Nonfiction requires time and patience to write, and the research mushrooms into a full-scale true crime investigation. This article focuses on contemporary crime.
For the sake of clarity, let’s define the word contemporary as:
- The crime occurred within the last 30 years.
- Most of the “characters” in the book are still alive.
One of the most important skills to learn is how to conduct an interview. Writers are curious creatures, and that natural curiosity helps a great deal. Knowing what questions to ask requires a full chapter by chapter summary. There’s no such thing as “winging it” in true crime. Not only do we need a solid plan to view the story on a macro-level but we can’t sell the proposal to a publisher without a chapter outline.
For example, I wrote a 40-page book proposal for my new case, not including the sample chapters. I also wrote a separate 20K+ word chapter summary (another 50 pages) to use as a guide for the upcoming book, now meticulously plotted. That’s 90 pages before ever writing one word of the manuscript. Whether other true crime authors write an expanded chapter summary (expanded from the one required in the proposal), I have no idea. But here’s why I do it.