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…


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.


Advice for all aspiring writers from Laurence O’Bryan

Category: News

The Easy Road to Writing Success


istanbulpuzzleAs with most things in life it’s the details that count. My first novel, a thriller titled, The Istanbul Puzzle, is coming out January 19. And I’m as excited as a puppy with his first friend.

I recommend the feeling to any aspiring writer. Or to anyone in fact. It’s the recognition you’ve always wanted and the dream you never told anyone about. Ok, I hear you think, how did he get here? Was it really that easy?

The answer is yes, depending on how you view the small matter of time. My journey went like this:

In 1998 I bought a book on screenwriting. It advised writing a book first.
I started writing a novel in the middle of 2000. I’ve written almost every day from then until now. I reckon I’m a slow learner. You’ll probably pick it up a lot faster.
I mean who takes that long to learn how to write?

I finished my first book in 2005 and started on The Istanbul Puzzle. My first book has never been published. That’s for the best. I sent it to a paid for editor in 2006 for a review. I had to sit down as I read it. I couldn’t write for a week after. Maybe it was because I could only afford her cheapest review service, but she certainly didn’t spare the knives. Though why she went on for so many pages I still don’t know. A perverse generosity, I suppose.

But from 2005-2010 I took every point she’d made and started to work on my writing. I read about 50 books on the craft of writing, attended conferences (Winchester do a great one) and night courses. Then I started getting up at 3-4AM to write. I’ve been doing that ever since. Don’t even ask what that does to your life.

Then I joined Authonomy to see what Harper Collins were doing online, but I couldn’t submit anything as I’d already sent The Istanbul Puzzle to agents and it didn’t feel right having it on Authonmy at the same time. But I read everything on the site and on every other writer’s site I could find. Eventually my wife wanted to get me an addiction counsellor. But she never gave up on me.

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