Archive Page 3 of 22

What a publisher does – part 1: editing

Most of the visitors to The Crafty Writer have a goal of getting their writing published or produced. But what happens when, in the case of a prose manuscript, it is actually accepted by a publisher? We decided to ask John Köehler of Köehler Books to give us an insider’s perspective. In the first in this three-part series, John tells us about the editing process. Continue reading ‘What a publisher does – part 1: editing’

When writing is a crime – tips from a real CSI

I was very chuffed to be contacted by a real CSI recently who pointed out a ‘minor error’ in my literary thriller, The Peace Garden. Apparently I said a detective took some fingerprints, whereas it’s supposed to be a Crime Scene Investigator. He said it was a small error and that it didn’t impact on his enjoyment of the story as a whole which he describes as ‘a wonderfully well-crafted book’. But I’m glad he told me and I will be sure to correct it in the next edition. However, it got me thinking: what other common errors do writers commit when writing crime for book or screen? CSI Trembling has been kind enough to put together this guide:

I have been involved in criminal activity for over ten years now. No, that’s not a confession – I work as a Crime Scene Investigator (or Scenes of Crime Officer in old money!). I also read crime fiction, watch crime dramas on TV, and have written a crime novel. And, as a CSI, many of the things I see or read make me cringe! Sometimes good writing is let down by a poor appreciation of what real crime scene investigation is about. So, for the benefit of any aspiring crime writers, here are a few pointers.


Not all detectives have alcohol or relationship problems! Certainly show your character as flawed and human – but avoid the clichés.


Fictional detectives often work in teams of two. From a writer’s point of view, that’s an excellent device. It gives you a ready-made vehicle for developing characters and revealing information. The problem is that (in Britain at least) police forces don’t work that way! A major crime such as murder will have a number of detectives allocated to it. Typically there’ll be a Detective Chief Inspector as SIO (Senior Investigating Officer), with a variable number of Detective Inspector(s), Detective Sergeants and Detective Constables working on the case. There’ll also be specialists coming in at various times to add their input. It’s a team effort. The Prime Suspect TV dramas are quite good examples of how a murder investigation is managed – though bear in mind that the DCI in charge will probably be overseeing several operations at once.


Police forces all do much the same thing – but sometimes in very different ways. Not so much of a problem if your story’s about a fictional force, but if you’re writing about a real one, make sure you check the details.

The Crime Scene

How many times have you seen this on TV? The detective wanders into the crime scene, pulls on a pair of gloves and recovers the crucial piece of evidence. The problem with this is that, in real life, the detective has just rendered that evidence worthless! Entering a major crime scene without proper forensic clothing means potential cross-contamination, which means that all evidence recovered is open to challenge in court. Of course, it does happen – most CSI’s could tell you some horror stories about that – but if that’s how you write it, beware of the implications!


This is probably one of the most common areas for making mistakes. To put it simply, you can’t find fingerprints on just any surface – no matter how badly the plot needs it! Smooth, shiny surfaces such as glass and metal are good for fingerprints. Paper, cardboard and plastic bags will respond well to chemical treatment in the lab. But bear in mind that weather conditions have a considerable affect, and some surfaces (unpainted wood, rusty metal or most fabrics) will be unlikely to retain any marks at all.


The effectiveness of DNA recovery has increased dramatically over the years. If your suspect has drunk from a bottle or left behind a tool then there will probably be a much better chance of identification from DNA than fingerprints. In one murder / arson case I read about recently, DNA was recovered from a petrol can. But there are still limits. Recovering an offender’s DNA from a body, for example, would be unlikely unless there’s actual blood or tissue present (such as under the nails, from scratches).


Or, to be more accurate, footwear marks – since in the UK people don’t often go around barefoot! A lot can be learned from a good footwear mark, but (surprisingly, perhaps) not the size of the shoe. The reason being that in normal walking our feet don’t make complete and even contact with the ground. So it’s rare to find an exact and perfect mark. However, there are thousands of different tread patterns, so there’s a good chance of matching a mark to a specific type of shoe, boot or trainer. Moreover, since we all walk slightly differently, the wear pattern on the tread is distinctive. An expert can often say quite definitely that this shoe made this mark. But keep in mind that analysis to that level can’t be done by the CSI or detective at the scene – and you do need the suspect’s footwear for comparison.

These are just a few indications of the most common problems. As with any other writing – do your research!

Paul’s novel ‘Can of Worms’, is a crime thriller based on his own experience as a Scenes of Crime Officer. It’s available in Kindle format, or as a paperback. He has also written a number of short stories, mostly in the fantasy genre.
Paul Trembling’s blog.
Follow Paul on Facebook.

