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Who Killed Little Johnny Gill? by Kathryn McMaster

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Allow me to share my top ten tips for writing crime fiction and thrillers that will please the reader making publishers start groping for his or her chequebooks.

1) Know the market.
Read very widely. As numerous authors as possible, significantly less many books. If you have read one book by Patricia Cornwell or Linwood Barclay, then move ahead. You know their shtick. Determine what else is out there. That means also reading the classics, having the history of the genre, and reading lots of fiction in translation too. It also 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 If you don't, your readers will - and will also be caught out.

2) Understand the location where the leading edge lies.
The greatest names (eg: Coben, Rankin, Reichs) are certainly not the most current. They built their reputations a long time ago. Try to locate the sexiest (biggest selling, most praised, most innovative, prize winning) debut novels. That's 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 murderer have you? A terrorist bomb plot? Be tough with ourselves. These things are tired old cliches. They can work if you handle these questions new or dazzling way, nevertheless the old ways are not enough.

4) Get complex. Your plot probably needs a brain-aching level of complexity, along with a surprising number of well-planned, well-executed twists. Because modern crime authors are becoming really good at developing complex but plausible plots, and because modern thriller writers have grown to be so adept at delivering a continuous chain of impossible-to-see-it-coming twists, you cannot afford to be less than devilishly clever yourself. With rare exceptions, simple no longer sells.

5) Stay with the darkness.
Your book has to 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 want to write cosy crime, then expect a smaller readership and meagre sales.

6) Make sure you remember jeopardy.
Crime novels now can also be thrillers. It's not OK for the detective to resolve the mystery and explain everything to a hushed and respectful audience. On the other hand, (s)he's got to be fear of his/her life. It has to be white knuckle and also intellectually satisfying.

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

8) Write well!
Bad writing will almost certainly kill your chances of success. And quite right too. It's not necessary to be flowery. It's necessary that you be completely competent.

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

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

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

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