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Books,  Gin & Tonic,  Writing

6 Lessons from a year of writing crime fiction

If you didn’t know yet I have been writing crime fiction for the past entire year. I have been working on a crime fiction novel in the hopes that I could finish it off and start working on the next one. But it is taking time. And last year I decided to livestream the writing so I could get more done. Here are the lessons I learnt.

Lesson 1: Livestreaming yourself writing crime fiction pays off

Writing, especially writing a book, is not usually thought of as a spectator sport per se. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be something done in seclusion.

During 2021 I livestreamed writing sessions on Twitch. I thought it might be a bit crazy but hey there was already at least one person that I knew who was livestreaming editing other people’s writing (with their permission) on Twitch.

And it worked.

What do I mean by that? Well it made me find the time in my schedule to sit down and write because I had a scheduled livestream.

The goal was not to find followers on Twitch. I wanted to learn more about livestreaming and get used to it and I wanted a way to show people how I write in case there was something they could take away from that.

And it was also to get words down. And I did. I have now hit the 50k word mark and while the book is not yet done it is at the tail end. There is some more writing to be done definitely and a sensitivity read but I got words on the page. I made progress.

So hack yourself and your brain into accountability. Half the time no one was watching me live. But I knew I got viewers after the stream ended. So I had to stream and I had to write.

Lesson 2: Other people are doing what you are doing

I ran into the Twitch Writers Network while I was livestreaming. Not all are writing crime fiction. Many of them do very different types of writing and get involved in competitions, writing sprints and other such sessions. Many are also US or UK based. They have a Discord server for coordination and engagement and most of them follow other writers on Twitch and support them.

It was lovely to find a community and I am genuinely so pleased to find them. They are an absolutely lovely bunch.

My next problem now is trying to find a way to engage with all these people while still making time for all the things I currently do.

Lesson 3: The plot will always become more and more convoluted than you expect it to be, even when writing crime fiction

I need to just accept this now I think.

My plots are vast complicated tangled balls of yarn even if I start with just one thread. This is just what happens.

I am not saying that they are hard to follow, far from it. Easy to follow, hard to write.

This plot was simple to start with and now it involves espionage, murder, attempted murder, cold cases and insurance scams.

I said this to someone else on Twitch as well the other day. If you are writing crime fiction and you don’t want to deal with stereotypes, you have two things to do and dovetail together. You are first and foremost following the characters so sure you can follow the detective protagonist character but they are in a more reactive role, a mystery or crime has to kickstart them into gear.

And if you are following the characters to derive the plot, then first you have to have your villain/antagonist. The mystery/crime comes from who they are as people and what they want and why they want what they want and why they choose to get it in such a fashion. That creates the crime, what then follows is the protagonist untangling it. It’s very easy to say that a villain may want to cover up a crime and therefore there are red herrings but why do the crime in the first place?

Once you have the crime is when you can start the protagonist off and follow them as they work out what is going on. And then it becomes a bit of a tango session between discovery and obfuscation between the two.

So there are two plotlines – the creation of the plot and the discovery of the creation of the plot. Add to that then the potential to have different points of view and the whole thing gets easily tangled. Not to mention Aunty related subplots.

Lesson 4: My Patreon supporters are quiet but awesome

Over the last year I got close to about $170 AUD in support on Patreon.

To me that is amazing.I don’t get many questions, comments or suggestions even when I ask for them. I am not even sure many people are actively reading what I write.

But I am grateful for the support. It makes it a little less lonesome to be writing a book in what is your favourite genre but nevertheless one new to you in terms of writing in it.

So I keep posting draft scenes from the book as I go for whoever is quietly reading.

If there is anything you want me to add or offer on Patreon, please do let me know.

Lesson 5: My characters, even my villains have minds of their own and are also surprisingly endearing

I didn’t even realise this till I got to writing one of the main villains later on in the story but then I realised I sympathised deeply with their situation, if not their actions.

And it gave me pause. I suppose it means that maybe I have written characters that are well rounded – where people can see that there are circumstances that drive people to make crappy choices, that they can regret or not regret making them or even both at the same time. That you can understand a villain’s point of view.

I thought it was something to be proud of. So I was happy about it.

Lesson 6: Writing crime fiction is very similar in many ways to writing other genres of fiction

When I write, I always say the characters matter most. They show me where to go, I basically do the equivalent of following them around with a camera.

If the characters work, the plot flows on from there. But people are very complicated and then wham bam, the plot gets all twisty.

This is the same in crime fiction too. These are people too, not caricatures.

So a lot of it is similar but then in the midst of all of that I have to work out where to drop clues and hints, where to have people work out things together or concurrently, when to have people update each other on what they have found and so on.

And then I also promised Aunties. Because there is an Auntie glossary. So now that is the next bit that I have to write.

How did your writing go? What did you manage to get done? What were your wins? What did you struggle with? What can I do to help you with creative writing?

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