It’s a difficult task writing a crime/thriller in first person, especially when the protagonist isn’t the victim, murderer, witness or part of the investigative team. You could argue that the writer who attempts this is rather stupid. To me, it was a puzzle that needed to be solved.
I’ve had to think long and hard about which novel to take forward for submission. It would have been easier to concentrate on Ghost Towns, because the issues from the first draft have been resolved and it’s ready to move onto the next stage. However, I felt compelled to review my first person, crime/thriller novel. Into the Snicket deserved another chance. In its original form it received agency representation and was sent to publishing houses, which is no mean feat. Eight out of sixteen publishers responded, but the consensus was that it lacked the pace required for a crime/thriller genre. It required an overhaul and this would take time, but I couldn’t shelf a project which had got this far.
This task necessitated a certain amount of determination, but I have all the right attributes. When I couldn’t fathom out how to complete more than one side of a Rubik’s cube, I wasn’t one of those cheats who peeled off the stickers to glue them back into the right place. Neither did I dismantle it, piecing together the same coloured squares - taking the easy way out. Instead, I made a resolution to keep clicking at that bloody cube until it was done without the aid of adhesive or a geeky friend. Forty years later, I’m still working at it. I’ll win in the end, but unpublished writers don’t have time for trivial games. I’ve had bigger fish to fry, namely, the mixed genre puzzle, which blighted Into the Snicket.
The matter was finally resolved. It was simple really. So bloody simple, I don’t know why I didn’t do these things in the first place! To create pace, I’ve built up the tension in the first ten chapters. Also, I deleted characters that were getting in the way of crucial elements - such as the murder, the body and the murderer’s identity. However, I knew that it lacked a certain something else.
I couldn’t pinpoint the problem until I attended an Off The Shelf event in Sheffield. Here, Mark Billingham said that crime writers don’t stick cuddly kittens into their books and if they did they’d kill them! How true! His endearing words made me even more of a fan. Then he spoke about the importance of dialogue and I realised that this was the missing link. I should have told him that he’s my hero. Instead, I was star struck, unable to speak, stuttering and blushing unable to explain that his advice has saved my book. Into the Snicket was resuscitated with dialogue. The additional voices allow more perspective: a bigger picture, which enables the reader to take part in the investigation - ticking the crime/thriller box.
It was important that my protagonist’s vulnerable voice doesn’t grate or bore. This isn’t a cute book - it’s about domestic violence for goodness sake. So I took MB’s advice and added more dialogue, planting subtle clues within conversation. This enabled me to delete the clunky murderer’s voice, which had originally made an appearance after every fifth chapter. Now, the murderer’s viewpoint is in the prologue only – serving as a device to show that there has been a murder.
Into the Snicket is ready for agent submission. I know what they are expecting: a synopsis, three chapters, chapter outlines and a letter. Something tells me that I've got a theme for the next blog.....