Crime Writing: Making it Real

Solving A Murder – The First 48 Hours Online Course


This intensive weekend course is suitable for crime writers who pride themselves on understanding real UK crime procedure and want to make their crime story and characters feel authentic.

Led by Peter James’ and Mark Billingham’s Police Advisor, Graham Bartlett, a former senior detective and Sunday Times bestselling author, the course takes you into an immersive virtual crime scene. Along with a small group of like-minded writers you’ll learn hour by hour as the investigation unfolds:

  • The process that leads to the identification, arrest and interview of a suspect
  • The professional roles involved and how they work
  • Where conflict and empathy arise
  • What obstacles lie in the protagonist’s way
  • How to build credible drama out of what can be flat and bureaucratic procedures
  • How to keep your reader at the centre of the action.

You’ll learn direct from a former senior detective, CSI, and Behavioural Analyst, as well as seasoned crime writers such as Peter James, Elly Griffiths, Mark Billingham and Julia Crouch.

Inspired by the case, you’ll submit a 1,500-word piece of creative writing by Sunday night.

This course is part of our Crime Writing: Making it Real course series with Police Advisor Graham Bartlett, helping writers craft authentic crime stories.


Start date: 26 February 2021
Duration: Weekend
Skill level: All
Session length: Weekend intensive
Sessions: 6 (over the weekend)
Price: £295 (inc. VAT where applicable)

Course Director

I was very impressed by the way that [Graham] was able to combine his years of policing experience with an instinctive knowledge of how stories work. 

Elly Griffiths

Best-Selling Crime Author

Timetable for the weekend

Session 1: Friday Evening

Introductions – get to know your group and the crime scene

  • Icebreaker to meet your peer group
  • Discuss the difference between authentic crime fiction and reality
  • Questionnaire: what kind of writer are you; deeply procedural (e.g Peter James or Kathy Reichs) or is the policing ancillary?
  • Witness the initial calls and photos from the crime scene
  • Writing task: write your hypotheses for the crime scene using Graham’s prompts 

Session 2: Saturday Morning

Virtual Crime Scene – meet the crime-scene experts

  • Graham fills you in on latest developments from the crime scene via podcast and video
  • Listen to a briefing between a crime scene investigator and senior investigating officer
  • Writing task: outline your lines of enquiry and the characters you’ll write about this weekend
  • Learn about crime-scene management, lines of enquiry, forensics and the Golden Hour
  • Live webchat with Graham to discuss your findings

Session 3: Saturday Afternoon

Your Hero – profile your protagonist 

  • Graham fills you in on latest developments from the crime scene
  • Compare fictional protagonists with real SIOs at a crime scene
  • Writing task: build a picture of your fictional lead police officer

Session 4: Saturday Evening

Your Protagonist – write about your character

  • Graham’s latest news on the crime scene, summing up what should have been achieved 24 hours in
  • Writing task: finally today, show your lead police officer at this point in the investigation, giving insight into his character

Session 5: Sunday Morning

Suspects and Interviews – dramatise the hunt

  • 36 hours on from the crime, Graham updates you on progress
  • Writing task: take your story forward in time and action
  • Read 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
  • Discuss what makes an intriguing suspect and techniques to surprise your reader
  • Live webchat with Graham on catching suspects 

Session 6: Sunday Afternoon

Your Final Assignment – enjoy some quiet writing time

  • Graham’s final update on the crime scene, moving on to the interview stage and the role of the solicitor
  • Watch interviews with suspects and note ways of building drama
  • Discuss ways to make adversaries worthy adversaries
  • Learn about limitations on the police – and how to get round them
  • Final writing task: using what you’ve learned over the weekend, write and edit 1,500 words featuring your police officer, suspect and the investigation ready to upload by midnight.
    You’ll have the rest of the week to read and comment on your peer’s stories. 


This course will benefit you if you are a crime writer who wants to explore authentic police procedural techniques and learn techniques that will help take your writing to the next level . 

It's suitable if you:

  • Write crime fiction and would like to ensure accuracy and detail in your depictions of crime procedure 
  • Are keen to add depth and authenticity to your plotlines
  • Want to enhance characterisation by learning more about police and criminal psychology
  • Enjoy writing with a friendly and supportive group of learners
  • Can dedicate a weekend to participate in the course

We teach this course in our online classroom, which is open 24/7 so you can fit learning around your work, family and friends. You’ll work in a small group of learners so you can discuss ideas, ask questions and share your writing as you progress through the sessions.

Teaching includes: 

  • Podcasts and videos from Graham
  • Input from specialist police procedure experts
  • Live webchats and Q&As 
  • Practical writing exercises and prompts
  • Timed and free writing sessions
  • Specially selected reading and extracts to analyse
  • Short quizzes and questionnaires
  • Online discussions with writers in your group
  • Opportunities to share work and give feedback on each other’s writing

You will need a laptop or computer* with:

  • A reliable broadband internet connection
  • Speakers or headphones
  • The latest version of Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Edge, or Safari
  • Access to Zoom video conferencing platform. Download free
  • QuickTime Player, latest version. Download free
  • A notebook and pen or pencil if you like to make notes by hand

* You can access the course from a tablet or smartphone, but we recommend using a laptop or computer, as this makes it easier to share your work files with your writing group.

Join our alumni

After your course, you have the opportunity to rejoin your classmates in a private alumni area where you can access an archived version of the course materials, forum posts and captured video lectures. Here you can also continue to share writing and ideas with your cohort. 

Feedback on your work

If you would like Graham to feedback on your writing for an extra fee, please email for details.

When writing crime fiction, feel free to gloss over the detail, but never plunge your reader into a procedure or describe an activity unless it’s spot on.

Graham Bartlett

The message is: Don’t guess. There are plenty of people you can ask. I do all the time if I’m not sure.

Graham Bartlett

What writers say about Graham

Graham is a crime writer’s dream – an author himself but with knowledge of policing at every level.

Sara Carroll, crime author

What writers say about Graham

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

What writers say about Graham

Graham gave me detailed feedback on my story with advice on making the relationships, reactions, and procedure more realistic. Best of all, this was all done with a lot of encouragement and sensitivity to keeping the integrity of my story. Now I feel like I have something that is both action-packed and factually accurate.

T D Veil, Crime Author

What writers say about Graham

I simply couldn’t have written my novel, Three Hours, without Graham’s help. He was able to give me detailed factual information, which was invaluable, but also to help with what I was trying to achieve in a more creative way…I wholeheartedly recommend him to any author lucky enough to work with him.

Rosamund Lupton, Sunday Times Bestselling Author

What writers say about Graham

Graham Bartlett’s input has been a pivotal element to the success of my Roy Grace novels.  He has applied his extensive and varied policing experience to review my draft novels so as to ensure they are procedurally 100% accurate, that the mannerisms, characteristics and culture of the police shine through, and his eye for detail helps immensely with accuracy and continuity.

Peter James, No.1 Bestselling Author

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