I guess when you work hard at something you eventually get better. At least, that’s my goal when I’m writing. I want each book to be better than the last one, and I am confident that I have achieved that goal with my first three novels (Burned – 2011, Pierced – 2012 , Scarred – TK 2013).
But does writing in itself get any easier?
Yes and no.
YES because I have learned a lot during the last four years, working almost day and night on my Henning Juul series. I am more aware now of the tools a crime writer has at his or her disposal. How to build a character, how to build a story, how to end a chapter in a manner that makes the reader think “I have to read one more chapter before I turn off the light.” I know more instinctively when plot elements or characters are good and when they’re not. That means I become a lot more efficient when I’m working. It does get easier to produce pages that are good.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean those pages will remain in the story. And this is where the NO part comes in. It gets harder and harder each time to create a plot that meets the requirements and expectations of the genre. The standard of crime novels published today is so high, and there are so many extremely talented crime writers out there. To be able to stand out in a genre that has really excelled during the last ten years, you know, as a writer, that you have to be brilliant. And to be brilliant on cue is not an easy excercise, let me tell you. It’s like trying to invent the next big Apple product that will blow away the competition with the ghost of Steve Jobs looking over your shoulder. You know you have to raise the bar.
And the bar, when it comes to crime fiction nowadays, means you have to kill someone in spectacular fashion (have you read any crime novels lately where the killer just shot someone?). It means you have to invent plot devices that are there both to confuse the reader and to give her an opportunity to find out who the real culprit was (so the remote control with just the 4 button on it working – THAT was a clue?). It means hidden agendas (so the janitor at Babes a’Rus was only working there so he could single out his next victims?). And of course, there has to be a surprise twist at the end (just one?). To be able to create stories that meet all these requirements and at the same time make for a good, credible read – that is extremely difficult. Man, I wish I could be Harlan Coben sometimes.
And because crime fiction has become the reader’s favorite genre, the reader herself becomes a lot more skilled and used to plot devices and twist endings. That means you, as a writer, have to invent new ways to outsmart your readers. Not an easy thing to do. And try to imagine what it’s like to be a Scandinavian on top of it all…
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Not for a second. I push myself every day in order to become better at what I do. I am so fortunate to be able to do what I love most in life. What’s there to complain about?
It can, of course, get to you if you feel like your stories aren’t progressing the way you want them to. The key for me in situations like that is to just keep writing. I don’t expect anything I write to be gold right off the bat. I am not afraid to write something that stinks. It is a lot better to have some material to work with than nothing at all. As the old saying goes, writing is rewriting. No authors are brilliant the first time.
But I think there will be a shift in the way crime novels are written in the years to come. Readers will grow tired, I think, of bodies mutilated in ways previously unknown to man. I’m not saying I have the recipe for the next big thing in crime fiction, like Dan Brown had some years ago. And even if I did, I’m not sure I would have shared it with you…
In the mean time; I hope you enjoy my Henning Juul novels. I am trying to raise the bar in my own way. And let me just tell you this: I am done with the warm up now. Things will get really intense from here on in.
Thanks for stopping by today Thomas!
Thomas Enger’s latest release Pierced came out YESTERDAY!
From the internationally bestselling author of Burned (“Possibly the best $15 you’ll spend on a mystery this year.” —Bookpage) comes a taut and riveting tale of secrets, betrayals, and a dangerous quest for the truth.
If you find out who set me up, I’ll tell you what happened the day your son died. That is the message crime reporter Henning Juul—back at work after being terribly burned and scarred for life in a fire that killed his son—receives from a jailed extortionist named Tore Pulli who’s been convicted for a murder he claims he didn’t commit.
Truth has never meant more for Henning Juul. And when Pulli is found dead in his prison cell—an apparent suicide—Juul decides to dig deeper. He knows the murders Pulli was convicted of do not bear his signature, and he’s convinced that Pulli would never have taken his own life. Striking up a fragile partnership with Iver Gundersen, a journalist now living with Juul’s ex-wife, Juul uncovers an internal power struggle in the gang world, where the desire for serious money is destroying the traditional, honor-based hierarchy. Uncovering more questions than answers, Henning soon realizes that he has to find not one but several killers . . . ruthless murderers who have never been more dangerous than they are now.