Listed here are my top ten strategies for writing crime fiction and thrillers that may please the reader making publishers start groping for his or her chequebooks.
1) Know the market.
Read very widely. Numerous authors as possible, much less many books. In case you have read one book by Patricia Cornwell or Linwood Barclay, then proceed. You know their shtick. Determine what else is out there. Which means also reading the classics, knowing 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 Unless you, your readers will - and are caught out.
2) Understand the location where the leading edge lies.
The most important names (eg: Coben, Rankin, Reichs) are not the most current. They built their reputations a long time ago. Try to locate the sexiest (biggest selling, most praised, state-of-the-art, prize winning) debut novels. That is what editors are buying today. That is the market you're competing in.
3) Don't merely trot out the cliches.
You've got a serial killer have you? A terrorist bomb plot? Be tough on your own. These things are tired old cliches. They can work if you handle them in a new or dazzling way, though the old ways are not enough.
4) Get complex. Your plot almost definitely 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 since modern thriller writers are becoming so adept at delivering a continuous chain of impossible-to-see-it-coming twists, you can't afford to be below devilishly clever yourself. With rare exceptions, simple will no longer sells.
5) Stick to the darkness.
Your book have to be dark and tough. That's your entry ticket on the genre. What you do there can be very varied, but cute, cosy crime is certainly a limited market now. If you need to write cosy crime, then expect a tiny readership and meagre sales.
6) Remember 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. However, (s)he's got to be fear of his/her life. It's to be white knuckle in addition to intellectually satisfying.
7) Concentrate on character.
Crime and thriller plots are typically forgettable, and often feel very samey anyway. Characters, on the other hand, never leave us: Holmes, Marlowe, Elvis Cole, Hannibal Lecter. If you learn a strong character, and you must do everything 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 do 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, as well as your sentences for needless words. Then do it all over again. Twice.
10) Be perfectionist.
Good isn't good enough. Dazzling is 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? What the heck, here's an eleventh:
11) Don't quit.
Be persistent. You overcome doing. You'll improve. Take into consideration building your skills, engaging with all the industry, or getting editorial advice. All of the things will increase your maturity as a writer. Now write that thriller, polish it - and then sell on it. Best of luck!