How to start a publishing co-operative

Starfish logoI’ve recently come across a new phenomenon in publishing: the independent publishing co-operative. One of the best examples I’ve found is Starfish – a group of authors who have pooled resources to publish their own books. As many authors struggle to get that elusive publishing deal but don’t feel confident going it alone, this could be the way forward. I asked Starfish founder Martin Willoughby to tell us a little bit more about it. So without further ado, it’s over to Martin … Continue reading ‘How to start a publishing co-operative’

Creative Writing bursary

If you’re 25 or under, you may qualify for a bursary to study masters’ level creative writing at the University of East Anglia. I did a MA at Northumbria University in 2005/6 and have never regretted it. Here is some more information on the creative writing bursary. If you’re wondering whether or not a MA is for you (and you don’t have to be under 25 to do one!) there is an oldish but still enlightening article on it in the Guardian – are creative writing courses worth it? And if you can’t afford a course in terms of time or money, some of the things you will learn in an MA course can be found in my free online creative writing course.

Calling for guest bloggers

We are looking for ‘how to’ guest posts by published / produced writers in all genre and across all media. If you have something to share with writers lower down the ladder on the business or craft of writing, then this is the place for you. You will be able to reference your own work as an example of what you are discussing, but we do not publish reviews or promos of books / films / plays / poetry collections etc. Please have a look around the site and read some of the previous guest blogs to get an idea of style and content.

If you think you have something to contribute, please contact me to discuss your idea. Please note, if you are a self-published author we would be happy to consider articles on the business of self-publishing but would prefer articles on ‘craft’ to come from writers with mainstream publishing credits. This is not to say that we do not believe self-published writers are by definition inferior in craft but we feel your experience in the business field will be more valuable to our readers!

Red Squirrel Press poetry competition

Red Squirrel Press are running the Fourth Annual James Kirkup Memorial Poetry Competition.

CLOSING DATE: 30 December 2012

Prize: Publication of a 28 page pamphlet. Winner receives 50 free copies

Judges: Anne Connolly, Elizabeth Rimmer


Entry fee is £5 via PayPal or cheque, please make cheques payable to ‘Red Squirrel Press Ltd’

  • You may enter up to 4 poems.
  • Poems may be up to 40 lines on any subject.
  • You must be over 18 years of age.
  • Your poem(s) should be typed on one side of A4 paper.
  • Your poem(s) will not be returned to you.
  • Poem(s) must be in English (or English dialect).
  • Poem(s) must not have won or be under consideration in other poetry competitions.
  • Poem(s) must not be a translation of another poet’s work.
  • Anyone published/ scheduled to be published by Red Squirrel Press is not eligible to enter.
  • Red Squirrel Press regrets entries by email will NOT be accepted.

Please send entries to:

James Kirkup Poetry Comp
Red Squirrel Press
Briery Hill Cottage
United Kingdom
NE61 6ES

Writing a series: tips from Ruth Downie

I recently received some advice from a publisher friend. He said:

‘The days of the one-off novel are over. If you want to get published, you should consider a series.’

Now while I hope it is not entirely true that the one-off novel will no longer find a place on the shelf (one would think literary novels would still flourish in the singular) I see the marketing wisdom in conceptualising a series of novels. Seeing the two series I’ve been involved in are children’s picture books, I thought it best, when talking about novels, to ask someone who knows what she’s talking about. Come in, Ruth Downie! If you don’t already know, Ruth, who is an old friend of the Crafty Writer, has written a bestselling series of Roman mysteries known as the Ruso novels. Continue reading ‘Writing a series: tips from Ruth Downie’

Free Christian Writing Course

I’ve just revised the content of my Christian writing course which used to be housed at my old site, but now has a brand new home all of its own.

This five part workshop is aimed at people who want to explore writing as part of their Christian walk – you can work through the material on your own or as part of a discussion group. Topics covered include:

It’s completely free and you can go at your own pace. Hope to see you there!

Writing children’s picture books

I’ve been giving tips on writing children’s picture books over at the very popular Morgen Bailey’s blog. I talk about my process in writing the Myro the Microlight series for Nick Rose Publishing and the Young David Series, including David and the Hairy Beast and David and the Kingmaker for Crafty Publishing. You can read my top tips including limiting narrative arcs, putting sub-plots in the illustrations and foregrounding story and backgrounding message. Also check below for other posts on writing for children.

What’s the difference between trad publishing, self-publishing and POD?

I’m frequently asked to help people make sense of the various publishing options currently available. So I’ve put together this guide to help you distinguish between the different forms of publishing and help you make an informed choice as to which route to pursue.

What are the defining differences between traditional publishing, self-publishing, print-on-demand services, and co-publishing? Continue reading ‘What’s the difference between trad publishing, self-publishing and POD?’