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a:How to Write Compelling True Crime

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It’s no secret around here that I dabble in true crime writing and reporting. While the genre has always fascinated me, I never imagined it had the potential of being an income stream. But with true crime being more popular than ever (think of all the networks, streaming programs, books and podcasts out there), I believe it’s possible to make money writing about it. 

I used my curiosity to start up a podcast about missing people in North and South Carolina. At first, I envisioned writing about unsolved cases. Then, the more I started reading and digging into research, I discovered it was also interesting to tell the stories of people who had been missing but maybe had then been found. Was there a mysterious story behind what happened to them? Was their disappearance tied to another case? Now I try to provide a balance of unsolved cases and solved cases. Very often in my research I would come across an intriguing story, but it wasn’t related to North or South Carolina. I would write about those for my blog, and now the majority of my writing blog is true crime. These posts could one day turn into a book proposal if I organize them the right way, along with my other research I’ve collected for the podcast. 

How do you know if a subject is worth writing about? Here are a few stories I’ve tackled. A husband in my area has been accused of murdering his wife with Visine. Yes, you read that right. Most people don’t know Visine can be lethal if ingested, so that made it unique, in my opinion. The topic of serial killers, especially female ones, make for salacious storytelling. While I was researching a ghost story episode of my podcast, I learned about one of America’s first female serial killers, Lavinia Fisher. The more I read about her, the more I became convinced she may have not even murdered anyone, but her story didn’t really fit into my podcast episode. I wrote about it for my blog instead. I also get ideas from watching old episodes of “Unsolved Mysteries,” one of my favorite shows. The ideas for true crime topics really are endless. 

But can you actually make money writing about true crime? You bet! Do you listen to any true crime podcasts, or watch true crime YouTube vloggers? They likely make money from advertising revenue, and the bigger following they have, the more money they can bring in from sponsorships and ads. Mainstream magazines are also seeking out this genre. I recently pitched Cosmpolitan with two ideas, and while they were rejected, the editor e-mailed me back and forth the same day with tips on how to narrow my queries a bit for their demographic. Go to freelance work-for-hire site like Upwork or Fiverr and you’ll find many opportunities for true crime writers, from writing book proposals, editing articles or writing for podcasts. 

Do you like writing or reading true crime? Share your favorite places to find it below.


Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and magazine editor. Read more true crime at her blog, FinishedPages.com, or check out her podcast, Missing in the Carolinas.

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