Listed here are my top ten methods for writing crime fiction and thrillers which will please the reader to make publishers start groping for their chequebooks.
1) Know the market.
Read very widely. As much authors as possible, significantly less many books. In case you have read one book by Patricia Cornwell or Linwood Barclay, then move ahead. You know their shtick. Learn what else is out there. This means also reading the classics, knowing the history of the genre, and reading lots of fiction in translation too. In addition, it means reading established track record non-fiction. If you're writing political espionage thrillers, as an example, you need to know the political, military and security bacground Unless you, your readers will - and are caught out.
2) Understand the location where the leading edge lies.
The largest names (eg: Coben, Rankin, Reichs) are certainly 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. That's what editors are buying today. That's the market you're competing in.
3) Don't just trot out the cliches.
You've got a murderer have you? A terrorist bomb plot? Be tough with yourself. These things are tired old cliches. They could work if you handle these questions new or dazzling way, nevertheless the old ways aren't enough.
4) Get complex. Your plot almost certainly 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 an endless chain of impossible-to-see-it-coming twists, you cannot afford to be lower than devilishly clever yourself. With rare exceptions, simple no longer sells.
5) Stick to the darkness.
Your book should be dark and tough. That's your entry ticket towards the genre. What you do there may be very varied, but cute, cosy crime is an extremely limited market now. If you want to write cosy crime, then expect a small readership and meagre sales.
6) Do not forget jeopardy.
Crime novels now are also thrillers. It's not OK for the detective to fix the mystery and explain all this to a hushed and respectful audience. On the contrary, (s)he's got to stay fear of his/her life. It has to be white knuckle along with intellectually satisfying.
7) Give full attention to 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 find a strong character, and do everything else reasonably competently, then you certainly quite likely have fiction that'll sell.
8) Write well!
Bad writing will likely kill your chances of success. And quite right too. You won't need to be flowery. You have 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, and your sentences for needless words. Then do everything over again. Twice.
10) Be perfectionist.
Great isn't good enough. Dazzling will be 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 overcome doing. You'll improve. Consider building your skills, engaging with the industry, or getting editorial advice. All those things will increase your maturity as an author. Now write that thriller, polish it - and then sell it. Best of luck!