Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Guest Post: Do's And Don't's Of Crime Writing - G J Minett

Today on the Outsider it's a pleasure to welcome G. J. Minett, whose latest book is Anything For Her, an amazing follow-up to The Hidden Legacy and Lie In Wait. My review of Anything For Her can be found here, and huge thanks to G. J. Minett, Emily Burns & Bonnier Zaffre for including me on the tour! Enjoy reading reading G. J.'s post on what you should and shouldn't do in crime writing.

Dos and Don’ts of crime writing

DO keep a healthy balance between plot and character. It’s so easy to get carried away with the storyline but readers need to see the development of a central character they can believe in and care about. They don’t want cardboard cut-outs or cartoon sketches.
DON’T make the central character a paragon of virtue. Readers like to identify with someone who is flawed, maybe unreliable or even dangerous, as long as the redeeming features outweigh the negatives.
DO make sure you come up with an opening that grabs the reader’s attention. Most people have a ‘to be read list’ that is spiralling out of control and not everyone sees every book through to the end.
DON’T confuse pace with breakneck speed. Pace is a variable, not a constant. If every scene ends with a cliffhanger and the hero wriggles out of seemingly impossible situations every 30 pages or so, the overkill will alienate the reader. Remember: pace can be measured and considered, allowing everyone a chance to take a deep breath and prepare for the next onslaught.
DO treat your readers with a bit of respect. If they are prepared to devote several days to reading what you’ve produced, there’s a duty of care and you need to avoid huge coincidences or Deus ex Machina interventions that could have been avoided with a little more imagination and effort.
DON’T agonise for too long over the quality of what you’ve written on any given day. Get it down on paper – you can always improve on what’s there at a later date. It’s when there’s nothing there to work on that you have a problem.
DO showcase your skills. Everything you picked up on writing courses and in workshops is just as relevant in a crime novel as in any other genre and readers are perfectly capable of appreciating quality writing wherever they find it.
DON’T go out of your way to imitate. Find your own style and work at it from novel to novel. If you are too anxious to copy others you’ll inevitably lose out in any comparison. Make your own writing the yardstick.
DO think hard about your locations. Some readers derive considerable pleasure from a setting they know well and the demands of plotlines and word counts can sometimes prevent writers from giving the story the detailed backdrop it might need.
DON’T info dump. It’s so tempting, when you’ve researched something in great depth, to want to demonstrate what you’ve picked up but the aim of the research is to provide a backdrop, not dominate the page.
DO provide a twist or two to keep the readers on their toes. A real surprise at the end is particularly effective as it’s what the readers will take away with them. Be careful not to overdo it though – by definition, these twists are out of the ordinary and the difference between the unexpected and the utterly implausible can be wafer thin.
DON’T kid yourself that there’s a substitute for sitting down in front of the laptop and writing. There’s not. There are distractions aplenty and you can try to justify them in the name of research or downtime or networking but what gets the novel written is sheer hard graft and a bit of inspiration. Sit down, shut the door and WRITE.

Having said all that, I do most of the don’ts – and fail to do most of the dos – at least 50% of the time. All part of the fun of being a writer.

Anything For Her - G. J. Minett
Publisher - Bonnier Zaffre
Release Date - November 30th, 2017

About The Author

Graham was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and lived there for 18 years before studying for a degree in Modern and Medieval Languages at Churchill College, Cambridge.

He taught for several years, first in Cheltenham and then in West Sussex before opting to go part-time and start an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. Completing the course in 2008, he gained a distinction for the dissertation under the guidance of novelist, Alison MacLeod and almost immediately won the Segora Short Story Competition with ‘On the Way Out’.

Other awards soon followed, most notably his success in the 2010 Chapter One novel competition with what would eventually become the opening pages of his debut novel. He was signed up by Peter Buckman of the Ampersand Agency, who managed to secure a two-book deal with twenty7, the digital-first adult fiction imprint of Bonnier Publishing.

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