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Who Killed Little Johnny Gill? by Kathryn McMaster

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Listed below are my top ten tricks for writing crime fiction and thrillers that can please the reader and make publishers start groping for his or her chequebooks.

1) Know the market.
Read very widely. As many authors as possible, less many books. Issues read one book by Patricia Cornwell or Linwood Barclay, then move ahead. You know their shtick. Determine 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 the relevant non-fiction. If you're writing political espionage thrillers, for example, you need to know the political, military and security bacground Should you not, your readers will - and are caught out.

2) Understand the place that the leading edge lies.
The greatest 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. 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 are able to work if you handle them in a new or dazzling way, nevertheless the old ways are no longer enough.

4) Get complex. Your plot almost certainly needs a brain-aching level of complexity, plus 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 a continuous chain of impossible-to-see-it-coming twists, you can not afford to be less than 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 to the genre. What you do there might be very varied, but cute, cosy crime is definitely a limited market now. If you wish to write cosy crime, then expect a small readership and meagre sales.

6) Make sure you remember jeopardy.
Crime novels now may also be thrillers. It's not OK for the detective to fix the mystery and explain all of it to a hushed and respectful audience. On the other hand, (s)he's got to be in fear of his/her life. It offers to be white knuckle along with intellectually satisfying.

7) Pay attention to 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 find a strong character, and you must do everything else reasonably competently, then you 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 have to be flowery. You do 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.
Very good isn't good enough. Dazzling may be the target. Being tough yourself 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? Who cares, here's an eleventh:

11) Don't stop trying.
Be persistent. You learn by doing. You'll improve. Think about building your skills, engaging using the industry, or getting editorial advice. Those things will increase your maturity as a writer. Now write that thriller, polish it - and then sell it. Best of luck!