writing challenges: the crime novel

I’m writing a crime novel.

When I told my friends they nearly pissed themselves laughing. Naturally, because I’m notorious in my circles for disliking crime novels. Hating them, even, though I don’t like to use that word myself. I haven’t read any crime novels in the past five years or so, after I read the disaster that is Män som hatar kvinnor. Or was that more like seven years ago? Time flies, and I don’t care.

Anyway – I don’t like to read crime novels because they bore me. I’ve usually figured out whodunnit within the first 1/4 of the book, and after that…what’s the point in continuing to read it? I’ve already figured it out. I’m 100% sure. The only reason I keep reading is because I’m stubborn and I want to say HAH I KNEW IT and then slam the book down with a very self-satisfied and haughty look on my face. (I know, I know. I can be rather obnoxious about this.)

My problem with crime novels is that they are very formulaic, and once you know the formula, it’s very easy to figure out the plot. Because a good crime novel has the solution to the mystery very early on – without, of course, putting a series of red flags pointing directly at it – so that in the end when the mystery is solved, the reader gets the ‘oh my god’ experience, because they did not see that coming, except that was totally there in front of them the whole time. Pair that with some very uninteresting and bland protagonists, and I just stop caring altogether. Maybe I have been reading the wrong crime novels (I hear many of the Nordic ones are really good, but after Stieg Larsson I’m very reluctant to trust that assessment), but I am sick to the death of crime novels with a bland male detective who inevitably meets a woman during his mystery detecting and gets her in the end. The guy usually has no personality and the woman usually is only interesting when she magically has a piece to the puzzle and as the eventual prize. Where’s my emotional investment? Non-existent.

Now, my other problem with crime novels is that I absolutely DETEST writing them. Because while I may moan and whine about how boring and formulaic these novels are, I can’t plot one to save my life.

Or, well, I can. But not very well.

My way of plotting and the way a crime novel is plotted clash rather spectacularly. My plotting is linear – and a very straight, no-bends, no-skips, line at that –  whereas a good crime novel plot has all sorts of bends and backtracks and blind alleys.

My plot:
Character finds clue 1, clue 2, clue 3, clue 4, clue 5….clue 10, solves mystery.

Crime novel plot:
Character finds clue 3, two dead ends, clue 1, clue 2, a major red herring, one backtrack, clue 5, goes on a wild goose chase, goes back to clue 3, rediscovers new clue (let’s call it clue 0.1), eventually pieces everything together and solves mystery. And gets the girl in the happy end wow excuse me while I vomit

Man, I loathe crime novel plotting.

I have serious respect for crime novel writers, because they make it all look so damn effortless and easy, while I’m sitting here trying to come up with red herrings – but my logical and rather Occam’s razor-orientated mind doesn’t like that very much, when I can just put down these few clues that will lead straight to the solution. Why put all that other extra stuff in there that just gets in the way? Dumb, my brain tells me, and refuses to give me anything.

I’m starting to think that maybe I should start plotting my crime novels more like the romance novels I’ve plotted in the past – with two plots; one major plot and one subplot. The subplot can be the blind herring that the main character mistakenly believes is part of the major plot. In the end, however, it will be clear that the subplot had nothing to do with the major plot, and once the main character has figured that out, the solution to the mystery becomes very clear.


God, I don’t know.

I just know that I have mad respect for everybody who writes crime novels because I’m about to tear my hair out.


new year: new risks and new starts

I just made a decision which is going to impact the next year and a half of my life and it is utterly terrifying.

What is life without risk? Perhaps this will be my catchphrase for 2015.

Things I will lose:
1) lifelong dream of moving to Edinburgh for a year.
2) finishing my MA degree by summer.
3) probably something else. I just wanted a third point here.

Things I will gain:
1) time to write my MA thesis and make a good job of it.
2) time to unwind from the stresses of 2014, the blow of which has finally hit me, and hit me hard.
3) time to write and finish a couple of projects.

Essentially I stand to gain time – precious, priceless and invaluable. Time.

What I did was decide to postpone my second January exam (the first January exam was my thesis research plan, which I handed in before Christmas) until June. This means postponing my thesis until the fall semester. What this gives me is a spring semester void of classes and thesis writing, which means that all I have to care about is my part time job and all the wonderful free time which I can then use to write.

The awful thing about the fall semester of 2014 is that however much I wanted to, I could not find the time or summon the energy to do any kind of writing that wasn’t work or uni related. I sorely need the breather – I’ve been powering on with uni and work for the past five years and a half, and with the added toxic work environment for all of 2014, I’ve nearly reached the breaking point. I need some me time. I need some writing time. I need some time to step back from my studies for a bit. I need some time to recover from 2014!work so that I can start 2015 !work with new colleagues, hope in my heart and an open mind.

Perhaps my catchphrase for 2015 shall just be time.

As for my dream of moving to Edinburgh? Well. I can always do that later. The plan I had won’t work for now, but if there’s something I’ve learned it is that plans rarely work out – so I come up with new ones.

Cheers. Here’s to the new year, new risks and new starts.

river dee in chester. new year 2014/15.
river dee in chester. new year 2014/15.