Listed below are my top ten tricks for writing crime fiction and thrillers that will please the reader and earn publishers start groping for his or her chequebooks.
1) Know the market.
Read very widely. As many authors as possible, not as many books. In case you have read one book by Patricia Cornwell or Linwood Barclay, then go forward. You know their shtick. Determine what else is out there. Which means also reading the classics, having the history of the genre, and reading plenty of fiction in translation too. In addition, it means reading the appropriate non-fiction. If you're writing political espionage thrillers, as an example, you need to know the political, military and security bacground Should you not, your readers will - and you will be caught out.
2) Understand where the leading edge lies.
The greatest 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. It is exactly what editors are buying today. That 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 yourself. These things are tired old cliches. They can work if you handle these questions new or dazzling way, though the old ways aren't 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 are becoming really good at developing complex but plausible plots, and since modern thriller writers are getting to be so adept at delivering an endless chain of impossible-to-see-it-coming twists, you can't afford to be below devilishly clever yourself. With rare exceptions, simple will no longer sells.
5) Keep with the darkness.
Your book should be dark and tough. That's your entry ticket towards the genre. What you do there is very varied, but cute, cosy crime is a very limited market now. In order to write cosy crime, then expect a smaller readership and meagre sales.
6) Don't forget jeopardy.
Crime novels now can also be thrillers. It's not OK for the detective to solve the mystery and explain all of it to a hushed and respectful audience. However, (s)he's got to be in fear of his/her life. It offers to be white knuckle in addition to intellectually satisfying.
7) Pay attention to character.
Crime and thriller plots are often forgettable, and often feel very samey anyway. Characters, however, never leave us: Holmes, Marlowe, Elvis Cole, Hannibal Lecter. If you realise a strong character, and try everything else reasonably competently, then you definitely quite likely have fiction that'll sell.
8) Write well!
Bad writing will in all probability kill your chances of success. And quite right too. You don't have to be flowery. You need to 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 it all over again. Twice.
10) Be perfectionist.
Great isn't good enough. Dazzling may be the target. Being tough with yourself is the essential first ingredient. Getting someone else to be tough with you is quite possibly the second.
I said ten tips, didn't I? What is, here's an eleventh:
11) Don't surrender.
Be persistent. You improve by doing. You'll improve. Think about building your skills, engaging together with the industry, or getting editorial advice. All those things will increase your maturity as an author. Now write that thriller, polish it - then sell it. Best of luck!