Posted by: nancyisanders | December 1, 2012

Writing a Mystery for a Children’s Magazine: Part 2

When writing a mystery for a children’s magazine, here are a few pointers to remember:

#1: Each magazine has its own preferences for stories they like to publish. Study the mysteries your target magazine publishes and craft yours to have a similar feel. If your target magazine doesn’t yet publish mysteries but you’d like to submit one to them, study their fiction stories in general to note the plot development, character development, use of dialogue and pace of the action.

#2: The word count in a magazine story is not very high. Usually it tops out at 700 to 1500 words. This is a big contrast to chapter books or middle grade novels where mysteries can be developed in a much more in-depth process. Your mystery has to start with a pop, get hopping, and wrap up with a surprising and very satisfying bang!

#3: In a magazine story there’s not a lot of room for character development, so give each one of your characters, especially the detective and the suspects, their own unique character tag. For example, make one suspect sneeze between every other sentence because he’s allergic to the cat. Make another suspect always wear a baseball cap. Make another suspect wear a lot of bling. And make your detective have an endearing quirk such as loves to eat pickles when searching for clues. The big crunchy juicy pickles that squirt his suspects in the eye as he takes a bite!

#4 Because there’s not a lot of room for a big word count, drive the action of your story through lots of dialogue so we hear and see what’s happening instead of just being told. Not only does this save on word count but it helps you “show, not tell.”

So, put pen to paper and have fun writing mysteries for children’s magazines!


  1. Thanks for the info on writing mysteries for magazines. I will use this advice and hopefully have a mystery story published. Chris

    • You’re welcome, Chris. Do you have any more questions about this? And best wishes on your mystery!

      • I don’t have any questions right now, but I may as I get further into writing the story. Thanks for asking. I am also very excited about your new writing book. Congratulations!

      • Best wishes as you begin your writing journey, Chris! And thanks for the kudos on my new writing book. :o)

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