How to Write True Crime In 4 Essential Steps

Since more people than ever before are interested in true crime stories, you might have wondered how to write true crime and what it takes to be successful.

Out of all the book genres in the world, true crime requires a lot of research and a committed writer who is ready to tell the story behind a gruesome or other type of crime.

It is certainly not a genre for the faint of heart, but for many writers it is certainly worth it. It will take considerable amount of research skills and time dedicated to talking to people involved in the case, attending trials when you can, and understanding how cases are solved.

If you have wondered about the true crime book genre, how to write true crime, and wondered what it takes for you to get your foot in the door, we will cover that and more.

What Defines True Crime Writing

True crime is an arm off of journalist-style writing. Meaning, it should be objective and focus as much on the facts as possible.

Of course, not all true crime stories are about murder since there are many other types of crimes out there in the world that are done every day, but murders are the most well-known type of true crime story.

This is not like creative writing where you want to tell dramatic stories and have some shocking twists. It will be essential for you to stick to the facts as much as possible.

Yes, there will be sometimes where you have to make assumptions on how dialogue went and what people talked about in specific scenarios, but you want to remain as close as possible to the facts as you see them.

How True Crime Articles and Nonfiction Books Grip Readers

People do have a morbid curiosity in general, but for many writers, they love to help try and solve a crime that has plagued an area. Or maybe the crime has already been solved but you are determined to put some of the pieces together.

As a writer, you can also help bring light to forgotten crimes and help bring closure. Not every writer and written piece helps solve crimes, but every now and then that can be the case.

As a writer, you will need to take your work seriously to help tell the story to the best of your ability.

How to Write True Crime

If you are ready to write true crime, let’s talk about how you can start to put together your first story.

#1 – Research

While you will spend a lot of time writing, you are going to be spending more time researching than you ever imagined. It is essential for you to get your facts right for true crime books.

If you put something untrue in your books, people will now view the whole book with a skeptical lens, and possibly your future work as well.

This means you not only will Google and research, but you will possibly need to interview people as well and attend trials, just to double-check your facts.

Always keep in mind that you are writing about real people and real stories, so it is essential to do the best you can to tell the correct story. Not everyone will agree or like everything you say, that’s a given, but you need to get as close to the truth as you can.

#2 – #1 -Figure out your goal

Before you start formatting all of your research into a book, you will want to spend some time thinking about your goal for writing your book or article.

Do you want people to understand the killer? Do you want the crime to speak to a larger crime trend? Do you want to warn others about what killers do so people can stay vigilant? Do you just to tell a story of one crime so people know the truth?

Above all, you need to give people a reason to pick up your book. You should quickly be able to answer, “Why should someone read this book?”

This will also help you focus what you are going to include in the overall book. It would be great if you could include everything, but you will often have to make hard choices about which facts and personal accounts go into your book.

#3 – Decide how much of your own story will be in the book

Some books, such as I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara, include personal stories from the author. Hers story is about how she became obsessed with this case and her journey of putting the clues together.

Another example includes The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule, where she tells the story of her personal friendship with Ted Bundy while people are also trying to find a killer in her local area (spoilers: it’s him).

It will be up to you as the author what you choose to include. Sometimes adding in your personal narrative makes the story stronger, and sometimes it makes it weaker.

#4 – Put the story together

Now is the time to commit and do the hard work of actually putting your story together.

You might need to create one of those true crime type of boards you see in tv shows where you need to lay out everyone involved and all of the stories that tie everyone together.

Know that you will probably have to go through a ton of drafts just to make sure you get everything right and accurate.

Successful True Crime Writer Example

While there are many, many successful true crime writers, Ann Rule was one of the most well-known.

As the writer of 37 true crime books, Ann Rule knows a thing or two about publishing true crime books.

She understood that it was a hard field to break into, but she said, “You can’t let the naysayers make think you can’t make it, because you can.”

One of her top recommendations for true crime writers (besides writing often) is to attend as many of the trials as you can fit into your schedule. You will want to take the time to not only go over the facts, but deeply analyze everyone involved. Watch how the killer moves in his chair, watch how the jury reacts to certain facts, observe how witnesses talk.

The trial can teach you so much about the whole crime.

Mistakes True Crime Writers Make

If you want to succeed as a true crime writer, you will need to make sure you know how to analyze and organize research.

Some of the biggest mistakes true crime writers make it not double checking their facts or rushing through chapters just to get them done so they can move onto other parts.

Many writers also let their own views interfere with their writing and taint how they present the facts because they are trying to persuade readers to go with their point of view.

There are a few common mistakes true crime writers make.

The first one, is becoming so obsessed with the case that it steals your sanity.

Ready to Write Your Book?

Ready to start writing your book and getting it ready for publication?

You do not want to miss out on the nonfiction webinar with all of the tools you need to start putting your book together:


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