How to write a Sherlock Holmes novel
My apologies to anyone who was following the blog only to find that I suddenly vanished into thin air. Well, I’m back. The reason for my disappearance? I was writing a new Sherlock Holmes novel, which I have now completed.
I began my preparations by reading all of Conan Doyle’s brilliant short stories and novels. Check out The Adventure of the Three Students – they’re not all about murder. You will be dazzled at the ingenuity of the plotting, the stylish trappings and the pungency of the wit. Essentially authentic Holmes is light comedy meets Hammer horror.
I then plugged away, rattling out 500 words a day for most of the year. It’s been a bit of a slog, but incredibly enjoyable. So what’s the secret of writing a Holmes’ pastiche?
1) If you get stuck, return Holmes and Watson to 221b Baker Street, put them in their armchairs and get them to talk about something. Anything. New inventions, things in the news and so on. Then get someone with an unusual character feature (a limp, a scar, a missing ear etc.) to walk in.
2) Make Watson incredibly loyal to Holmes and keep the friendship between them to the fore at all times. It’s basically a Bromance.
3) Invent some colourful baddies, each with an interesting Achilles Heel. Don’t automatically reach for Moriarty!
4) When things get a little slow, get Holmes to practice some of his Bartitsu, the obscure martial art that combines boxing, stick fighting and kung fu. It makes for a good break between the pipe smoking.
5) Find different words for the carriages they ride in. You will find Watson and Holmes spend an incredible amount of time travelling between places in hansoms, broughams, etc. etc.
6) Introduce a feisty female with a special power that will intimidate Holmes a little. He can respect her, but otherwise will show no interest.
7) Focus on objects and tiny details – Holmes’ art is all based on the observation of ‘trifles’ to solve the crimes. Leave lots of clues for the reader, some of which can be red herrings.
8) Give Mycroft, Holmes’ brother, a couple of stylish cameos, showing his superior intelligence and large appetite, but don’;t overuse him.
9) Introduce some strangeness; real oddity; the Victorians loved this and this is what makes the Holmes’ books so memorable. Remember to include colourful and authentic food and drink, like deviled kidneys!
10) Research as many Victorian exclamations as possible. Watson utters these with astonishing regularity as Holmes calmly reveals the next plot twist. ‘By Great Gordon’s Ghost, Holmes!’ ‘Heaven’s!’ ‘Mercy!’ etc.