Done well, crime fiction can be one of the most effective genres for talking about social issues and the problems of society, says tutor Andrew Nette. Ahead of his upcoming workshop, we talked to Andrew about what makes crime fiction so thrilling.
In your upcoming workshop, participants will explore the rules of the crime fiction genre, and how to break them. Do you feel that breaking the rules is an essential step in writing compelling crime fiction?
Not necessarily. It really depends on what you want to write. You might be aiming to do a piece of very mainstream commercial crime fiction, in which case you would want to adhere very closely to the conventions of that genre. Or, you might be penning a dark, transgressive noir novel, which may require a more daring approach. When it all comes down to it, there really are no rules to writing crime fiction. There’s just your imagination and the page. The rest is ultimately up to you.
There are rules, of course, both in terms of writing fiction generally and relating to crime fiction in particular. I suppose the point I want to make in the workshop is it is incredibly useful to know the rules of crime fiction, regardless of whether you want to write to them or break them, but, perhaps, especially if you want to break them.
Given the intricacies of plot in most crime fiction, do you feel that planning is a key part of the creative process? What advice would you give to writers who struggle to map out their plot in advance?
Again, this depends on the individual and how they work. Some people are meticulous planners. Others are able to fly by the seat of their pants. And, a lot of writers, such as myself, fall somewhere in between. The only thing I would say is know where you sit in the spectrum and set your expectations and writing speed accordingly. I’ll discuss this issue in the workshop and provide tips for writers who are struggling with plotting their novel. Regarding this latter point, the only thing I would say is while it can be important to get the plot down, don’t agonise about it too much at the start. Just get writing. The marvellous thing about the creative writing process is you can always go back and change something if you don’t think it is working.
Your workshop also deals with how to push through blockages and problem passages – is this something you have learned from experience?
Yes. The writing doesn’t always flow well. Sometimes it doesn't flow at all. This is just a fact of life you have to accept. That said, there are things you can do to get over these blockages and restart a stalled manuscript.
Who are some of the masters of crime fiction, and are there any books that you would say are essential reading for aspiring writers of the genre?
How many thousand words do I have to go into this? Seriously, this is such a huge topic. Also, there are so many different types of crime writing and the particular authors that may be essential reading for you, depend on what you want to write. I am a huge fan of James Ellroy, but I like noir fiction. If you want to write a whodunit, Agatha Christie should be on the list of essential crime reading. This is something else I’ll be talking about in the workshop.
Your work deals primary with the crime genre in both writing and film – what is it that draws you to this genre?
Crime fiction is not only a terrific form of entertainment. Done well, I believe it is one of the most effective genres for talking about social issues and the problems of society. Thrills plus sharp observations about the state of the world - what more can you ask for?
About Andrew Nette
Andrew Nette is the author of two crime novels, 'Ghost Money' and 'Gunshine State'. 'Ghost Money' was shortlisted in the 2010 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards in the category of Unpublished Manuscript by an Emerging Victorian Writer. His short fiction has appeared in a number of print and online publications, including the anthologies 'Crime Scenes' and 'The Obama Conspiracy: Fifteen Stories of Conspiracy Noir', out via Three Rooms Press later in 2017. His online home is www.pulpcurry.com. You can find him on Twitter at @Pulpcurry.
About Amy Adeney
Amy Adeney is a Writers Victoria intern. She is a primary teacher and founder of Busy Bookworms, a bookclub for preschoolers.