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Tips for Writing Thrillers

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Let’s skip to the point. You’ve already decided on a few things: you like stories (mainly of the suspense-thriller variety), want to write your own, and want to publish something for a wider audience. The only hang-up is you’re not quite sure how to go about it all, right?

Well, there are TONS of resources online that will take you on a wonderful adventure down the rabbit hole that I won’t waste time regurgitating. However, five years ago, I was in the same position you might be in—and now I’m the author of two self-published books (currently working on my third) through IngramSpark.

This isn’t going to be a long, exhaustive list of everything you have to do in self-publishing a book and becoming a suspense-thriller author. In this post, I'll give you insights into my personal journey with some "how-to" sprinkled throughout in the hopes it will provide some inspiration and motivation!

How about we time-travel a bit? Back in 2010, the first inklings of a story I wanted to write came to mind, but I had a problem on my hands. I knew I wanted to write REALISTIC fiction, not fantasy where I’d have to create whole worlds, which is where my first dash of how-to comes in:

Write the kind of book that you would love to read yourself.


Having realistic fiction means having to be, well, real. You just can’t make up a bunch of stuff lest you want to jar your reader. Of course, you can take artistic liberties when writing, but you have to be really careful with how much you put in. I knew this would involve research to be certain I had believable facts and figures, but I didn’t know how to go about it.

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Google searches can only provide so much, and then you risk getting information that may or may not be accurate. So, on a whim, I decided to email one of my favorite authors, Lisa Gardner, and she actually replied back (which I’m still giddy about to this day). I asked her how on earth she was able to be so accurate in her tales (which, if you’ve read her books, you know how intricate she is with her crime stats). Her advice?

Talk with local police, lawyers, and doctors who will lend your story credibility.

So, I did that for my first two novels, Save Them All and its sequel, The Wounded. Trust me, readers of this genre can not only tell, but they truly appreciate it!

Right now you’re probably thinking, “Ok, Mr. Bailey. What about developing all this research? How do I turn it into a story and not a textbook?”

Well, the best way to answer that question is to ask more questions! Hear me out.

Think back to some of your favorite and even least favorite books and ask yourself these questions:

1. Do you like action and mystery?

2. Did you wish there was more or less romance and sex?

3. What did you like or dislike about the pacing?

4. Did too many characters and subplots confuse an otherwise great storyline?

These are just a few questions I asked myself, and there are many, many more questions to consider, but the point is that your answers to these questions are what’s going to help you develop your story.

However, I will say this: The genre is suspense-thriller, right? As you’re writing your story, make sure that it provides both suspense and thrills. That’s the secret formula!

End chapters on cliffhangers, keep readers guessing from page to page, and thrill them through the use of action elements.

Without giving away spoilers from my books, I included a modicum of sex and romance, chase scenes, the classic hero versus villain dynamics, and the obligatory shocking deaths. It might look different for you, or it might look the same, but when you boil it down to its essence, you just need to remember to provide suspense and thrills.

The last tidbits I’ll give are things to consider when you start the process of putting a bow on the thrilling package you’ve written. I chose self-publishing because I was impatient. Sending out queries only to get rejections got annoying. Mind you, in every rejection letter I received, the agents said my writing was good but that the story wasn’t one they were ready for.

I wanted to get my creation out there in the hands of readers, so finding IngramSpark was a godsend. I had full control over my book’s creation, from the title to the story, to the cover, to the trim size, which I’ll add, are essential elements to catch a reader’s attention. In the end, I’m happy with my outcomes, and although it didn’t come without some lessons—which you will soon discover—before long, you’ll be thrilling audiences and writing guest blogs about how you did it. Trust me.


Read the Complete Guide: How to Self-Publish a Book

K.O. Bailey

K.O. Bailey is the self-published author of Save Them All and The Wounded and is currently working on his 3rd book, Whistle at the Girl. When not thinking of more crazy stories to write, he attends Kansas State University as a counseling Ph.D. student. You can follow him and keep up with his writing and learning adventures on Instagram (@kobaileybooks).