Writing Tip Number Six

Here is my Writing Tip Number Six. And also reviews of my recent reads and competition news.

Writing Tip Number Six is:

INVITE CRITICISM

No matter how many times you read through your draft, you won’t see what another reader will see. What makes perfect sense to you, might seem incomprehensible, far-fetched or weak to someone else.

If the second reader who sees your writing is an agent or a publisher, they might not have time to point out the errors. All you get is a standard rejection and you’re none the wiser as to why.

My Writing Tip Number Six is share your work with a person or people you trust to give you constructive feedback. This was described by Daily Telegraph crime fiction critic Jake Kerridge in discussions with authors Fran Dorricott, Fiona Erskine and others at CrimeFest as: “Find your tribe”.

My tribe consists of three writers I met when we were students on the distance learning MA in Creative Writing at Lancaster University. Previously I blogged about the students who helped me while I was working on my MA portfolio novel which later became The Perfect Neighbours. I’m pleased to say that four years on from our course, I’m still exchanging feedback with Fergus Smith, Peter Garrett and Gillian Walker. Without their support and enthusiasm, my writing would not have progressed. It’s fair to say Writing Tip Number Six has made the biggest difference to my own writing.

If you haven’t found your tribe yet, consider paying for a critique by a reputable critiquing service. (See below for a link to the service offered by Henshaw Press.) Getting an expert’s view of your draft could well provide the breakthrough you need to take your writing to a publishable standard.

My Recent Reads

May was a great month for my reading so here are my latest book reviews.

Gone in the Night by Mary-Jane Riley

When Alex comes across an injured man in a car crash who then disappears without a trace, her journalist’s antennae start to twitch.

A fast-paced mystery with likeable viewpoint characters, it deals with the issue of homelessness in a thought-provoking and sympathetic way. The setting of Norfolk and Suffolk in winter is so well depicted, you can feel the east wind blowing off every page.

Although it’s the fourth Alex Devlin story, it can be read as a standalone.

The Suspects by Katharine Johnson

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart moves to 1980s Bristol.
Five trainee journalists decide to get on the housing ladder by buying a house together. Sharing a mortgage with relative strangers sounds like a precarious plan at the best of times but it gets a whole lot more unhinged when they find a body in their basement after a New Year’s Eve party. They decide to conceal the death instead of going to the police. (It seemed like a reasonable idea at the time – and they even convinced this reader!) Most of the novel is about narrator Emily’s constant dread of being found out. My heart was racing at times as I shared her guilt – and I was only reading the pages.

She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge

In 1983, fourteen year old Aurora Jackson disappeared while camping with friends. At the time DCI Jonah Sheens was a young copper on the periphery of the enquiry. He’d also previously been on the periphery of the friendship group of the same teenagers when they’d all attended the same school.
When Aurora’s body is finally found, Jonah – now the senior investigating officer – believes at least one of the friends has concealed the truth for over thirty years. But how will he pursue the case with the rigour that it needs without revealing aspects of his own past that he’d like to stay hidden?
Jonah – a likeable detective but with a history that’s hard to like – is the main viewpoint character, but we also hear from Aurora. Her sad, haunting last hours are revealed in a strong flashback thread throughout the story.
Some of the six suspects are more fully drawn than others, but we get to know Jonah’s personable and efficient team well: new recruit Juliette Hanson, enigmatic Ben Lightman and old hand Sergeant O’Malley. There are sufficient hints of their backstories to pave the way for a promising series.
Well-written police procedural. I will look out for book two.

Hell Bay by Kate Rhodes

Kate Rhodes hits that sweet spot crime writers long to reach: the perfect combination of evocative setting; a strong, likeable detective with an interesting backstory; and an intriguing plot.
The imposing figure of Benesek Kitto (six feet four, wild black hair and green eyes) returns to the Scilly island of Bryher – the place he was born – to take compassionate leave from his job as a detective inspector with the Metropolitan Police.
As you would expect in a crime novel, his arrival coincides with the first ever murder on the tiny, peaceful isle. Sixteen-year-old Laura Trescothick is found washed-up on the beach. In no time, Ben is appointed senior investigating officer and finds himself interviewing people he grew up with, people he thought he could trust.
The author twists her hero back and forth across the rugged terrain in the wet, windy, misty March weather against a dramatic backdrop of the onyx-coloured sea. With no cars on the island, Ben visits his many suspects on foot and runs into danger more than once.
I fully expect to see this series on TV before too long. The writing is excellent. The author shares a talent for evoking setting with Australian bestselling writer, Jane Harper. In particular, anyone who liked Jane Harper’s The Lost Man might enjoy Kate Rhodes’s Hell Bay and vice versa.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

Nancy Drew does an EPQ. Great cold case murder mystery gets solved by an A grade sixth former as part of a school project. Plenty of suspects and lines of enquiry clearly explained to the reader by the likeable seventeen year old sleuth. A Young Adult title perfect for teen and adult crime fiction fans.

Writing Competitions

Scribble Magazine are currently running two competitions – one for article writing on the theme “My Writing Day”; and a short story competition on the theme of “Deception.” Details, rules and closing dates are on their website.

With a deadline of 30 June, there’s only a short time to enter Henshaw Press’s latest competition. Full details, including how to obtain a critique of your entry, are on the website.

By Rachel Sargeant

Rachel Sargeant is the crime fiction author of The Roommates, The Good Teacher, The Perfect Neighbours and Gallipoli: Year of Love and Duty. The Perfect Neighbours is a Kindle Top Ten bestseller and has sold over 100,000 copies. Rachel won Writing Magazine’s Crime Short Story competition and has been shortlisted in various competitions including the Bristol Short Story Prize. She was born in Lincolnshire and is a graduate of Aberystwyth University. She now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and children.

Comments (2)

  1. Katy Johnson 10th June 2019 at 7:22 pm

    Great post. Thanks so much for your lovely review of The Suspects and these great book suggestions which I’m adding to my reading list

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