Crime Writing: Making it Real

Solving A Murder – Immersive Online Course


Follow a murder investigation as it rolls out, joining a senior investigating officer, CSI and behavioural analyst as they reveal what actually happens at a crime scene and during an investigation. Then put that expert knowledge to work in a series of intensive writing assignments devised to help you inject more authenticity into your crime fiction.

Led by Peter James’ and Mark Billingham’s Police Advisor, Graham Bartlett, a former senior detective and Sunday Times bestselling author, the four-week course immerses you in a virtual crime scene. You’ll be there when the first emergency call comes in, see the initial photos from the scene, and start making hypotheses about the victim and suspect – and explore ways to use real police procedure to heighten the drama in your writing.

Along with a small group of like-minded writers you’ll learn week by week as the investigation unfolds:

  • How to read a crime scene and come up with lines of enquiry
  • The process that leads to the identification, arrest and interview of a suspect
  • Which professionals are involved and how they work together
  • How to build credible drama out of what can be flat and bureaucratic procedure
  • What makes an intriguing suspect and how to dramatise a hunt
  • Techniques to keep your reader at the centre of the action.

You’ll join live sessions to discuss the case with the Senior Investigating Officer, pick the brain of expert CSI Kate Bendelow, quiz Behavioural Analyst Lesley McEvoy on her work, and watch exclusive videos from crime writers Peter James, Elly Griffiths, Mark Billingham and Julia Crouch.

At the end of the course you are invited to submit a 2,000-word piece of fiction inspired by the case or from your work in progress for Graham’s feedback.

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

This is not Zoom or video learning and you don’t have to log in at a set time to join the course – though we do feature a couple of live Zoom Q&A sessions.


Start date: 6 June 2022
Duration: 4 weeks
Skill level: Intermediate
Session length: Weekly
Sessions: 4

Special early bird price
(Ends 20 May 2022)
Price: £495 £420 (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 course

Week 1: Grasp the Golden Hour

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

Virtual Crime Scene – meet the crime-scene experts

  • Graham fills you in on latest developments from the crime scene via podcast and video
  • Watch 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 during the course
  • Learn about crime-scene management, lines of enquiry, forensics and the Golden Hour
  • Live webchat with Graham and the CSI to discuss your findings

Week 2: Profile Your Protagonist

Your Hero – what makes a memorable lead?

  • 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

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: show your lead police officer at this point in the investigation, giving insight into their character

Week 3: Dramatise the Hunt

Crafting a Killer – reading character traits

  • 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 and our behavioural analyst on catching suspects

Suspects and Interviews – getting it right

  • 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 your antagonists worthy adversaries
  • Learn about limitations on the police – and how to get round them

Week 4: Quiet Writing Time

Your Final Assignment – enjoy some quiet writing time

  • Final writing task: using what you’ve learned over the past few weeks, write and edit 2,000 words featuring your police officer, suspect and the investigation ready to upload by the end of the course. Or work on writing from a work in progress.
  • Ask Graham questions via our Q&A forum.
  • Then read and comment on your peers’ work, using our guidelines on giving feedback to writers.
  • Graham will offer feedback on your extracts at the end of the week.


This course will benefit you if you are a crime writer who wants to dig deep into police procedural methods and learn craft 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 
  • Would like to feel wiser about how the police work
  • Want to know the latest advances in police use of technology
  • Feel you are getting too caught up on the facts, and need to know how much detail you can jettison
  • Are keen to add depth to your writing while maintaining suspense
  • Want to enhance characterisation by learning more about police and criminal psychology
  • Enjoy writing with a friendly and supportive group of learners
  • Can dedicate 7-9 hours a week to complete the assignments

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
  • Videos with bestselling crime authors, specially recorded for this course
  • Input from specialist police procedure experts
  • Live webchats and Q&As 
  • Practical writing exercises and prompts
  • Quiet time to spend on your own writing
  • 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

At the end of the course Graham will give feedback on the procedural aspect of your final submission. If you would like more detailed or ongoing feedback on your work or consultancy 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

I loved the course and honestly feel it offered more than (just!) the insights into police procedure, which I didn’t expect. The characterisation aspects continues to be genuinely helpful and it’s improved my work a lot, so I’m most grateful. And the forensic element was even more fun then I hoped. I’ve designed training courses and university modules, so I can appreciate a well-designed course when I see one, and this handled so much information brilliantly. I’m looking out for more to do this year!

Sarah Yarwood-Lovett

What writers say about Graham

So many thanks to Graham, experts Kate and Lesley, and our moderator for a superb course. I’ve learnt so much, had fun and managed to be pretty productive. And everyone taking the course has been stunning – talented, highly effective and generous. What a pleasure it’s been.

Mike Lisle-Williams

What writers say about Graham

A completely unique offering in terms of writing courses online, so well run and I loved meeting all the fellow participants, Graham and the other experts.

Stephanie McMillan

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