Gayle Lynds This Year’s ThrillerFest Teacher

Gayle Lynds This Year’s ThrillerFest Teacher

Want to learn how to write a thriller or a mystery like a pro?

The best way is to sit down and talk to the people who do it for a living, which is what I did once again this year at ThrillerFest in New York.

ThrillerFest is a multi-day extravaganza put together each year by the International Thriller Writers, a group of distinguished authors who dedicate countless hours helping out other writers. ThrillerFest comprises several discrete conferences. There’s CraftFest, a day-and-a-half long series of lectures by best-selling authors on a range of writerly issues. This year, Steve Berry talked about “The Six Cs of Story Structure,” Walter Mosley discussed “The Structure of Revelation,” and Meg Gardiner kept us on the edge of our seats with “Suspense: How to Keep Your Plot in Turmoil and Readers Reading.” To name but a few.

Then, for aspiring authors in need of representation, there’s PitchFest, three hours of round-robin conversations with literary agents. ThrillerFest, itself, is two days of non-stop panel discussions, talks, and book signings with more than a hundred authors. Big names included John Lescroat, F. Paul Wilson, Gayle Lynds, George R.R. Martin, Lee Child, James Rollins, Megan Abbot, Greg Hurwitz, and so many more.

Meg Gardiner

Meg Gardiner

F. Paul Wilson

F. Paul Wilson

And while all of that is fabulous, the most useful component of the week is Master CraftFest. There, writers spend an entire day with an acclaimed author and review the first ten pages of their works in progress or completed manuscripts. Previously, Meg Gardiner and F. Paul Wilson directed our conversations. Both Meg and Paul were outstanding teachers–supportive, encouraging, but pulling no punches when it came to pointing out where each of us needed to improve. I’d easily trade my master’s in creative writing for a day with either of them.

This year, Gayle Lynds led our class, and once again it was an extraordinary experience.

I thought I came to the class with a polished manuscript. And it wasn’t horrible or anything. But it short order, she was able to show me how to restructure the first two chapters (eliminating a prologue, creating a new Chapter One), how to zero in on location, and how to refine my use of action verbs to squeeze the most meaning possible out of each sentence.

Gayle also participates with a handful of other authors in a group entitled ROGUE WOMEN: Writers of thrilling international myuster and suspense. Other rogue women in the group include K.J. Howe, Robin Burcell, Chris Goff (who helped prep me for PitchFest), Jamie Freveletti, Lisa Black, S. Lee Manning and part-time Naples resident Karna Bodman.

In a recent blog, Gayle talked about “Advice for the New Novelist.” One tip: Meet your editor. She tells a near-horror story of what can happen when you don’t.

You should check at the Rogue website and participate in the conversation.

And consider joining International Thriller Writers. If you want to write like a pro, hang with the pros.


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