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How does one go about writing a crime novel?
8

Teadrinker11 · 06/03/2022 20:56

Crime geared novels are my favourite to read. I was thinking recently how much I would love to write one someday but am so confused about how established and once unknown writers get their work noticed and published, what steps they have to take to get the book noticed and to sell. How do they come up with ideas? Crime is such a popular genre, how do they come up with originality to keep the book interesting? I suppose essentially what I'm trying to ask is what should my steps be if I have some ideas for a crime novel? If it ever gets to the stage I want to get it published how do I get it noticed? Who do I approach to look at it so I don't make a fool of myself? Nothing will ever be perfect and there will always be mistakes so how does someone who has never written a novel before go about this?

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Starface · 06/03/2022 21:02

I would recommend you start by learning how to write and honing your craft.

Futurelearn do a free online starter course on starting to write fiction. Then you can do courses eg Curtis Brown Creative and Faber Academy. CBC do a crime specific one. You might have a local writers group, or want to start one.

First steps first. You need to practise, you need to read, you need to be critiqued. But you need to start writing and keep going.

As you go along you can figure out pitching to agents vs self publishing etc etc

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Erinyes · 07/03/2022 06:51

None of this is specific to any particular genre. First write your novel. Research agents who represent crime novelists and whose lists are open, and start querying them. But that part is way down the line. Start by reading widely in the type of crime you want to write, and write your novel.

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Hazelwood63 · 10/03/2022 16:16

The University of British Columbia offer a series of excellent online courses on the edX Learning platform, taught by staff who teach the MA programme. They cover the three stages of novel writing. Planning and outlining, writing, and editing. It's mostly video tutorials that you take at your own pace. There's no actual feedback but the tutors do a podcast every week to answer questions and discuss topics. Here's part of a review from someone who is himself a teacher of creative writing, but who enjoys taking the odd course himself:
The instructors, award-winning authors Nancy Lee and Annabel Lyon, are immensely generous in sharing their own experiences. Throughout the course they bring matters of craft and process to life by discussing their own work, and they also post examples of their own outlines and drafts. Further support comes from sf writer Andrew Neil Gray, who’s active in fielding questions in the discussion area.

The teaching team’s engagement goes even deeper in live weekly hangouts (lunchtimes in Vancouver, 9pm here in London), when they answer specific questions posted in real time or during the previous week. Annabel, Nancy, and Andrew genuinely engage with writers’ questions with good humour, bright ideas, and endless encouragement. Videos of the hour-long chats are saved for learners unable to attend at the designated time. These hangouts were really energising, and one of the things I’ll remember most about these courses.
Each course costs about £225.
I've completed a first novel that had a few full read requests from agents, and have just finished a first draft of a second one. I'm currently taking the Structuring and Outlining course, and really enjoying it. It might be worth looking into.

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Zilla1 · 11/03/2022 11:29

What @Starface says. Read lots and write. Don't worry about the end point if you have a story that needs telling. Learn by doing first of all then look at training depending on what is stopping you in the trajectory to being published. Otherwise you risk being paused in a cycle of not-doing.

Good luck.

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NoSquirrels · 11/03/2022 11:31

Don’t run before you can get all, OP.
If you have ideas, get writing.
Once you have written a book, then you’ll learn about editing.
Then you’ll write another, better one.
Then worry about how to get published…

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thevassal · 11/03/2022 11:43

If you read a lot of crime fiction you must know the tropes that are used all the time and the things you don't see as much of? Perhaps try to think of a specific niche.

Something like the rogue detective who doesn't play by the rules and has a tragic/mysterious past are ten a penny.

For example I recently read Traces by Patricia Wilson who was at the forefront of using forensic botany to identify criminals. That's something new I didn't know much about. Or Prof sue blacks book which as well as "normal" forensic science goes into work in identifying victims of war and natural disasters. Even very basic but I hardly ever see books written from the perspective of a very new detective or a special constable...its always someone with experience.

Having spent years reviewing witness statements that when compared compared other evidence bear no resemblance with what actually happened (or indeed reality!) I've always thought it would be interesting to write a book from the POV of multiple witnesses and then at the end you reveal which, if any of them were accurate! Could have a witness that intentionally (or unintentionally) disrupts the whole investigation.

But please please please do some independent research. From someone who has worked with the police the number of errors in crime fiction (and tv) drives me mad. I think the problem is one writer does it and then lots of other writers whose only research is reading crime fiction assume it must be right and copies it!

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Gerbilteeth · 22/03/2022 22:03

Read lots of the type of book you aspire to write, and notice how they're written. Write your book and revise it as well as you can. Then pay for an editor to go through it and make comments and suggestions. If the editor is a good one, that'll teach you a lot. Revise your book. If still not publishable, try a new book.

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Tortabella · 05/04/2022 15:52

Agree with others who say read a lot of crime - all genres, cosy crime, psychological suspense, procedural etc. And the classics, look for a new twist on an older story.

I wrote a thriller by accident, purely because I was reading a lot in that genre at the time, and it went on to be published.

I started with a fairly weird and claustrophobic set up of a newcomer arriving into a place my main protagonist didn't know that well and then writing the story rather than plotting. I chose a place I knew well but wasn't in at that time which helped my imagination along as I wasn't seeing the boring details every day.

Once I had the whole plot and the twist, it was a matter of going back and dropping hints (or seeding as my editor called it) and also taking things out so I wasn't giving the plot away too quickly.

So I would just start writing and reading in that genre, and see where it takes you. I ended up waking up in the middle of the night and knowing what the plot twist was. You have to trust the process (I know that is a cliche but it's true!).

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