Writing Dos and Don’ts | Killer Reads Open Submissions

Category: Featured

Lucy Dauman, who will be acquiring authors for the KillerReads list, shares her top tips for aspiring writers…

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DO write characters we can believe in. They don’t have to be nice (in fact, we often prefer it if they’re not) but they have to be engaging. If I’m reading from the perspective of a psychopath, I want to really believe I’m in their head, because there’s nothing more terrifying. I want to empathize with the victims, the detectives and, yes, even the killers. Because if I don’t, I won’t care what happens to them, and that’s one of your biggest hooks gone.

DON’T try to imitate. It’s impossible not to be influenced by other writers and I wouldn’t suggest otherwise. Some of the best crime novels in the last few years have been homages to the classics. But whatever you’re writing, always make sure the voice is your own, because that’s the only way it will feel genuine. Don’t write what you think we want to hear – be confident, distinctive and original, and it’ll pay off.

DO think of a twist if you can. It’s not essential, but I do love a great twist. No big deal – it just has to be genuinely shocking while still plausible and something no one’s done before. Easy, right? If you’re not about a killer twist, fair enough, but do make sure you’ve got a compelling premise to hook your readers in before they’ve even started.

DON’T use violence gratuitously. If you edit crime and thrillers, it stands to reason you’re going to read some pretty disturbing subject matter. That’s absolutely fine, but only if it’s relevant to the plot. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the more shocking the crime, the better the book – I am more likely to be affected by an affinity felt with your characters than by contextless acts of violence.

DO be consistent. One of an editor’s favourite axioms is ‘consistency is king’. Minor inconsistencies are to be expected and can be fixed at copyedit stage. However, huge plot holes can be seriously disruptive and are harder to fix down the line than avoiding them in the first place. Everyone approaches plotting in different ways; some writers spend ages mapping it out, others find too much planning obstructive – it’s whatever works for you. Just remember, if you get in a bind, switch off, make a cup of tea, and revisit in an hour or so.

DON’T info dump. While naturally you want your reader to understand what’s going on, try not to over-explain everything. Not only does this disrupt the pace, it also can make your readers feel patronized. We should be able to pick up on details through your characters’ actions and dialogue without needing everything spelt out for us. In short: show, don’t tell.

And, most importantly, just enjoy it! Writing is hard work but it should also be great fun. Get to know your characters and go on a journey with them, and it will it shine through in your writing.

Killer Reads are currently holding open submissions. Click here for full details.

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Opening day for submissions is HERE!

Category: News

It’s finally here! Today is the day the open submission for our new digital first publishing imprint opens! Here at Killer Reads we’re very excited to find out what’s going to land in our inbox between now and 14th September when the submission period ends.

In the meantime, here are a few dos and don’ts to help you navigate the submissions process.

  1. DO read the small print. The entry rules and FAQs contain essential information that will ensure your submission is valid and will be read by an editor.
  2. DON’T send a first draft that you have just dashed off in the last couple of weeks since you heard about the call-out. We are expecting a lot of submissions, and will only be selecting the absolute cream of the crop.
  3. DO continue to work on and polish your novel – it’s very likely that we will be doing another call-out in a few months. The exact timing will be determined by how many titles we take on this time around.
  4. DON’T send a romance novel that ‘sort of has a thriller element’. We are looking specifically for novels in the crime and thriller genres. However, if you ARE a budding romance novelist, DO visit our friends at HarperImpulse and see what they are up to.
  5. DO read the excellent advice penned by our fabulous Kate Stephenson.

Good luck everyone!

Advice for aspiring Killer Reads authors

Category: Team piece

Kate for twitterThinking about sending in a manuscript for our open submissions call out? Kate Stephenson, who will be acquiring authors for the KillerReads list,  shares what she is looking for in the inbox…

Characters: A great book needs believable characters with whom you want to go on a journey, and who stay with you after the story’s end. They must have emotional depth – by all means they can be flawed, troubled, angry, or dark, but they need to have something at their core that makes you care about what happens to them. Fiction is about experiencing the world through someone else’s eyes, and you can’t hope to achieve this without fully realized characters.

Voice: That almost indefinable thing that makes an author stand out from the crowd. I can’t tell you how to write or what to write – you must first write for yourself, because you are compelled to. But I want to find an assured and engaging new voice that doesn’t sound like something I’ve read a million times before. Confidence, originality, cracking dialogue, emotional punch – this is what I look for as a reader, and as an editor.

Hook: It’s crucial that you grab your potential readers’ attention with a great concept. Your book might well be completely amazing, but the hook is the thing that will make people pick it up in the first place. It’s partly our job as the publisher to convey the concept through our cover art and creative copy; but the idea must first come from you, the writer.

Pace: You must keep the pages turning. Drive the plot first and foremost, and be very wary of info dumping. If at all possible, find a way to convey necessary information through dialogue and action, rather than long explanatory passages for the reader to wade through.

Never stop reading: I think one of the best things a crime/thriller writer can do to hone their skills is to read other crime/thriller writers. Reading widely will help you grasp how to master your chosen genre, and may help you to figure out how to solve that tricky plot problem you’ve been grappling with. I find it fascinating to listen to writers talk about the books that have inspired and influenced them the most. We’ve been running a pod-cast series over the past couple of months called Writer’s Envy, where some of our authors tell us about the one book they wish they’d written and why. Definitely worth a listen if you’re interested!