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Who Killed Little Johnny Gill? by Kathryn McMaster

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Listed below are my top ten tricks for writing crime fiction and thrillers that may please the reader to make publishers start groping because of their chequebooks.

1) Know the market.
Read very widely. As numerous authors as possible, significantly less many books. If you've read one book by Patricia Cornwell or Linwood Barclay, then proceed. You know their shtick. Learn what else is out there. Which means also reading the classics, understanding the history of the genre, and reading plenty of fiction in translation too. Additionally, it means reading the appropriate non-fiction. If you're writing political espionage thrillers, by way of example, you need to know the political, military and security bacground If you do not, your readers will - and will also be caught out.

2) Understand the place that the leading edge lies.
The most important names (eg: Coben, Rankin, Reichs) aren't the most current. They built their reputations years back. Try to locate the sexiest (biggest selling, most praised, state-of-the-art, prize winning) debut novels. That is what editors are buying today. That's 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 with ourselves. These things are tired old cliches. They could work if you handle these questions new or dazzling way, though the old ways are no longer enough.

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

5) Keep with the darkness.
Your book must be dark and tough. That's your entry ticket towards the genre. What you do there can be very varied, but cute, cosy crime is an extremely limited market now. If you wish to write cosy crime, then expect a tiny readership and meagre sales.

6) Don't forget jeopardy.
Crime novels now may also be thrillers. It's not OK for the detective to fix the mystery and explain it all to a hushed and respectful audience. On the contrary, (s)he's got to stay fear of his/her life. It's got to be white knuckle along with intellectually satisfying.

7) Pay attention to character.
Crime and thriller plots can be forgettable, and often feel very samey anyway. Characters, conversely, never leave us: Holmes, Marlowe, Elvis Cole, Hannibal Lecter. If you realise a strong character, and try everything 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. It's not necessary to be flowery. You need to be completely competent.

9) Be economical.
Thrillers need to be taut. Check your book for needless chapters, your chapters for needless paragraphs, your paragraps for needless sentences, as well as your sentences for needless words. Then do all of it over again. Twice.

10) Be perfectionist.
Very good isn't good enough. Dazzling could be the target. Being tough with yourself is the essential first ingredient. Getting another person to be tough along with you is quite possibly the second.

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

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