Ten Top Tips for Crime Writers

For the last few weeks I’ve been completely rewriting a novel of mine which has been languishing in a drawer (actually on a memory stick). I’m always trying to improve what I write, read other authors and move forward. I’m rewriting with some key tips in mind, a sort of amalgamation of ideas which I thought I’d share. I’d love to know what other crime writers think. Anyway here goes.

  1. Write an exciting beginning which plunges straight into the story and doesn’t explain too much! ( I had to rewrite mine completely)
  2. Try to put in content, facts, interesting observations that you have never read in another novel. ( Harder than it seems I know but think about what you know. What is your own USP, something that you know about that other people don’t? Why not use it?
  3. Be complex, the plot can be fiendish but you also need to interrogate it. (Does it make sense? Is it watertight? I’m going to be using beta readers this time so the thought of them reading it is spurring me on)
  4. Be dark. I think especially if you’re writing cosy crime it might be tempting to focus on villagers arguing over the Best Kept Village awards, but it’s a bit too tame. ( I’ve chucked in the odd murder now, it was too pedestrian before)
  5. I think your protagonist needs to be in danger at some point. ( I love the way Dick Francis used to do this)
  6. I like characters with a mixture of light and dark, not too nice. I think it’s sometimes hard to make your favourites moody, mean or over emotional but if you can it makes them much more believable. ( I heard Lee Child’s talking about this the other day on the radio, he put it much better, of course)
  7. I think the location of a crime novel is key, whether it’s mean streets, a picture postcard village, a holiday location,  key details will make the reader imagine the rest.
  8. Do your research. I do think you need a smattering of police info, it might not be absolutely up to date but I think it has to have a ring of truth. ( Very obvious clangers would surely annoy informed readers)
  9. Try to write well, sparingly too. ( Goes without saying but hard though) And use the best viewpoint, I ‘m changing my story from a first person narrative to third person. I think it works better but it’s a right pain changing all those flaming pronouns!
  10. Don’t spent all your time lovingly creating time lines, lists of characters sketches of the location etc. This is my own tip and something I have to stop myself doing because for me the danger is, I do all that, don’t get on with the story or worse still all my creativity goes into the preparation and somehow it kills the writing and deadens it. I’m a sucker for stationary but try to keep it to one small notebook per novel not ten A4 books, countless huge folders and several wall charts!

All difficult to put into  practise of course but at least I’m trying. I’d love to hear your views. Good luck with your writing.

8 thoughts on “Ten Top Tips for Crime Writers

  1. Hahaha. Great advice.
    I can image the suffering involved on changing around your pronouns at this stage. I find it difficult to choose which viewpoint to use sometimes. I might be using one and then wish I was using the other!


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