Crime writer Niall Leonard: Random House Niall Leonard cover Photograph:
Return to Content How to pace a crime novel If you want to write gripping, gritty police procedurals or other crime fiction, knowing how to pace a crime novel is essential.
An effective crime novel must keep the reader turning pages while revealing enough information to make the narrative flow at a cracking pace.
Here are some suggestions for pacing your crime novel, as well as pitfalls to avoid: There are multiple ways to approach a mystery in crime fiction. In one approach, the mystery concerns the protagonist uncovering the perpetrator of a crime. The reader is just as much in the dark as the main character, and finds out details as the main character does.
In another approach, the reader is given information up front, such as who is responsible for the crime. Whatever approach you are using in your own crime novel, smart pacing is crucial for reader engagement.
In both types of novels, you will need to intersperse explanatory information with enough incidents driving the narrative forward to keep your reader engaged. In both cases, you will need to steer clear of a few pitfalls: The info dump In an info dump, you give the reader a block of information all at once.
Often it is more information than the reader can take in and remember for later developments. Sometimes, you may need to resort to the info dump while writing a first or discovery draft, as the details you include can be a reminder to yourself to deliver key information at specific stages of your story.
If you do leave these chunks of expository information in temporarily, be sure to clean these up and integrate the information more seamlessly into your story when writing subsequent drafts.
You will encounter this sometimes in film, television and novels when characters use these exact words to introduce a piece of information: Having one character tell another character something can be a great way of relaying important facts to the reader as well, but it needs to be in a realistic scenario and conversation instead of a contrived, forced-sounding one.
Too much information up front This is not the same thing as an info dump.
An info dump is a lot of information in one paragraph or short section, whereas giving too much information up front may involve stretching this information across an entire chapter or two. It will still be too much for the reader to take in at once. Pace your novel effectively by revealing just a little bit at a time and allowing the reader to take in any new facts and key plot developments before moving on to more.
Too little payoff Make sure you are giving the reader rewards along the way.
Crime fiction is not just about how you deliver information, however. A crime novel may not be particularly action-oriented always, but it still has elements of action and other incidents that build the plot and drive it forward.
Structure is vital to effective pacing in a crime novel. Whether you tend to write detailed outlines, make a few notes ahead of time or write with no outline at all, you will need to think about structure as you work on your story and decide how to pace a crime novel that will satisfy readers.
There are some common pitfalls with placement of narrative incidents to avoid as well: You do, but some writers interpret this as meaning that every novel or scene should begin with chaotic action.
Beginning with a gunshot or a chase scene or something similar is not necessarily a ticket to immediate reader involvement, and can also make what follows feel anticlimactic.
If handled with skill, beginning in the thick of action in medias res can work — you should have a purpose for doing so, at least. Solving problems too easily It may sound formulaic, but the tried-and-true rule of threes is a valid principle to fall back on to create effective pacing that creates rising tension.
In this story structure, a character makes two unsuccessful attempts followed by a third successful attempt to solve a problem. Revealing the answer too early Be sure that whether your crime story revolves around the identity of the perpetrator or the reason for the crime you do not reveal so much that your reader is able to predict the end easily.
Play fair with your readers, but scatter red herrings as well to keep them guessing. A red herring is a character or story event that seems significant but is only there to distract the reader from the main reveal.It’ll also help you decide what kind of crime novel you’d like to write.
(See Different types of crime novel) Tip 2. Don’t forget that the crime and the detection of that crime are the most important parts of the novel.
Everything else is simply there to throw the reader off the trail – subplots and red herrings. Crime fiction rewards skilled writers extensively.
Whether you’re writing a harrowing gangland story or a cheeky heist, readers will be ready and eager to jump headfirst into the narrative.
In crime fiction, perhaps more than any other genre, you simply need to give readers an excuse to immerse themselves. You’ll learn how to start thinking like a writer, examine your work with a more critical eye, and turn it into something others will pay to read. Haven’t Written Anything Yet, Writing for Beginners.
Here are a few things I learned along the way to writing a novel between stints as a copywriter. An Outline for Pantsers. By: Guest. How to write the perfect crime story The crime novel, If you know before you start writing exactly who did what (and I always have to) it's relatively straightforward to hide the clues.
Starting with the crime lets you start with drama and mystery, which is what the reader is expecting. That’s not to say the crime has to begin the story chronologically but it should usually be the first event a reader encounters. Now, let us look at the three ways you can start a novel.
Method 1 — Starting with the main protagonist The very first word of your main story can be the name of your main protagonist.