Thriller Writing Resources

The following list has been put together in respect to the new writers I am doing a thriller writing course with via the Sydney Writer’s Centre. Many of the participants are new to the genre, and equally new to writing fiction.

I also use many more resources, but these are a very good basic pack of books, websites, blogs and information for starting off writing the thriller, doing the research necessary and structuring the mystery, suspense, thriller or crime fiction novel.

Links from this post (not the books) can all be found shared on the Thriller Writers Resources bundle on my account at bitly.


itw-logo-300 International Thriller Writers

Regular ezine, The Big Thrill, membership, debut authors program, and of course – Thrillerfest, the annual writer’s conference which also includes Craftfest and Agentfest.Watch the Thrillerfest website also, although you may not be able to attend the conference, afterwards the presentations and workshops are available to purchase as downloads or DVDs.

stop Stop, You’re Killing Me!

A comprehensive listing of mystery, crime and thriller authors and popular characters, with several indexes to search through.
mwa Mystery Writers of America

MWA, founded in 1945, is the premier organization for mystery and crime writers, professionals allied to the crime writing field, aspiring crime writers, and crime fiction readers. Each spring, they present the prestigious Edgar ® Awards.Mystery Writers of America.
cwa The Crime Writers Association of Great Britain

A professional body which sets out to represent writers of crime fiction and non-fiction.Presents the annual prestigious CWA Dagger Awards to recognize quality in today’s crime and thriller fiction writing.Also has the Crime Readers Association CRA which runs an annual Crime Fiction Week.The Crime Writers Association
Conferences / Workshops
  • THRILLERFEST, the world’s biggest thriller conference, which also includes Craftfest and Agentfest. Usually held in July.
  • BOUCHERCON Crime Fiction Convention – Annual world mystery convention open to anyone. Usually held in October.
  • CRIMEFEST, Bristol, UK – First organised in June 2008. Extremely popular international crime festival.
  • WRITERS’ POLICE ACADEMY, Jamestown, NC, USA. The Writers’ Police Academy offers an interactive and educational experience writers can find to enhance their understanding of all aspects of law enforcement.
  • LOVE IS MURDER CONFERENCE. The Love is Murder Mystery Authors, Readers and Fans Con is always Superbowl weekend, at the Intercontinental O’Hare Hotel, just outside of Chicago.
  • LEFT COAST CRIME MYSTERY CONVENTION – An annual mystery convention sponsored by mystery fans, for mystery fans. It is held during the first quarter of the calendar year in Western North America, as defined by the Mountain Time Zone and all time zones westward to Hawaii.
Other Links
  • Science Thrillers – specifically for the sub-genres of science or medical thrillers, this fan site reviews books.
  • Writer’s Digest Mystery/Thriller articles online
  • Jodie Renner – Jodie Renner is an editor who specialises in thrillers, mysteries and crime fiction. She blogs about the genre and writing in general on her own blog, and on a group blog, Crime Fiction Collective.
  • Killer Thrillers – this is a new collective site designed to give value to ebook thriller readers. The Killer Thriller authors selling ebooks via this site are well-known authors in the industry.
  • Thrillercast – a thriller podcast
  • Crime Writers of Canada – national association for crime writers, professionals. The CWC has sponsored Canada’s Arthur Ellis Awards for Crime and Mystery Writing since 1984.
  • Australian Crime Writers Association – holds the annual Ned Kelly Awards.
Group Blogs and Collectives
Networks and Groups
There are also a few online networks and writers groups with specific thriller genre focus:

Articles and posts on the genre. Note that that articles and posts often go missing, or sites are redesigned, so search around for them if the site still exists.


