Listed here are my top ten methods for writing crime fiction and thrillers that can please the reader and make publishers start groping because of their chequebooks.
1) Know the market.
Read very widely. Numerous authors as possible, not as many books. In case you have read one book by Patricia Cornwell or Linwood Barclay, then move on. You know their shtick. Determine what else is out there. Meaning also reading the classics, understanding the history of the genre, and reading a good amount of fiction in translation too. What's more, 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 are caught out.
2) Understand the location where the leading edge lies.
The largest 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 exactly 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 yourself. These things are tired old cliches. They could work if you handle them in a new or dazzling way, however the old ways aren't enough.
4) Get complex. Your plot most likely 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 because modern thriller writers are becoming so adept at delivering an endless 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) Keep with the darkness.
Your book has to be dark and tough. That's your entry ticket on the genre. What you do there may be very varied, but cute, cosy crime is certainly a limited market now. If you need to write cosy crime, then expect a small readership and meagre sales.
6) Make sure you remember jeopardy.
Crime novels now are also thrillers. It's not OK for the detective to unravel 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 to be white knuckle and also intellectually satisfying.
7) Focus on character.
Crime and thriller plots are easily forgettable, and often feel very samey anyway. Characters, however, never leave us: Holmes, Marlowe, Elvis Cole, Hannibal Lecter. If you find a strong character, and you must 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 don't have 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, plus your sentences for needless words. Then do all of it over again. Twice.
10) Be perfectionist.
Excellent isn't good enough. Dazzling could be the target. Being tough with ourselves is the essential first ingredient. Getting another person to be tough along is quite possibly the second.
I said ten tips, didn't I? What, here's an eleventh:
11) Don't give up.
Be persistent. You overcome doing. You'll improve. Take into consideration building your skills, engaging together with the industry, or getting editorial advice. Those things will increase your maturity as a writer. Now write that thriller, polish it - and then sell on it. Best of luck!