- Tom Clancy
This is applies to most fiction, but is especially true for mysteries. If your work contains logical flaws or your bad guy lacks motivation, you will hear from your readers and the little love notes will not be complimentary. Mystery readers feel cheated if all the information is not available for the reader to solve the puzzle.
One of your early edits should include a read-through for logical flaws. When I do this with my work, I often draw a timeline or fill out a chapter matrix - who did what when and when did the detective find out - to help me take an objective look. I also ask friends to read for logical flaws. I have found that it is generally useless to ask friends for critical reviews, as friends want to share encouraging compliments. They do not, in general, want to be the one to throw the cold water. However, when asked to be part of a specific task - like finding logical flaws - they come through if I ask the question correctly.
I can't ask any version of "Does the story have any flaws?" That's because the answer will always be some version of "Of course not, this is a great story!" So I ask my questions carefully -
- This story has a flaw in the logic - can you find it?
- Can you solve the mystery (often I remove the solution for this one)? At what point in the book did you know you had the answer?
- Will you read this and list all the clues you find - and at the end say if they were valid clues or red herrings? Do you have enough information to solve the mystery before, or at the same time, as the detective?
Friends are much more comfortable with specific tasks than with open-ended questions. They want to help, but don't necessarily know your business and don't want to hurt your feelings.
Writing critique groups on the other hand, the good ones, will be happy to tear your work to shreds. Ask them if your work has any logic flaws and see what happens.
What methods do you use to make sure your WIP will make sense to the reader?