Who Killed Little Johnny Gill? by Kathryn McMaster
Listed here are my top ten methods for writing crime fiction and thrillers that can please the
reader to make publishers start groping for chequebooks.
1) Know the market.
Read very widely. As many authors as possible, much less 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, for instance, you need to
know the political, military and security bacground If you do not, your readers will - and are caught
2) Understand the location where the leading edge lies.
The largest names (eg: Coben, Rankin, Reichs) aren't the most current. They built their reputations
in the past. 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's 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 ourselves. These things are
tired old cliches. They are able to work if you handle these questions new or dazzling way,
however the old ways are not enough.
4) Get complex. Your plot almost definitely needs a brain-aching level of complexity, along with a
surprising number of well-planned, well-executed twists. Because modern crime authors are
getting to be really good at developing complex but plausible plots, and also, since modern thriller
writers have grown to be so adept at delivering a limitless chain of impossible-to-see-it-coming
twists, you cannot afford to be below devilishly clever yourself. With rare exceptions, simple no
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 a very limited market now. In order to write cosy crime,
then expect a smaller readership and meagre sales.
6) Do not forget jeopardy.
Crime novels now may 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 stay in
fear of his/her life. It's to be white knuckle and also intellectually satisfying.
7) Give full attention to character.
Crime and thriller plots are typically forgettable, and often feel very samey anyway. Characters,
however, 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 likely kill your chances of success. And quite right too. You don't have to be
flowery. It's necessary that you be completely competent.
9) Be economical.
Thrillers must 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 all of it over again. Twice.
10) Be perfectionist.
Very good isn't good enough. Dazzling may be the target. Being tough with yourself is the essential
first ingredient. Getting another individual to be tough together with you is quite possibly the
I said ten tips, didn't I? What, here's an eleventh:
11) Don't surrender.
Be persistent. You improve by doing. You'll improve. Consider building your skills, engaging with all
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 it. Best of luck!