Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Mysterious Experts

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!"


C.R. Evers said...

That sounds like it would have been a great event to attend! It's always inspirational to hear published authors speak, even if they say things you already know, it still can rekindle the fire! I wish I could have been there! Thanks for sharing the tidbits!

WordWrangler said...

OOOOH!! thank you for sharing this! I wish I could have been there. I'm going to use this info!


Ian Sands said...

I've been in the Keys all week so i haven't had a chance to buzz past your blog and leave comments. But i'm back so now i'll post something.... uhmmm... Mysteries? Uhmm... Nancy Drew rocks!! Yeah!! Whooo hooo!!!!

Janelle said...

I agree with you Ian.

I grew up on Nancy Drew. (Hooray!) And I'm beginning to think that books like "The Clue in the Old Clock," "The Whispering Statue," and "The Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion" are the reason why so many of my own stories keep veering off down mystery lane.

I recently re-read "the Clue in the Crumbling Wall" (Nancy Drew mystery # 52,) and was impressed by how such a complex plot was told with such simple verbage. Excellent craft! I plan to re-read more of them soon.Hmmm...

I think I'll start with some other favorites:
The Hidden Staircase
The Secret of the Forgotten City
The Clue in the Crumbling Chimney,
The Password to Larkspur Lane...

Jo said...

I hope to see you tomorrow! You may not remember me... we met on that wonderful evening when Deaver, Maron and Hart spoke at the bookshop. Thanks so much for telling me about SCBWI!
- Josephine