The Crime Readers' Association

Saturday Sixers: 6 Common Maladies That Affect Crime Writers

29th June 2013

Crime writing is not without its occupational hazards. A number of rather serious disorders have been known to affect writers of mystery. As a crime writer and hence long-time sufferer of these ailments, I feel obliged to warn anyone considering a career in crime writing of the risks of the profession.

J. C Martin lists the 6 most common maladies plaguing crime writers everywhere:

1. Muse-Induced Insomnia

An inability to sleep soundly due to a deep-rooted obsession with a current manuscript or story idea(s). Sufferers report hearing the incessant voices of fictitious characters in their heads. Symptoms include prolonged periods in front of a computer or typewriter late into the night. This disease could present itself alone, or in combination with Acute Plotholitis (see 2).

2. Acute Plotholitis

Inflammation of a key story arc in the crime writer’s work in progress. Prolonged infection could lead to Muse-Induced Insomnia. Delayed treatment could be fatal for the writer’s manuscript. Mild Acute Plotholitis can be treated with a creative rewrite. More severe cases might require amputation of entire sections of manuscript.

3. Obsessive Compulsive Documentation Disorder (OCDD)

A persistent urge to make notes on anything and everything for posterity, because “it just might come in handy when writing the next book”. Symptoms of OCDD include uncontrolled scribbling, an unhealthy attachment to notepads and pens, and an abnormally high Post-it count at the writer’s workstation.

4. Homicidal Fantasy Complex (HFC)

A condition whereby the writer constantly imagines weird and wonderful ways of killing someone. Murder victims could be imaginary, or a real person for which the writer harbours an intense dislike. While deeply disconcerting, HFC is not serious, and will seldom lead to actual psychopathic tendencies.

5. Chronic Earwigging Syndrome (CES)

Also known as Hypervoyeurism, CES is a disorder whereby the sufferer is obsessed with eavesdropping on other people’s conversations for potentially interesting snippets that could be incorporated into a story. An early symptom is intense people watching, where the writer tries to create entire back stories and personality profiles for complete strangers they encounter.

6. Chronic Procrastination Disease (CPD)

A condition whereby the writer does absolutely everything except actually write, yet complains later that they never have free time to get their ideas down. An active presence on Facebook and/or Twitter is a major risk factor for CPD. Symptoms include persistent refreshing of the writer’s e-mail inbox or Twitter feed, an abnormal obsession with funny kitten videos on YouTube, and an inordinate amount of time playing Candy Crush Saga. Treatment includes switching off the sufferer’s Internet access, hiding their iPhone/tablet, and reverting to old-fashioned technology, e.g. a typewriter, or pen and paper.

While none of these disorders are life threatening, they can cause distress and/or amusement and/or embarrassment to both the sufferer and those close to them. Although symptoms can fluctuate or be controlled, these diseases are incurable as long as the crime writer remains in the profession.

For those aspiring crime writers out there, you have been warned!

J.C. Martin is a butt-kicking bookworm: when she isn’t reading or writing, she teaches martial arts and self-defence to adults and children.

After working in pharmaceutical research, then in education as a schoolteacher, she decided to put the following to good use: one, her 2nd degree black belt in Wing Chun kung fu, and two, her overwhelming need to write dark mysteries and gripping thrillers with a psychological slant.

Her short stories have won various prizes and have been published in several anthologies. Oracle is her debut novel.Born and raised in Malaysia, J.C. now lives in south London with her husband, son, and three dogs. 

Want to win a copy of J.C. Martin’s debut novel Oracle? She has kindly donated a signed paperback copy or an e-book to one lucky winner. So this competition is open to anyone.

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