Crime Writing: Solving a Murder (2023)

The course

Learn how to read a crime scene – and write the perfect murder.

Join Graham and experts at a specially created virtual crime scene to learn what happens during a homicide investigation, from first 999 call to arrest. Then apply that knowledge in a series of writing assignments that help you plan and plot the perfect murder investigation. Along the way you’ll discover ways to inject more authenticity into all your crime fiction.

During the four-week online training you’ll visit the crime scene with a CSI to start building a credible investigation. And a guest behavioural analyst will help you understand what motivates a killer and how to build the ultimate antagonist. At every stage we’ll look at ways to surprise your reader and get more professional when writing police procedure.

You’ll work in a small group, guided week by week by police advisor Graham Bartlett. Graham will give detailed feedback on your work each week, plus insider insight into crime scene identification, forensics, developing a ‘murder squad’ and writing authentic arrest and interview scenes.

Crime Writing: Solving a Murder (1)

Meet your course director

Graham Bartlett

As well as being a bestselling crime writer, former detective Graham Bartlett advises over 100 authors and TV makers including Peter James, Mark Billingham, Elly Griffiths, Anthony Horowitz and BBC Studios. He teaches on a number of Masters programmes and has been delivering hugely successful courses for many years.

Crime Writing: Solving a Murder (2)

In partnership with Police Advisor

We work in partnership with experienced police procedural advisor Graham Bartlett and his team of experts who help scores of writers achieve authenticity in their crime fiction, from HBO TV dramas to the genre’s best loved authors.

How it works

We give you the theory in the form of videos, podcasts, written lectures and reading extracts. In the case of our live workshops, this includes a live online seminar.

You put it into practice by completing the writing assignments.

You share your work with the small group of fellow writers and the teaching team.

Your tutor and fellow learners read your work and give professional-style feedback on your submission. Giving feedback notes helps to build your skills as an editor - a critical part of the writing process.

You reflect on the exercises with the group and share what you’ve learned.

You use what you learned from the feedback and discussions to review your work and improve it.

Things to know

This course is designed for people with some writing experience.

It’s suitable if you:

  • Write crime fiction and would like to make the procedural element more authentic
  • Want to check the details of a particular setting, era or plot points
  • Feel hampered by procedure in your novel and would like to dramatise events
  • Don’t know how the professionals in your novel would act and react
  • Like experimenting with writing prompts and learning new techniques
  • Would like to develop new and effective ways of building drama
  • Enjoy the discipline of deadlines and peer feedback
  • Want to join a friendly and supportive small group of learners
  • Can dedicate 5-7 hours per week for the duration of the course
  • This course will benefit you if you are a crime writer who wants to dig deep into police procedural methods and learn craft techniques that will help take your writing to the next level.

This course allows you to:

  • Become more aware of the factors that shape the crime writer’s process
  • Explore your potential and practice as a crime novelist
  • Read a crime scene, come up with lines of enquiry, and understand the sequence and timeline of a typical investigation
  • Broaden your range of craft techniques pertinent to crime fiction, including in creating intriguing protagonists, avoiding cliché, building credible drama out of flat and often bureaucratic procedures, and using techniques that keep readers at the centre of the action
  • Become more aware of the process that leads up to the identification, arrest and interview of a suspect, the professionals involved, and how they work together
  • Bring greater judgment in the selection, development and realisation of ideas
  • Employ greater technical proficiency in your writing
  • Further develop the professional skills writers require (eg discipline, attention to detail, ability to work to deadlines)
  • Increase your professionalism in working with others
  • Practise giving effective feedback to other writers and receiving critical notes
  • Build greater independence, autonomy and critical judgment as you work on a final assignment.

There are new lesson instalments on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week.

Session 1: Grasp the Golden Hour – Get to know your group and the crime scene, discuss the difference between authentic crime fiction and reality, and find out whether you’re a naturally deeply procedural crime writer or if policing is more ancillary to your plotting. You’ll enter our Virtual Crime Scene and meet the crime-scene experts, with a briefing between a crime scene investigator and senior investigating officer, and learn about crime-scene management. Writing assignment: outline your lines of enquiry and the characters you’ll write about during the course. Then join a live webchat with Graham and the CSI to discuss your findings.

Session 2: Profile Your Protagonist – Graham fills you in on latest developments from the virtual crime scene, summing up what should have been achieved 24 hours in. Compare real SIOs at a crime scene with fictional protagonists, thinking about what makes a compelling protagonist for a crime story or series. Writing assignment: build a picture of your fictional lead police officer and show them at this point in the investigation, giving insight into their character.

Session 3: Dramatise the Hunt – 36 hours on from the crime, Graham updates you on progress, and what you need to take a fictional investigation story forward in time and action. We’ll look at crafting killers, reading extracts to see how different writers adopt different types of killers. Listen to an expert behavioural analyst on reading character traits from scenes and raising the stakes. We’ll also move on to the interview stage, and ways to using interview scenes to build draa. Join a live webchat with Graham and our behavioural analyst on catching suspects, ways to make your antagonists worthy adversaries, limitations on the police – and how to get round them.

Session 4: Quiet Writing Time – Using what you’ve learned over the past few weeks, you’ll write and edit 2,000 words featuring your police officer, suspect and the investigation ready to upload by the end of the course. Or work on a 2,000 piece from a work in progress. Graham offers tips and guidance as you write, and we encourage you to read and respond to your peers’ developing stories.

At the end of the course, Graham will provide feedback on your writing.

