Who Killed Little Johnny Gill? by Kathryn McMaster


Dating agency
Here are my top ten tips for writing crime fiction and thrillers which will please the reader and make publishers start groping for their chequebooks.

Dating agency
1) Know the market.
Read very widely. As many authors as possible, less many books. If you have read one book by Patricia Cornwell or Linwood Barclay, then go forward. You know their shtick. Find what else is out there. Which means also reading the classics, having the history of the genre, and reading a good amount of fiction in translation too. It also means reading established track record non-fiction. If you're writing political espionage thrillers, for instance, you need to know the political, military and security bacground Unless you, your readers will - and you will be caught out.

2) Understand in which the leading edge lies.
The greatest names (eg: Coben, Rankin, Reichs) usually are not the most current. They built their reputations in years past. Try to locate the sexiest (biggest selling, most praised, state-of-the-art, prize winning) debut novels. It is precisely what editors are buying today. This is the market you're competing in.

3) Don't merely trot out the cliches.
You've got a serial killer have you? A terrorist bomb plot? Be tough yourself. These things are tired old cliches. They're able to work if you handle these questions new or dazzling way, but the old ways aren't enough.

4) Get complex. Your plot probably needs a brain-aching level of complexity, as well as a surprising number of well-planned, well-executed twists. Because modern crime authors are becoming really good at developing complex but plausible plots, and also, since modern thriller writers have become so adept at delivering a never-ending chain of impossible-to-see-it-coming twists, you can not afford to be less than devilishly clever yourself. With rare exceptions, simple no more sells.

5) Stick to the darkness.
Your book has to be dark and tough. That's your entry ticket for the genre. What you do there might be very varied, but cute, cosy crime is certainly a limited market now. In order to write cosy crime, then expect a smaller readership and meagre sales.

6) Remember jeopardy.
Crime novels now can also be thrillers. It's not OK for the detective to unravel the mystery and explain all of it to a hushed and respectful audience. On the other hand, (s)he's got to be in fear of his/her life. It's to be white knuckle in addition to intellectually satisfying.

7) Focus on character.
Crime and thriller plots are often forgettable, and often feel very samey anyway. Characters, conversely, never leave us: Holmes, Marlowe, Elvis Cole, Hannibal Lecter. If you discover a strong character, and fit everything in else reasonably competently, you then quite likely have fiction that'll sell.

8) Write well!
Bad writing will likely kill your chances of success. And quite right too. You don't have to be flowery. It's necessary that you be completely competent.

9) Be economical.
Thrillers should be taut. Check your book for needless chapters, your chapters for needless paragraphs, your paragraps for needless sentences, and your sentences for needless words. Then do everything over again. Twice.

10) Be perfectionist.
Excellent isn't good enough. Dazzling is the target. Being tough on your own is the essential first ingredient. Getting someone else to be tough together with you is quite possibly the second.

I said ten tips, didn't I? What the heck, here's an eleventh:

11) Don't quit.
Be persistent. You learn by doing. You'll improve. Think of building your skills, engaging together with the industry, or getting editorial advice. Those things will increase your maturity as an author. Now write that thriller, polish it - and sell it. Best of luck!