Last evening I was delighted to have the opportunity to hear three well-published Mystery/Crime (Adult) Fiction writers share their tips on writing and publishing, at Quail Ridge Books, in Raleigh.
Of the three, Margaret Maron is the author of over 25 books. She's the past President of Mystery Writer's of America and Sisters in Crime, and a winner of the Edgar, the Anthony, the Macavity and the Christy Awards. Jeffery Deaver is the world- traveling author of The Bone Collector and many other mystery/crime books and series.' John Hart is the NYT best-selling author of The King of Lies and Down River.
I attended the event to hear their suggestions on mystery writing and publishing. I suspected that though I write my fiction for teens, the basics of mysteries are the same for any age group.
It was a full house, and a very informative night. Good show, Quail Ridge! And even though many of the tips that they shared are things that I've heard before, they were great reminders.
Here are my favorite tidbits (and I hope that Margaret, Jeffery and John won't mind me sharing them here with you):
ON WRITING MYSTERIES that keep readers engaged, Jeffery recommended:
Draw your readers through the book by providing "unresolved anticipation. Tell 'em that you're going to tell 'em something, and then don't tell 'em" (until later, or until the end.)
He reminded us that writers are entertainers who first and foremost should "want to tell a good story."
And he shared a quote reportedly coined by mystery writer Mickey Spillane: "People don't read books to get to the middle. They read books to get to the end."
ON CHARACTERIZATION, John shared that:
(Mystery characters) must have "credible, convincing motives."
Also, it's important to know "what drives your character (hero or villain)," to do the things that he or she does.
For example, John described the emotional force behind one of his characters as: "this guy is angry and feels a deep sense of loss..."
ON GETTING PUBLISHED, Margaret shared the ultimate good advice for those of us who come up with lots of great ideas, get started with a flourish, but then flounder in the middle:
"If you just wrote one page a day, in a year you'd have a book."
"The main thing is to finish the book. Even if it's terrible, finish it, because you will learn so much in the process."
Thanks Margaret, Jeffery and John (3 well-published NC authors) for the great advice. And a toast to "Raleigh Write 2 Publish" for organizing the event.
Don't forget the Raleigh SCBWI Schmooze at Quail Ridge Books, on April 13th. Hope to see you there! (See info. below)
Now I'm off to take Margaret's advice. I'm gluing my butt to the chair to keep moving forward with my second novel. After all, "the main thing is to finish the book!"