Join our alumni community

After your course, you can join our online alumni community – a friendly group of writers supporting each other as they continue to explore and develop their writing. There’s no cost for this. It’s easy to access via the online classroom, where you can:

  • Revisit all your course materials, including tutor notes, feedback, videos, podcasts and forum posts
  • Rejoin your classmates, and continue working together in a private space
  • Meet alumni from other courses to find beta-readers and share work on our critiquing forum
  • Network with other writers working in your genre or area of interest
  • Take part in regular ‘sit and write’ Zoom sessions, to push forward with your work-in progress
  • Join our monthly live alumni events with our expert tutors and industry guests, including agents, editors, publishers, competition and festival organisers, and prizewinning writers.

Feedback on your work

At the end of the course Graham will give feedback on the procedural aspect of your final submission. If you would like more detailed or ongoing feedback on your work or consultancy for an extra fee, please email [emailprotected] for details.

Taking things further
If you’d like to continue on to another Professional Writing Academy course,please get in touchfor more details.

Meet your course team

Crime Writing: Solving a Murder (3)

Graham Bartlett

Police Advisor

As well as being a bestselling crime writer, former detective Graham Bartlett advises over 100 authors and TV makers including Peter James, Mark Billingham, Elly Griffiths, Anthony Horowitz and BBC Studios. He teaches on a number of Masters programmes and has been delivering hugely successful courses for many years.

More about Graham Bartlett

Allison Aylward


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Being able to call on the services of someone as experienced and knowledgeable as Graham Bartlett is an amazing resource…He has made the book so much better than it would otherwise have been.

Mark Billingham, Bestselling Author

Find out about our payment plans and get in touch.

Course Alumni

Meet our writers

Crime Writing: Solving a Murder (4)

Mike Lisle-Williams

Crime Writing: Making it Real alum

So many thanks to Graham, experts Kate and Lesley, and our moderator for a superb course. I've learnt so much, had fun and managed to be pretty productive. And everyone taking the course has been stunning - talented, highly effective and generous. What a pleasure it's been.


More about Crime Writing: Making it Real

Crime Writing: Solving a Murder (5)


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What is the formula to write a murder mystery? ›

Rule #5: Mysteries have a formula; follow it.

Lay the suspects, make your detective be the one to solve the case, kill the victim in the first third of the story. If you break these rules, the reader won't trust you.

How do you reveal a killer in a murder mystery? ›

Clues There All Along: The murderer's identity should be hinted at through clues that were present throughout the book, but went unnoticed until the big reveal. The Detective's Skills: The detective's skills should play a big part in solving the crime and revealing the murderer.

What are clues in a murder investigation? ›

These are objects or material traces, usually found at the crime scene or among the suspects' possessions. They might include the murder weapon, carpet fibers, soil crumbles, a lost button, a tire track, discarded wrappers, a tube of lipstick, and so on.

How do you end a murder story? ›

Include a twist near the end.

A good murder mystery has a twist near the end so that the reader is surprised to find out the ending. The key is the twist shouldn't be so abrupt that it leaves the reader feeling cheated. Rather, it should follow the logic and clues of the story but in an unexpected way.

Is mystery hard to write? ›

If you've ever tried your hand at crafting a mystery, you'll know it's not the easiest thing to do. It's not rocket science, of course, but it still takes effort, planning, and understanding what needs to happen and when. That's probably why the mystery genre is considered a difficult one to write in.

How do you write a murder mystery backwards? ›

A common piece of advice for aspiring murder mystery writers is to plot backwards. What this means is that you start your planning at the end of the story—when the detective or other authority has identified (and/or caught) the murderer. Then you work backwards from there.

What are the clues for a crime scene? ›

biological evidence (e.g., blood, body fluids, hair and other tissues) latent print evidence (e.g., fingerprints, palm prints, foot prints) footwear and tire track evidence. trace evidence (e.g., fibers, soil, vegetation, glass fragments)

How do serial killers find their victims? ›

Generally, serial killers select their victims based on certain physical and/or personal characteristics. When a serial killer begins their hunt for human prey, it is almost always true that they know absolutely nothing about the person who is to become their victim.

How do you identify a serial killer? ›

Serial killers differ in many ways, including their motivations for killing and their behavior at the crime scene. However, attendees did identify certain traits common to some serial murderers, including sensation seeking, a lack of remorse or guilt, impulsivity, the need for control, and predatory behavior.

What are the elements of murder mystery? ›

Page 1
  • 6 Key Conventions Common to. Murder-Mystery Plots. ...
  • The Murder. The murder is the central plot in any murder mystery. ...
  • The Murderer. Even though the author doesn't reveal the murderer until the end of the book, the murderer is an important character. ...
  • The Victim. ...
  • The Detective. ...
  • The Clues. ...
  • Misdirection and Twists.

What is the format of a mystery? ›

First use suspense at the start, usually in the form of a crime. Secondly, start adding clues for the investigator or main character, and introduce one or more suspects. Finally, the main character either solves the mystery, or doesn't, if you want to end on a cliffhanger and write a second part to your story.

What are the elements of a murder mystery story? ›

10 Ingredients for the Perfect Murder Mystery
  • Location, location, location. So much of a story relies on its setting. ...
  • The detective. A pivotal part of the plot. ...
  • The victim. ...
  • Suspects. ...
  • A weapon. ...
  • Clues. ...
  • Suspense.....
  • The theme.
Mar 19, 2018

How do you write a mystery structure? ›

How do you structure a mystery story?
  1. Step One: The Hook. These are stories about solving crime, and that means the plot should start off with, well, a crime. ...
  2. Step Two: The Investigation. ...
  3. Step Three: The Red Herrings. ...
  4. Step Four: The Capture and Grand Escape.
Jan 27, 2022

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