Monday, January 5, 2015

Writing a Mystery for the Highlights 2015 Fiction Contest by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Highlights for Children has their annual fiction contest every January. The 2015 theme is mystery writing. Here are the specifications. The submission deadline is January 31, 2015, so time is limited. 

We had a discussion among the Groggers about what makes a good mystery story for children. In 2012, I submitted a mystery short story to Children’s Writer Newsletter and it won 2nd place! While I’d always loved reading mysteries as a kid, I’d never written one until this contest. It’s time to dust off the mystery writing skills again and try for a new story for 2015. 

Resources

There are many articles out there about mystery writing. Here are some with great tips on what makes a good mystery. 


This is a great article and perfect for this assignment. 

Kristi even has an e-book on writing mysteries, if you have the time before the end of January to read it or you want to study the genre further. 

Writing Mysteries with Joan Lowery Nixon at Scholastic—While this website is put together for young writers, it’s full of great information about the basics of mystery writing. Pay particular attention to her “Writing Tips” on page 2. 

Mysteries in the Classroom at Carol Hurst’s website—These are not short story examples, but there are several other children’s book mysteries that will help you study the genre of mystery. 

There are also a bunch of mystery genre examples and games at this site aimed at kids. 

Fiction Teachers: Mysteries
Another one aimed at kids, but it covers the basics of mystery writing. 


Get to Work

Mysteries have so many components and with a word count of 750 words or less, the components have to be written tightly (and depending on the type of mystery you are writing, all of these elements may not be present). 

I have created a mystery story planning sheet. This should get your brainstorming (click here to download the printable).


Timeline

It’s already January 5, and the deadline is January 31. You will want to leave at least a week at the end of the month for revisions and if you can get a quick second set of eyes on it, that would be good too. 

Map out your time to allow yourself time to brainstorm, draft, and let it rest, reread, and revise. I recommend actually mapping it out on a calendar for the month of January. Many times we miss deadlines because we fail to plan. 

Best of Luck

Send out your very best work! Good luck on your submission. 



44 comments:

  1. Great resources, and I love your template. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Marcie - what great resources. I've never written a mystery but you've encouraged me to try!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great stuff, Marcie! I'd also suggest reading a couple Highlights--they have their own style and reading a few of their published stories might help you get a feel for them.

    Not that it's *quite* worked for me. (But hope springs eternal...) :-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is great help, Marcie! Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks Marcie! Another tip is to write your "crime" first, since that's what drives the story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely. I think planning is the key in mystery writing!

      Delete
  6. This is helpful, Marcie. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  7. great post! and now, to get busy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! Hopefully we are all getting our mystery brains on! :)

      Delete
  8. Marcie, I have saved or read all the info an dour planner looks great! I have a PiBoIdMo idea that may work for this. Now I am going to g read your story if it's at that link. TY for this GRET post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathy, Thanks for being will to share for me!! :)

      Delete
  9. I've got my work cut out for me! I've never written a short mystery before. One thing that is really important is to match the intended audience. When I started writing freely, my mystery 'went' too old. It's important that the themes and the 'mystery' elements be appropriate for young children who will be reading Highlights. I look forward to using your organizer; thanks so much for sharing and for all the great resources. Good luck to all of the writers out there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can do it! Yes, Highlights will be pretty light on the mystery end. I like how Donna Freedman's article talked about puzzle mysteries as well.

      Delete
  10. Marcie, you are fantastic! Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Fantastic resource. Wish I had the time or the idea to enter the contest but unfortunately I don't. Will definitely bookmark this for later use.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Dear Marcie,
    Brava! about "Mud Pie Day" - I followed all the links to it & it's fun & I luv the surprise ending. I see why it's a winner. I look forward to reading it in Highlights!
    I'm writing mysteries too (though not short enough for this contest) & I look forward to sleuthing out the info in your nourishing links. Great graphic organizer you made for us, too.
    I wish you great good luck with this contest, which some of my other writer pals are/have written for. Best wishes for everyone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Mud Pie Day" won in the Poetry category at Children's Writer Newsletter. It wasn't my mystery though. The mystery story was called "Beneath the Cover." I'm not much of a procrastinator, but I have not yet started my mystery yet. Eeep!

      Delete
  13. thank you so much for this I have been wanting to write a mystery and all these resources will ensure it happens. Happy New Year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YAY, Cecilia! Best of luck as you write your mystery!

      Delete
  14. Great post, Marcie! Just what we all need to try our hand at a mystery for the contest. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Great! I have been working on my mystery for this contest, and this will definitely help. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Perfect timing, Marcie! Thank you so very much for the tips and the template...they will help with the Highlights contest and beyond! You are the BEST!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thank you Marcie! I am not sure if I'll get a story finished in time, but these are great resources and a wonderful template!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Yvonne. I know..time is tight. But maybe another mystery story another time if not for Highlights. :)

      Delete
  18. Marcie: I just may have to try writing a mystery story, even if I do not meet the deadline for the upcoming Highlights for Children upcoming contest. Writing in this genre is new to me. I am up to the challenge. Your thoughts and many resources are appreciated. Thank you. ~Suzy

    ReplyDelete
  19. Kathy, thank you for these resources! Very helpful!

    ReplyDelete
  20. AAAAAHHHH! This is so hard! I've been working on my plot for a week. I need it to be smart enough, but not too advanced for Highlights readers. This is tough. Now I know why they don't have very many submissions that fit their 'needs.'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel your pain. I've been so busy with middle grade revisions, I haven't had much time to work on mine. It may not get done before deadline. But that sweet spot is so hard. I totally agree with you.

      Delete
  21. This is a great post. The story I wrote for the Highlights Fiction Contest is the first mystery I've written. It was really fun. I hope to write more short mysteries to submit to magazines.

    ReplyDelete