Day 1: Mystery; Kristina Stanley

Kristina Stanley Author Photo.jpg

Meet Kristina Stanley.

Kristina Stanley is the best-selling author of the Stone Mountain Mystery Series. Her first two novels garnered the attention of prestigious crime writing organizations in Canada and England. Crime Writers of Canada nominated DESCENT (Imajin Books, July 2015) for the Unhanged Arthur award. The Crime Writers’ Association nominated BLAZE (Imajin Books, Oct 2015) for the Debut Dagger. Imajin Books published her third novel in the series, AVALANCHE, in June 2016.

Her short stories have been published in the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and The Voices From the Valleys anthology. She is the author of THE AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO SELLING BOOKS TO NON-BOOKSTORES.

As the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Feedback Innovations, a company started to help writers rewrite better fiction, she made up her own job title because she thought it sounded cool! She loves the self-editing process and wants to help other writers learn how to do a structural edit on their own work.


Guest Post – Self-editing A Mystery (TOP 5 FICTION ELEMENTS FOR A MYSTERY)

Self-editing a mystery is one of the joys of the writing process. You get to use your imagination to lead the reader through your story. As a mystery writer, it’s important to keep track of your story, and not only in the context of what you share with your readers but also what your characters know.

You don’t need to keep track while you write your first draft, but once you’ve written a draft,  go back through your manuscript and rewrite it with the following 5 key elements of fiction in mind.


  1. CLUES

A clue tells the readers something that will help them solve the mystery. You don’t want to give clues too early and have the reader guess who the villain is. You also want to give enough clues so when you reveal the villain, the reader is surprised, but also feels the choice is logical.



Think of a clue as a piece of a puzzle. You need all the pieces to solve the puzzle. Foreshadowing is hinting at some future event. It’s not solving the puzzle. Foreshadowing will keep the tension rising throughout your story. It’s the anticipation of something bad happening that will draw your reader in.



You need to decide early if your antagonist will have the point of view (POV) for any scenes.  If your antagonist has a POV scene, you cannot let the reader know everything the character is thinking.

In a thriller, the reader often knows right away who the villain is, but in a mystery, the villain is kept secret until the very end.



Here you keep track of everything the protagonist learns. You need control what she/he knows versus what the reader knows. Your protagonist can only act on information she/he has.



This is very important if you write from multiple points of view. Keep track what the protagonist knows and if the reader knows something from another POV character that the protagonist doesn’t know.



Keeping track details needs to be organized. I use a spreadsheet, and you’ll see in my bio, I co-founded a company that’s building an app to do this automatically.  With the above elements listed in a spreadsheet, I can quickly check who knows what and when they know it. This ensures I don’t make an error in order and that I keep the reader guessing.

There are many other key elements of fiction to consider and keep track of. I’ve put 86 (and counting) elements into a spreadsheet. I fill out each element for every scene. This gives me a method to evaluate my writing from an objective point of view. Just reading a scene through and looking for ways to improve it, doesn’t work for me.

Happy editing!

If you’d like more self-editing tips, you can find out more about Kristina Stanley and Feedback at Connect with her @FictionRewrite.


4 responses to “Day 1: Mystery; Kristina Stanley”

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