Listed below are my top ten methods for writing crime fiction and thrillers which will please the reader and earn publishers start groping for his or her chequebooks.
1) Know the market.
Read very widely. As numerous authors as possible, significantly less many books. In case you have read one book by Patricia Cornwell or Linwood Barclay, then move on. You know their shtick. Learn what else is out there. Meaning also reading the classics, knowing the history of the genre, and reading a lot of fiction in translation too. Additionally, it means reading the appropriate non-fiction. If you're writing political espionage thrillers, for example, 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 largest names (eg: Coben, Rankin, Reichs) usually 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's what editors are buying today. This is the market you're competing in.
3) Don't just trot out the cliches.
You've got a murderer have you? A terrorist bomb plot? Be tough on your own. These things are tired old cliches. They're able to work if you handle them in a new or dazzling way, but the old ways shall no longer be enough.
4) Get complex. Your plot most likely needs a brain-aching level of complexity, as well as a surprising number of well-planned, well-executed twists. Because modern crime authors have become really good at developing complex but plausible plots, and since modern thriller writers are becoming so adept at delivering a limitless 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 to the genre. What you do there may be very varied, but cute, cosy crime is a very limited market now. If you wish to write cosy crime, then expect a tiny readership and meagre sales.
6) Don't forget jeopardy.
Crime novels now may also be thrillers. It's not OK for the detective to fix the mystery and explain everything to a hushed and respectful audience. On the other hand, (s)he's got to be in fear of his/her life. It has to be white knuckle along with intellectually satisfying.
7) Pay attention to character.
Crime and thriller plots can be forgettable, and often feel very samey anyway. Characters, conversely, never leave us: Holmes, Marlowe, Elvis Cole, Hannibal Lecter. If you learn a strong character, and try everything else reasonably competently, then you quite likely have fiction that'll sell.
8) Write well!
Bad writing will likely kill your chances of success. And quite right too. You don't have to be flowery. You need to be completely competent.
9) Be economical.
Thrillers must 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 all of it over again. Twice.
10) Be perfectionist.
Very good isn't good enough. Dazzling will be the target. Being tough with ourselves is the essential first ingredient. Getting another individual to be tough together with you is quite possibly the second.
I said ten tips, didn't I? What, here's an eleventh:
11) Don't give up.
Be persistent. You learn by doing. You'll improve. Think of building your skills, engaging with the industry, or getting editorial advice. All those things will increase your maturity as an author. Now write that thriller, polish it - and then sell it. Best of luck!