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My top ten tips for writing deadly crime fiction

Pauline Rowson, crime authorThe Guardian newspaper ran an article in 2012 asking writers for their ten rules for writing, so I thought I would pen my top ten tips for writing deadly crime fiction. Five years later looking back on it they still hold good with one or two little tweaks and additions. Here goes.

1. Always have a pencil and paper with you, in every handbag, shopping bag, pocket, and of course beside your bed. You never know when that wonderful idea might strike. A Dictaphone might also be useful. Gone are the days when you got funny looks for talking into a machine or even talking to yourself walking down the road. Everybody’s at it now.

2. Travel by public transport. If you’ve got a free bus pass so much the better, you can stay on it all day and save on heating bills at home. You see and meet some great characters for novels. You also hear some intriguing conversations which can be a fruitful source for crime stories, which brings me on to my next tip.

3. Listen into other people's conversations in cafes, bars, buses, trains. But don't be too obvious about it or you could end up being the victim of a crime yourself!

4. People watch. Register their body language, describe it, not in every detail but a gesture here, a twitch or mannerism there can add colour to your characters.

5. Write for yourself rather than trying to write something to suit your publisher, your agent, your readers, your best friend or the latest fad on social media. By the time you've finished writing, the fad will have evaporated into the ether. And you’ll end up with something watered down and weak that nobody loves least of all you.

6. Don't read reviews, or if you do learn to take the rough with the smooth and then carry on writing for yourself and for enjoyment, not to please the woman from Woking who claims your novels are utter tripe.

7. Back everything up, again and again and again.

8. Take a break. You need time to 'think' your novel as well as 'write' it. Thinking time is never wasted, particularly if, like me, you enjoy knitting because then I also get a nice cardy as well as a crime novel.

9. If you get to the stage in your novel where you're bored with the story, then your reader will most certainly be bored too. Chuck it out and start again. Or as Chandler once said, bring in a man with a gun.

10. Marry someone rich. It helps when paying the bills. If you can’t then accept that writing is hard work. You don't get a pension plan, and you don't get a regular salary cheque. Nobody is forcing you to do this, so don't moan, enjoy it and if you don't enjoy it, don't do it.

PS Don’t spend too much time drawing up lists otherwise you’ll never get any work done. Oh, and don't spend too much time on social media, yes I know it's fascinating what some people consider interesting and there are all those cute pictures of dogs, cats and kids, not to mention the alluring pictures of food and someone's glass of wine or cup of coffee, but before you know it two hours will have whizzed past and you've written not a single word.

Happy writing!

Pauline Rowson is the author of seventeen crime novels, thirteen in the Inspector Andy Horton series and two in the Art Marvik marine thriller series plus two standalone crime novels. A terrified sailor she can never be away from the sea for too long before suffering withdrawal symptoms, which is why all her crime novels feature it. She can often be found walking the coastal paths looking for a good place to put a body and has so far managed to avoid arrest although she's optimistic that one day Inspector Andy Horton might do just that!

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FEBRUARY 26TH, 2017 @ 5:46:22 UTC


RE: My top ten tips for writing deadly crime fiction

Reading this is the reaffirmation I needed. Rule 6 can is important. The rest, I find myself trying to do most of these, but no number 10 yet.
Great blog and site. Thanks.

Regards Alex


RE: My top ten tips for writing deadly crime fiction

Rule number 7 - imprint it on your forehead - in the steam days of computers I lost 25,000 words off my first novel and I wasn`t backing up ( brilliant tekkie brothers found it, phew!) but its just not worth the risk.

Love that Chandler quote, Pauline - great post.


RE: My top ten tips for writing deadly crime fiction

Great list, Pauline! I used to always keep a notebook near me, but have lately forgot to do so. Thanks for the reminder!


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