Thursday 5 April 2018

Five Steps to Writing a Thriller

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Since becoming a published author, I often get asked for advice on how to write and construct a novel, particularly a thriller novel. I am by no means an expert, having only written professionally for two years. I will, however, try to give some advice based on my own personal experience.

1. Read the Genre You Want to Write

I cannot stress this point enough. If you don’t enjoy reading, your readers won’t enjoy your writing. In order to become a competent writer, you must immerse yourself in the written word. Without realising it, you will be internalising the key ingredients of your chosen genre. For example, in order to write a successful thriller, you will need a good understanding of how to create subtext, double meanings and twists. I once read somewhere that all readers aren’t writers but all writers are readers! I think this is very true.

2. Don’t Lose Sight of Character

Due to the popularity of thrillers, the market is now flooded with ´twists you won’t see coming.´ Often storylines are similar and characters are lost to the plot. Of course, this isn’t always the case and there are still some incredibly good thrillers out there. My favourite thrillers are those which offer something completely unique as well as those which are character driven. A great example of this is I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. The twists and turns are second to none but the main character is what drives the story forward. Never lose sight of your character and aim for a storyline which hasn’t been done before.

3. Make Each Chapter Count

You cannot simply look at the end game when writing a thriller. Each chapter written needs to do two important things. Firstly, it needs to move the story forward and provide the relevant information. Secondly, it needs to keep the reader gripped. After each chapter, sit back and consider what the chapter adds to the overall story. Not every chapter needs to end of a cliff-hanger. However, I believe there are ways to create intrigue and suspense in every chapter which will persuade the reader to continue reading.

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4. Take Criticism

Some writers have what are known as BETA readers. BETA readers are people who read the first draft of your manuscript and critique it. Whether you are using a number of BETA readers, or one trusted individual, listen to their feedback and learn to take criticism. When writing Trust Me and A Mother´s Sacrifice, I would periodically send chapters to my auntie for critique. I trusted her to be honest with me (also very important) and she was. Often she would confirm my suspicions that a particular chapter had stalled the narrative or an aspect wasn’t written as well as it could be. I was also using her to check that my twists were watertight! Having this constant feedback really helped me to shape both novels.

5. Have Fun

Finally, If you aren’t enjoying writing, then your readers won’t enjoy reading. I guess this one is somewhat of a cliché and yet it is very true. There is no point trying to force yourself to write something which doesn’t interest you or something you cannot relate to. Write the story you want to read and entertain yourself as much as possible. I always try and choose subjects close to my heart as I know I will enjoy writing about them.

Gemma Metcalfe is a Manchester-born author who now lives in sunny Tenerife with her husband and two crazy rescue dogs. By day, Gemma can be found working as a primary school teacher, but as the sun sets, she ditches the glitter and glue and becomes a writer of psychological thrillers. 

A Mother's Sacrifice is available to buy now. For more information about Gemma and her writing, you can find her on Twitter.

Have you ever wanted to write a thriller? Let me know in the comments below!

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