Thriller Writing

How to Write a Damn Good Thriller How to Write a Damn Good Thriller
by James N. Frey

Provides good basic instruction specific to the genre, starting off with ideas, looking at villains, structure and thriller devices such as stakes, ticking clocks etc.Note: How to Write a Damn Good Mystery is also available. Frey differentiates the two with the following distinction –
“In a mystery, the hero has a mission to find a killer. In a thriller, the hero has a mission to foil evil” (page xiii).
Writing the Thriller Writing the Thriller
by T. MacDonald Skillman

Another good basics book, starting off with defining the thriller, character development, plot construction.
Conflict and Suspense Elements of Fiction Writing – Conflict & Suspense
by James Scott Bell
Thoroughly recommended, along with Bell’s Plot & Structure. This book really helps in understanding conflict.
Writing the mystery novel Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel
by Hallie Ephron

How to write a page-turner mystery, addressing all the sub-genres such as hardboiled, romantic or other crime fiction.
Bullies bastards Bullies, Bastards and Bitches
by Jessica Morrell

Writing the truly memorable antagonist.
 writingaboutvillains Writing About Villains (Writing Craft) by Rayne HallKindle Ebook
Killer Thriller Writing a Killer Thriller
by Jodie Renner
The original10,000 word, 40 page e-booklet produced by Jodie Renner from some of her most popular blog posts on suspense-thrillers.Writing a Killer Thriller Edition 2The 2013 update quadruples the page count and has added more chapters, quotes, and an appendix of resources, associations and sub-genres.
Other Books
The following books have some good reviews on Amazon, and may well provide further benefits, although I have not as yet read these.

  • Writing Mysteries by Grafton, Sue
  • The Ingredients of a Good Thriller by Chris Wood
  • How to Write Killer fiction: The Funhouse of Mystery & The Roller Coaster of Suspense, by Carolyn Wheat
  • Writing the Thriller Film: The Terror Within by Neill D Hicks
  • Thrillers – Ideas for Writers – ideas4writers offers this ebook (PDF) of 101 ideas for thriller writers.
  • Teach Yourself: Writing a Bestselling Thriller by Matthew Branton
  • How to Write a Thriller by Scott Mariani
  • Crime and Thriller Writing: A Writers’ & Artists’ Companion (Writers’ and Artists’ Companions) by Michelle Spring and Laurie R. King (Aug 2013)
  • Now Write! Mysteries: Suspense, Crime, Thriller, and Other Mystery Fiction Exercises from Today’s Best Writers… by Ellis, Sherry and Lamson, Laurie
  • Writing Crime Fiction by Naomi Hirahara, Max Allan Collins, Stephen Gallagher and Dave Zeltserman
  • How to Write a Great Legal Thriller and How to Write a Great Thriller by Rebecca Lake (Kindle ebooks)
  • Thrillers: 100 Must-Reads by Morrell, David, Hank Wagner and David Morrell
Crime Writing Guides
  • The Crime Writer’s Handbook by Douglas Wynn – an ABC to how to kill your characters.
  • The Writer’s Handbook Guide to Crime Writing (British)
Getting the Action Right
  • Writing Fight Scenes by Rayne Hall
  • Write the Fight Right by Alan Baxter
  • Violence: A Writer’s Guide Second Edition, by Rory Miller and Steve Perry
  • Action! : Writing Better Action Using Cinematic Techniques by Ian Thomas Healy
  • The Gun Primer: A Writer’s Guide To Firearm Facts For Fiction by Bruce Jenvey
  • Throwing Lead: A Writer’s Guide to Firearms (and the People Who Use Them) by J. Daniel Sawyer, Mary Mason and Kitty Nic’Iaian

Basics on Writing

Plot and Structure Plot & Structure
by James Scott Bell

Strong beginnings, middles and ends, plotting diagrams and charts, brainstorming – this book is thoroughly recommended.
The Emotion Thesaurus The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression
by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
If you want to show, not tell, this new book provides an encyclopaedic list of character visuals, inner thoughts and other ways to show particular emotions.
Self Editing Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
by Renni Browne

One of the most recommended for revision.
Revision and Self-Editing Revision and Self-Editing
by James Scott Bell

Thoroughly recommended. There is a new edition of this book soon to come out, available for pre-order.
Writing the Breakout Novel Writing the Breakout Novel
by Donald Maass
Still one of my all time favourites, also look for Maass’ The Fire in Fiction, both are great for pacing.
Hooked Hooked: Write Fiction that grabs readers from page one & never lets them go by Les Edgerton.

