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Who Killed Little Johnny Gill? by Kathryn McMaster

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Listed below are my top ten methods for writing crime fiction and thrillers that can please the reader and earn publishers start groping for their chequebooks.

1) Know the market.
Read very widely. As many authors as possible, much less many books. If you have read one book by Patricia Cornwell or Linwood Barclay, then move on. You know their shtick. Discover what else is out there. Which means also reading the classics, learning the history of the genre, and reading a good amount of fiction in translation too. In addition, 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 don't, your readers will - and you will be caught out.

2) Understand the place that the leading edge lies.
The most important names (eg: Coben, Rankin, Reichs) are not 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. It is precisely what editors are buying today. That is 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 can work if you handle these questions new or dazzling way, though 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 have grown to be really good at developing complex but plausible plots, and also, since modern thriller writers are getting to be so adept at delivering a limitless chain of impossible-to-see-it-coming twists, you can not afford to be below devilishly clever yourself. With rare exceptions, simple will 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 definitely a limited market now. If you want to write cosy crime, then expect a small readership and meagre sales.

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

7) Give full 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 fit everything in else reasonably competently, you then quite likely have fiction that'll sell.

8) Write well!
Bad writing will, without doubt kill your chances of success. And quite right too. You don't need to be flowery. You have to be completely competent.

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

10) Be perfectionist.
Excellent isn't good enough. Dazzling will be the target. Being tough on your own is the essential first ingredient. Getting another individual to be tough 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 learn by doing. You'll improve. Take into consideration building your skills, engaging together with the industry, or getting editorial advice. Dozens of things will increase your maturity as a writer. Now write that thriller, polish it - and then sell on it. Best of luck!