By Gillian Hamer
Read widely and varied - by that I'd suggest as many authors as possible, not necessarily as many books. If you’ve read one book by Rankin or McDermid, then move on. Find what else is out there. That means reading the classics but also being aware of current market trends too. For example, I had a meeting with an editor of a major publisher who liked my writing but thought I needed to make my style darker. ‘Read Tess Gerritsen, she said, try Kathy Reichs (both authors I’d never previously read) - those are the writers who are selling now.’ Sample everything out there and see what style suits your writing.
It is more vital in crime fiction than any other genre to grab the reader's attention during the first page, first paragraph or even the first line. Readers expect shock and awe in the first chapter and they don't want to be disappointed. So, make sure you kick off the book in the means you want to continue.
It is also vital to ensure that the reader stays with you for the journey and comes to the end, not only entertained but satisfied with the summary and conclusion. If you're writing a crime series, the best way to ensure your reader reaches for the next book is to ensure you get the end of the previous one right on all counts.
Pace and Style.
Getting the pace and writing style right is another crucial element. Crime thrillers need to be tightly written, no flowery language to muddy the waters, and as a general rule you can look to reduce your first draft by at least 10%. Be ruthless in your edits. If a scene doesn't move the story on, then cut it, keep the style taut and the pace tight.
So with a violent scene, I try it both ways.
I write it twice - from victim and perpetrator perspective. Sometimes, even from the POV of an observer.
It all comes down to the effect I want to have on the reader.
Read as much crime fiction as you possibly can. Understand the different sorts of crime fiction and where your work fits within the genre. Laura Wilson's regular crime round-up in Saturday's Guardian newspaper is a great way of discovering new crime fiction writers.
Sheila Bugler, author of Hunting Shadows, The Waiting Game and All Things Nice