The first chapter, first paragraph, first sentence.

Researching the Details

Aside from asking or interviewing experts such as doctors, lawyers, or the local police, the writing world is helpfully providing more and more online or written resources or reference guides for the crime fiction writer.

Forensics and Medical

Websites & People:
  • Howdunit Forensics by DP Lyle
  • Forensics for Dummies by Douglas P. Lyle
  • Forensics and Fiction, More Forensics and Fiction and Murder and Mayhem – A Doctor Answers Medical and Forensic Questions for Mystery Writers – all by DP Lyle
  • HowDunit – The Book of Poisons by Serita Stevens
  • Body Trauma – The Writer’s Guide to Wounds and Injuries by David W. Page
  • Also look for other Howdunit Guides such as Cause of Death, Deadly Doses – a Writer’s Guide to Poisons and several others.
  • FBI Handbook of Crime Scene Forensics
  • There are many other affordable CSI / Crime Scene and Forensics books available.
  • Code Blue: A Writer’s Guide to Hospitals, including the ER, OR and ICU by Dr. Keith Wilson and Dr. David Page (USA)
  • The Crime Writer’s Handbook by Douglas Wynn – an ABC to how to kill your characters.

Psychology and the Criminal Mind

Websites and People
  • Katherine Ramsland is a writer and forensic psychologist. She blogs about criminal psychology topics at Psychology Today.
  • John Douglas, the retired FBI BAU Agent is perhaps better known as the author of Mindhunter and other books on famous criminal cases. Whilst in the FBI he co-authored the FBI’s famous Crime Classification Manual. His website offered several articles but is under reconstruction as this is written.
There are many text books or manuals on criminal psychology, but the following have been written specifically for writers.

  • The Criminal Mind: A Writer’s Guide to Forensic Psychology by Katherine Ramsland
  • The Writer’s Guide to Psychology by Carolyn Kaufman

Police, Procedures, Law & Investigation

Websites & People:
  • Police Procedure & Investigation by Lee Lofland (U.S.A. police procedures)
  • The Crime Writer’s Reference Guide by Martin Roth (U.S.A. police procedurals lists) and The Writer’s Complete Crime Reference Book by the same author.
  • Missing Persons (Howdunit Writing) by Fay Faron – a guide to becoming a Private Investigator with an obvious US basis.
  • Also look for other Howdunit Guides such as Scene of the Crime, Just the Facts, Ma’am, Cause of Death, Modus Operandi, Armed and Dangerous: A Writer’s Guide to Weapons, and several others.
  • The Crime Writer’s Guide to Police Practice and Procedure by Michael O’Byrne (British police procedures)
  • Order in the Court: A Writer’s Guide to the Legal System by David S. Mullally (USA)
  • Making Crime Pay: A Writer’s Guide to Criminal Law, Evidence and Procedure by Andrea Campbell (USA)

Overall Research Links

Links from the Post found at Bitly.

Thriller Writer Resources @ bitly


This article has been updated:

  • 17 Sept 2012 : added Crime Scene Investigators Network and ICSIA
  • 19 Sept 2012 : added The Writer’s ER
  • 04 Oct 2012 : added bitly bundle link for all the URLs provided in this article.
  • 14 Nov 2012: added the articles section.
  • 20 May 2013: added Raymond Chandler’s essay.
  • 24 July 2013: added Edition 2 of Writing the Killer Thriller, and links to Gwen Hernandez’s Citizens Police Academy index. Also: conference links, several more article resources and several more books.

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