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Top writing tips for aspiring authors

Top writing tips for aspiring authors


At Dead Good when we interview authors or host live author chats, a question that comes up over and over again from readers is asking for advice on how to write themselves.

So we thought what better way to find out information but to crowd-source tips and advice from as many crime authors as we could lay our hands on! From Karin Slaughter to Simon Kernick, Paula Daly to Antti Tuomainen we’ve asked them all.

Tips and Advice for Aspiring Writers


Karin Slaughter

READ. It’s the most important thing you can do as a writer.

Tim Weaver

Don’t let doubt stop you! For me, The Doubt kicks in at about 20,000 words, every book, without fail. I’m sure my tenth book (if I’m even lucky enough to get there!) will be the same. The lesson I’ve learnt is simple: power through. Just *finish the book*. Because, at least when you’ve got to the end, you have something more to work with than just the ideas in your head.

Lynne Truss

I recently went to a lecture given by Grayson Perry, and it was addressed to artists, but it worked for writers as well. He used the image of new artists getting on and off of different buses while they looked for their true style, whereas the right approach, he said, was just, “Get on the bus and stay on the ****ing bus.”

James Henry

Understand why you’re writing – if you know why you’re doing it in the first place it makes any setbacks tolerable.

P.D. Viner

Structured day-dreaming. Have a scene in mind and then just let your characters act it out, let them be free to play without the pressures of you actually writing. Keep them in the scene until you are happy you have it, then make some notes or keep rolling it around in your mind until it is time to write and then go for it.

If we wait until WRITING TIME to do our work it puts an awful pressure on us to get the juices flowing on demand, like Schrodinger’s author, ring the bell and we salivate ink (or e-ink – no idea what that is). It is the imagining bit that makes writers special not the waggling fingers on a keypad. Imagine!

Paula Daly

Write what thrills you. Write the book you want to see on the shelf.

Tom Bale

Aim to devote at least as much (if not more) time to rewriting as you do to your first draft. Take as long a break as you can after each draft, so it becomes less familiar. I also find that using a different typeface or font size for each draft helps me to see it afresh and spot the flaws.

M. G. Gardiner

Make it up but tell the truth. Create stories that are emotionally honest – that’s how you connect with readers.

Phil Hogan

The usual. Try to write something every day. Read good writing – and not necessarily in your favourite genre. Keep up with the news. Refrain from thinking ‘Hey, I could write something like that’, even if you could. One original idea is worth more than all the above.

Will Jordan

Have fun with it! If you’re not having fun writing your story, nobody’s going to enjoy reading it. If you can’t have fun, find a different story to write.

Simon Kernick

Don’t procrastinate. Start your book and try to write at least a page every day, more if you can manage it. Don’t worry about making it look pretty. Don’t even read back over it as you write. Just go. And always have a great opening line.

Antti Tuomainen

The best piece of writing advice I ever got is from Lawrence Block, the great American crime writer: “Write what you want and don’t expect anything.”

Wiley Cash

Read. Read everything. Ask yourself how successful books work. We’re so driven to try and ascertain what things mean, especially in English classes. Writers should ask how things work.


A big thank you to all the authors for sharing their tips and advice on writing crime. Looks like we’ll all be doing a lot more reading in the near future! Good luck writers!

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