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A Writer On Writing: Crime Writing With Claire McGowan

Sally Jenkins passes on tips from an author on writing crime fiction.

I went to listen to Claire McGowan http://clairemcgowan.net/about/ talk about crime writing as part of the 2012 Lichfield Literature Festival. http://www.lichfieldfestival.org/blog/category/lichfield-literature-2012/

First of all she gave us three good reasons for choosing to write crime fiction:
• Crime accounts for 1/5 of all adult fiction sales
• In 2011 crime dominated the top 10 library loans
• Agents and editors are actively taking on new crime writers,

Then she listed the essential elements of a crime novel:
• A good plot
• A gripping pace
• A satisfactory resolution.

Suspense also forms an important part of a crime novel and the reader can be kept on tenterhooks in two ways:

• Wondering what has happened - for example, What dark secrets are the characters hiding? How did the victim meet his death when he was in a locked room?
• Wondering what is about to happen – for example, What will the killer do next? Will he be caught in time?

As well as the theory behind crime writing, Claire shared her own method of writing – which can be applied to any genre. She said it’s important to start with a one sentence ‘high-concept’ of what the book is about but it’s not necessary to plot every detail in advance nor to write long life histories for each character. Claire says she gets to know her characters as she goes along – a bit like getting to know someone in real life.

By writing 1,000 words a day for three months you can finish a first draft – and that first draft doesn’t have to be good! Claire repeated this last point several times. Once the first draft is complete, you can work on it and improve it. And Claire writes her first draft without research, to avoid getting side-tracked. She checks her facts later.

Doesn’t that make it sound easy?! So what are you waiting for…

Claire’s first book ‘The Fall’ is available here http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Fall-Claire-McGowan/dp/0755386361/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_img_1 and her second book ‘The Lost’ will be published in April 2013. http://clairemcgowan.net/books-2/the-lost/


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