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Pauline Rowson: How to write a crime novel or crime short story

There are many different types of crime novels and crime short stories ranging from gritty gruesome, cosy comfortable to cops, robbers and gangsters, racy, action-packed thrillers, historical or contemporary crime novels, detective or private eye and many more variations in between.

Then there is the setting: the city, the sea, countryside, mountains, home or abroad. So there is plenty of scope to work with and the type of crime novel or short story you decide to write is often linked to the type of crime novel you like to read.

I never set out to write what have been termed in the USA 'police procedurals' but there are now eight published in the DI Andy Horton series and the ninth with my publisher.  I'm working on number ten.  I've also written two stand alone thrillers and a murder mystery play. My crime novels have contemporary settings but that's not to say that I won't write a crime novel set in the 1930s, 40s, 50s or 60s. Or that I won't write a series featuring a private eye. I certainly plan to write more thrillers.My novels are set around the sea, primarily the Solent area where I live. 
So here are a few pointers to help you get started.

1. Choose your location - it can be real or fictitious.
2. Choose your type of crime story - detective, thriller, private eye ( you might find that as you write your type begins to choose you!)
3. If writing a short story think about a theme or message you want to get across.
4. Choose who is going to be your main character or characters (Note: In the short story don’t have more than two main characters otherwise it will be difficult to write and difficult to read).
5. Flesh them out. Know their backgrounds, hang ups, personality, motivations.
5. Do your research - but don't get too hung up on it so that you never actually start writing the novel.
6. Write, write and write. Nothing happens until your characters start speaking, moving and doing things.
7. Revise, revise, revise...

Checklist for a good crime short story

1. It should be well written with a truly surprising ending.
2. You need to plant clues throughout the crime short story – not too many but just enough to get the reader thinking.
3. One critical piece of information is usually held back until just before the ending.
4. The best stories are those that have a theme/message and are firmly based on character.
5. Beginning: the main character is introduced immediately, so is the tone and setting and the problem
6. Middle: Build the motivation and tension.
7. The climax – this is the worst possible moment of the story.
8. The ending
9. In the short story there should be unities of time, place and action which means that the story should take place over a very short space of time, in the same place and ideally through the main character’s eyes. This results in tight construction and a successful short story.

Good luck.

Death Lies Beneath - A DI Horton novel - Pauline RowsonThe new DI Andy Horton marine mystery crime novel, number eight in the series, Death Lies Beneath, is now available in the UK and will be published in the USA in November.

Nearly all my crime novels are available as e books and on Amazon Kindle, and some are available in Large Print and as audio books. You can also borrow them from libraries in the UK, USA and the Commonwealth.

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AUGUST 20TH, 2012 @ 6:32:10 BST

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