failed me.

A book for every writer's bookshelf.
Profile Image for Amy.
107 reviews1 follower
January 26, 2020
Incredibly useful book. I purchased the online and print version because which was helpful in my case. You can read this book from start to finish to get an overview and then go back and use it to guide you through your draft. It is rich with examples. I'm sure I'll be using it for the writing months I have ahead of me!
Profile Image for N.
812 reviews195 followers
August 27, 2018
I was worried this might be a bit Billy Basic, but although it's relatively short, it's extremely comprehensive. I got a lot out of it and plan to immediately re-read it in order to take notes.

There's a lot packed in here, but there are parts where the author namechecks an element of writing and doesn't elaborate, which is frustrating. I suggest viewing this as purely a book on the crime genre, and checking out other books for tips on general writing (Self Editing for Fiction Writers is my forever favourite).

I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out that the chapter on Self-Publishing is worryingly inaccurate. It mixes up KDP (Amazon's ebook self-publishing platform) with KDP Select (the option that makes your ebook exclusive to Amazon) and recommends Lulu as a great print-on-demand option. ?!?! Please don't use Lulu for POD. If you're looking for an intro to self-publishing, I recommend checking out Joanna Penn's Successful Self-Publishing, which you can download for free on Amazon.
770 reviews1 follower
January 5, 2018
The Best Book For New Writers

No B.S. Just a step by step (in plain English) instructional book. Takes the writer from start to finish. Easy to read and understand. Free with the book, go to links to download and print actual forms you can use. The forms help you develop your story, plot, characters, structure, etc. The last part of book keeps you safe. It shows you how not to trust people you don't know. It gives information that is helpful. The right trust worthy organizations to contact for help. Not Bob with the cool website and the quadruple spaced 100 page book. If you put in the time you can do it. I own 300 writing books this is number one.
Profile Image for Brigitte.
419 reviews3 followers
January 12, 2021
I was really disappointed in this because I was expecting a lot more about the specifics of writing mysteries. Instead, most of the book felt like very basic fiction writing advice. And the chapters focused on the specifics for mysteries are really obvious if you read plenty of mystery novels. Meh.
51 reviews1 follower
May 4, 2021
Excellent resource

I heard so much about this book, and it was all true. Ms. Ephron provides useful insight into each aspect of writing a manuscript. Much of this information can be applied to thrillers and suspense. The handouts are valuable and can be converted to a writer's specific needs. I strongly recommend.
Profile Image for Patti.
451 reviews23 followers
October 7, 2017
I’ve read a lot of craft books and this ranks as one of the best. Not just because I’m writing a new genre, but because it really gave me different avenues to use while creating characters. Well worth it even if you don’t write mysteries.
Profile Image for Dallas Gorham.
Author 23 books15 followers
August 3, 2022
Good advice even for published writers

I'm now on the third draft of my tenth published Carlos McCrary mystery/thriller.The advice in this excellent book has caused me to rewrite the climax and the coda. I intend to read this book a second time before sending it to my editor.
Profile Image for Nate.
316 reviews17 followers
December 26, 2017
A fantastic how to guide!!!!! Wonderful read and the ability to download the charts and maps were really helpful, especially if you are like me and do not want to mark up the book!
Profile Image for Claudia.
187 reviews7 followers
June 18, 2018
It was not what I expected, but that is not the book's fault.
I thought it remained on the surface, without going as deep into character or plot as other books on writing I have read.
Profile Image for Shannon Hollinger.
Author 25 books69 followers
August 14, 2018
Pleasantly surprised! This book contains plenty of great information and useful resources, yet is completely reader friendly! Not at all 'text book like'.
Profile Image for A.J. Desai.
Author 1 book1 follower
October 11, 2018
This book really helped me with developing my new mystery series. It asked you questions about your characters and plot that you'd never think of. Loved it
159 reviews1 follower
August 29, 2021
A thorough discussion of the many aspects of writing a mystery novel. Definitely the book to read if you have ambitions in that direction.
Profile Image for Amanda.
556 reviews
October 6, 2021
Good information, but I got about half-way through and haven’t picked it up again
Profile Image for Emma Jackson.
426 reviews6 followers
November 29, 2021
So much I've never even thought of regarding writing a mystery novel. This book is excellent.
Profile Image for Kara Jorgensen.
Author 17 books126 followers
January 28, 2022
More like a 4.5, but I would definitely recommend this book to my students and it's very comprehensive.
7 reviews4 followers
May 21, 2022
Spectacular! Thorough. Insightful. Helpful beyond words (which is pretty amazing for a book about writing ;).
Profile Image for Lori Puma.
407 reviews6 followers
July 26, 2022
This book is split into 4 sections.
Part 1: Planning - AMAZING!!! Definitely worth reading
Part 2: Writing - Some great chapters.
Part 3: Revising - Ok.
Part 4: Publishing - Ok. Has a list of all the mystery writers groups and conferences.

Part 1 is awesome because of the reading list and the helpful lists such as: ways to make innocent characters look guilty, how villains might justify a crime, and ways to twist the plot.

Part 2 has some high points, but it gives a lot of the same advice that you'd find in any book on writing a novel. However there are a few standout chapters that all mystery and thriller writers should read: Chapter 19 on Writing Suspense, Chapter 20 on Writing Action, and Chapter 23 on Writing the Final Climax.

Part 3 doesn't really contain any revision advice you haven't heard in another writing book.

Part 4 is very basic. If you know anything about the publishing process, the most useful parts of Part 4 are probably the resource lists.

I just want to restate that Part 1 of this book is incredible. The lists are something that I reference all the time in working with mystery writers and I haven't seen this information presented anywhere else. I also frequently refer writers to the standout chapters in Part 2. This book deserves to be on your shelf, but if you only read Part 1 and part of Part 2, I won't tell. ;)
Profile Image for Catherine Siemann.
1,123 reviews20 followers
May 7, 2021
I think I've been reading this book since the dawn of time, which is the same amount of time I've been working on my current book project. This is the absolutely indispensible "how to write a mystery" that takes the aspiring author from beginning to end. If you're serious about writing and selling a mystery, read it.
Displaying 1 - 28 of 28 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.