Top ten tips for writing a crime novel from crime author Pauline Rowson

The crime genre is one of the most popular. It is also one of the most competitive in terms of publication and maybe one of the most diverse in terms of story telling. Crime novels range from gritty gruesome, (hardboiled), cosy comfortable, to cops, (police procedural and detective novels) private eyes, gangsters, suspense, thrillers, psychological, historical, contemporary or even futuristic and probably many more variations in between.

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

Here are my ten top tips to help you get started on how to write a crime novel.

1. Choose your location - it can be real or fictitious.

2. Choose your type of crime novel - detective, thriller, private eye (you might find that as you write your type of crime novel begins to choose you!)

3. Is there a theme or message you want to get across. There doesn't have to be but sometimes this can help you to focus. It might be the motivation of your killer, your protagonist or your victim or something historical or current that sparks your interest or that you are intrigued by.

4. Choose who is going to be your main character or characters. Whose story is it? Whose viewpoint are you going to tell the story from?

I use single viewpoint third person in the DI Andy Horton and Art Marvik novels and first person in the thrillers. I also write from the male point of view. In my crime novels you follow the story through the main characters eyes only. Of course you might wish to write from multiple viewpoints, but beware of having too many and switching between them too often or you will destroy the pace of your novel and confuse your reader.

5. Flesh out your characters. Know their backgrounds, hang ups, personality, motivations. What makes them tick.

6. Map out your story line but don't worry if you don't have it all worked out before you write. I certainly don't. When I begin to write the first draft I have no idea what happens in the middle, I have no idea of the ending and I have no idea of who the killer is and why! Other authors though prefer to have all the intricate plot details worked out beforehand. Finding which suits you is a matter of experimentation.

My plot lines are developed as I write and as the characters come to life so too does the story line.

7. Do your research - but don't get sidetracked by it so that you never actually start writing the novel. I research as I write. But what suits me might not suit you. Experiment, play around with various ways of working until it clicks for you.

8. Write, write and write. Nothing happens until your characters start speaking, moving and doing things.

9. Don't get hung up on revising that first chapter, that first page and that first sentence otherwise you will never finish the novel. Crack on with it and then go back and re-examine that fist chapter once you have written the complete first draft. In fact those first three chapters will often need to be ditched or completely re-written because by the time you have got to the end of the book the beginning and the characters will probably have changed.

10. Revise, revise, revise... Don't skimp on the revisions. I often do eight. Make sure it is the best you can possibly do before submitting it to an agent or publisher.

Good luck.

Where to buy



Pauline Rowson's books at The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery)

Pauline Rowson's books USA

Pauline Rowson's books UK

From your local bookshop


Also available as an ebook and on Amazon Kindle, Kobo and for loan from UK, USA, Irish and Commonwealth libraries


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