Become a Professional Mystery Writer: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a professional mystery writer. Learn about the job description, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in writing. View article »

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  • 0:02 A Professional Mystery Writer
  • 0:32 Career Requirements
  • 1:04 Step 1: Earn a…
  • 2:09 Step 2: Develop…
  • 2:47 Step 3: Seek Publication
  • 3:33 Step 4: Be Reliable…

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Video Transcript

A Professional Mystery Writer

So, you think you might like to become a professional mystery writer…

Professional mystery writers compose novels or short stories with twists and turns designed to entertain readers interested in discovering 'whodunit.' Writers may work on a freelance basis and even have a literary agent to contact publishing houses to promote their work. Success for freelance writers in securing agents or publishers can be challenging, and high competition often exists.

Career Requirements

So, what are the career requirements?

Degree Level Bachelor's degree is often beneficial
Degree Field English, communications, journalism, or another related field
Experience No experience necessary, but education and practice will help
Key Skills Writing skills, social perceptiveness, creativity, persuasion, and determination

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Although not required for all professional mystery writing positions, obtaining a bachelor's degree can help students gain a variety of skills. In programs, such as a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing, students may take elective or core courses in fiction writing to practice and perfect the art of mystery writing. Working on a college newspaper or college literary publication can also give writing students an opportunity to gain valuable experience and the satisfaction of seeing their work in print.

Success Tips:

  • Apply for an internship. Students can gain valuable industry experience through an internship, such as those offered by publishers, magazines, or local newspapers. This also provides students with the opportunity to work alongside professional, experienced writers.

  • Take mystery writing courses. These courses are generally offered through professional or continuing education departments at universities and can help students supplement their training. Common topics in these courses include story types and how to develop characters.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Creative Writing, General
  • Writing

Step 2: Develop Professional Contacts

Professional mystery writers can attend workshops and conferences that focus on general or mystery writing. Workshops provide opportunities to network with fellow authors, editors, and publishers. Writers can also gain valuable industry knowledge and acquire helpful tips and pointers through online webinars sponsored by those already working in the field.

Success Tip:

  • Join professional associations for writers. Membership can provide multiple benefits to writers, such as access to industry tools and resources and the opportunity to network with other writers.

Step 3: Seek Publication

Professional mystery writers can build readership by submitting short fiction to both print and online mystery magazines. At first, mystery writers may receive no payment or only modest compensation for having short stories posted online. However, these postings may help the aspiring writers develop a fan base. Having an established readership may also help writers when seeking publication, and the process of submitting work allows the writers to improve editing and revision skills.

Success Tip:

  • Develop a blog. Blogs are a great way to gain additional experience. Creating a blog or website can promote the talents of aspiring professional mystery writers and further develop their sample works.

Step 4: Be Reliable and Continue Writing

To build a career as a mystery writer it is important to have a good reputation. Editors want to work with reliable writers who do good work and produce engaging stories. Once established in smaller markets a mystery writer may be able to start publishing their work in bigger name magazines or get a book contract.

Earning a bachelor's degree, developing professional contacts, seeking publication, and continuing writing are great steps to follow to make the most of a career as a professional mystery writer.

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