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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > March 2016 > Crime file: Helen Giltrow

Crime file: Helen Giltrow

Carry readers through the breathless highs and suspenseful lows of your investigation with advice from novelist and tutor Claire McGowan


'Fast-paced' is a comment you will often see appearing on the covers of crime novels. The implication being that a good crime story moves quickly, urging the reader to turn the pages, desperate to find out what’s going on. The kind of book you can read in a couple of hours, with your heart pounding and paper-cuts all over your fingers. But does that mean a crime novel needs to be non-stop action from beginning to end? I don’t think so. Firstly, it depends on the style and sub-genre. Action thrillers will usually be extremely pacey, moving along at top speed with lots of twists and turns and chases and shoot-outs, and possibly hopping between different locations too. Psychological thrillers, on the other hand, usually rely on a slower build, with plausible deniability being the key for much of the book. Is something strange going on? We aren’t sure for a while. So the pace often starts more gently, building up inexorably. Many writers of slow-build books will also use a really exciting prologue to deal with the issue of a quiet start, then take the pace way down again to set up the world of ‘normal’ in the story. You can hopefully tell from this that pace is not just about going fast. It’s about varying the speed the reader moves through the book. Learning to control pace is a really key tool in your writing arsenal. Think of yourself as a conductor, setting the speed and intensity of the reading experience.

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Slow down! Why word counts and targets aren't always good for your writing Synopsis secrets: The single page that will sell your book Top tips for every genre:- • Crime: Perfect pacemaking • Five ways to grow creatively as a children's author • Explore the new trend for genre-blending fantasy Masterclass: Study the style and stories of Henry Fielding, James Thurber, Rudyard Kipling and Roald Dahl Star interview: Anne O'Brien, the challenger to Philippa Gregory's crown WIN! A PC worth £600

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