‘Trust your instincts’ – Bestselling crime writer Elizabeth Haynes shares writing tips with Author Advice

Elizabeth Haynes


Elizabeth Haynes is the author of five crime novels, including her debut Into the Darkest Corner which won Amazon UK’s Rising Stars award in 2011 and was featured in Channel 4’s TV Book Club. Into the Darkest Corner has been published in more than 30 countries and is a New York Times Bestseller.

She has participated in National Novel Writing Month – an annual challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November – since 2005, and all her novels were written during NaNoWriMo.

Elizabeth lives in Norfolk with her husband, son and Spanish Stray dog, a podenco called Bea.

Elizabeth’s latest project is the Briarstone Major Crime procedural novels featuring DCI Louisa Smith. The second book in the series, Behind Closed Doors, is released in paperback on January 29 (2016).



My Three Top Tips for Writers

1. Write for fun
Your writing is almost always better when you’re enjoying the process – and by enjoying, I mean not necessarily whooping with joy as you go. You need to be emotionally invested in your characters, you need to cry with them, and hate them, at the same time as you’re longing for them to succeed or fail. I don’t plan my books; I set up a challenge of some sort and then write the rest of the book in order to find out what happens. This method isn’t for everyone, but I do think it’s vital, whether you’re a ‘planner’ or a ‘pantser’, to be enjoying the process. If you’re fed up with it, your reader will be too. If you’re not enjoying what you’re writing, then something has gone wrong somewhere – you’ll have strayed into the wrong plot, or one of your characters hasn’t properly revealed themselves to you yet, or the setting is not right. Trust your instincts. Find what’s wrong, fix it, and get back to work. Don’t give up.

2. Finish
It’s extraordinarily hard to bring a book to a conclusion – so much so that, in proportion to the number of people who write, very few people actually manage it. I think this is because your subconscious gets in the way at that point; it’s a scary moment, because when you’ve finished, then you will have to DO something with it, right? The easiest way to avoid this is to carry on writing, or, worse, to stop completely. The pressure to come up with a brilliant ending is enough to make many people give up. But there’s no inherent reason why the last chapters should be any harder to write than the beginning, or the middle. In fact, you don’t need a brilliant ending – certainly not at the first draft stage. You just need to pick a viable conclusion, write it, and finish. You’re still a huge way off having a ‘finished’ draft, but at least now you can have a little celebration and then get on with editing it. My endings always change dramatically through the editing process, sometimes several times.

3. Start something new
Whether you have one eye on publication or you’re just writing for fun, when you finish one project start something else as soon as you can. You can edit your first book while you’re writing your second. The advantages of this are several: firstly, writing is fun, and if you’re going to edit while you’re doing it you might as well have something fun to look forward to as well. Secondly, if you are intending to seek publication, agents and editors will see that you are serious about your work and that you have the potential to have another book ready soon. Thirdly, if you’re easily bored, like me, you can switch between projects to keep yourself entertained. If you’ve only got one book on the go, and that one is proving to be difficult, it’s easy to find yourself spending several days away from it and then it’s much harder to get back to work. You can set yourself deadlines if you need them, or you can just work at your own pace – whatever works best for you.

You can find out more about Elizabeth via her website (www.elizabeth-haynes.com).

To order any of her books please click on the titles below:

Into the Darkest CornerRevenge of the TideHuman Remains (Myriad Editions), Under a Silent Moon  and Behind Closed Doors (Sphere).


About Donna-Louise Bishop

I'm a writer, freelance reporter, creative writing tutor, and blogger, living in the beautiful county of Norfolk UK. In my spare time I am also a wife, a mother to three boys, and a human washing machine.
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