Writing Thrillers: The Writers Guide to Crafting Tales of Suspense


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The Ten Steps of Design

There are a thousand out there, and one of them will work for you. It should take you less than a day to learn the itty bit you need. Do it. Make a spreadsheet detailing the scenes that emerge from your four-page plot outline. Make just one line for each scene. In one column, list the POV character. In another wide column, tell what happens. If you want to get fancy, add more columns that tell you how many pages you expect to write for the scene. My spreadsheets usually wind up being over lines long, one line for each scene of the novel.

As I develop the story, I make new versions of my story spreadsheet. This is incredibly valuable for analyzing a story. It can take a week to make a good spreadsheet. When you are done, you can add a new column for chapter numbers and assign a chapter to each scene. Step 9 Optional. Switch back to your word processor and begin writing a narrative description of the story.

Take each line of the spreadsheet and expand it to a multi-paragraph description of the scene. Put in any cool lines of dialogue you think of, and sketch out the essential conflict of that scene. I used to write either one or two pages per chapter, and I started each chapter on a new page. Then I just printed it all out and put it in a loose-leaf notebook, so I could easily swap chapters around later or revise chapters without messing up the others.

This process usually took me a week and the end result was a massive page printed document that I would revise in red ink as I wrote the first draft. All my good ideas when I woke up in the morning got hand-written in the margins of this document. This, by the way, is a rather painless way of writing that dreaded detailed synopsis that all writers seem to hate. When I did this step, I never showed this synopsis to anyone, least of all to an editor — it was for me alone.

Getting Your Book Published For Dummies

I liked to think of it as the prototype first draft. Imagine writing a first draft in a week! Step 10 At this point, just sit down and start pounding out the real first draft of the novel. You will be astounded at how fast the story flies out of your fingers at this stage. I have seen writers triple their fiction writing speed overnight, while producing better quality first drafts than they usually produce on a third draft. You might think that all the creativity is chewed out of the story by this time.

Daily Giveaway

Well, no, not unless you overdid your analysis when you wrote your Snowflake. This is supposed to be the fun part, because there are many small-scale logic problems to work out here. This is the time to figure it out! So you only have to solve a limited set of problems, and so you can write relatively fast. This stage is incredibly fun and exciting. I have heard many fiction writers complain about how hard the first draft is.

Good grief!

Steven James - Wikipedia

Life is too short to write like that! There is no reason to spend hours writing a wandering first draft of your novel when you can write a solid one in Counting the hours it takes to do the design documents, you come out way ahead in time.

About midway through a first draft, I usually take a breather and fix all the broken parts of my design documents. Yes, the design documents are not perfect. The design documents are not fixed in concrete, they are a living set of documents that grows as you develop your novel. If you are doing your job right, at the end of the first draft you will laugh at what an amateurish piece of junk your original design documents were. My attitude is that if it works for you, then use it.

If only parts of it work for you, then use only those parts. I write my own novels using the Snowflake method. For a long time, I did it the hard way, using Microsoft Word to write the text and Microsoft Excel to manage the list of scenes.

How to Write Historical Fiction: 7 Tips on Accuracy and Authenticity

Unfortunately, neither of those tools knows about the structure of fiction. Finally, I realized that it would be a whole lot easier to work through the method if the tools were designed specially for fiction. So one day I decided to create that software. I wanted something that would automate every step that could be automated.

The result was a commercial software package I call Snowflake Pro.

Snowflake Pro makes the Snowflake method fast, easy, and fun. It runs on Macs, Windows, and Linux.


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Learn more about Snowflake Pro. Are you struggling right now with a horrible first draft of your novel that just seems hopeless? Take an hour and summarize your story in one sentence. Does that clarify things? What have you got to lose, except a horrible first draft that you already hate? Take heart! In fifteen words or less, what would you say?

Take your time! I tend to embrace a wide range of fiction into the mystery genre, defining it as any work of fiction in which a crime or the threat of a crime is central to the theme or plot. This includes the form that most readers regard as a mystery, which is the traditional detective story but a category of literature that also includes the police procedural, the hard-boiled novel, the tale of psychological suspense, the crime novel, and the thriller. There is enormous overlapping of these sub-genres and it is often difficult to categorize some books.

It is my plan—indeed, my mission—to define these categories, describe their strengths and weaknesses, and provide numerous examples from both the past and the present to help guide readers to the type of book they are most likely to enjoy. This will be the third of several columns in which I try to define the major sub-genres.

Today, the thriller. The decline of the pure detective story in recent years was probably inevitable. Agatha Christie used up most of the good plots in her prolific career. Too, many readers have become impatient. Bombarded daily with a few lines of social media, quick cuts of movies, television programs and commercials, they are unwilling to work through discussions of railroad timetables, tides, or how long it takes for a sprig of parsley to sink into a bar of butter on a summer day.

Cathy Yardley. Rebecca Hartley-Wright. Ron Rozelle. Story Engineering. Larry Brooks. How to Write a Sentence. Stanley Fish. The Writer's Way. Sara Maitland. Writing Down the Bones. Natalie Goldberg. Writing Mysteries. Sue Grafton. Structuring Your Novel. Julie Hyzy. The Writer's Compass. Nancy Ellen Dodd. The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition. William Strunk. On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition. William Zinsser. Becca Puglisi. Planning before Writing a Novel. Shruti Chandra. The Copywriter's Handbook. Robert W. Take Off Your Pants! Libbie Hawker. Lady Audley's Secret.

Mary Elizabeth Braddon. Nancy Kress. Sarah Domet. The Plot Whisperer. The Artist's Way. Julia Cameron. Bird by Bird. Anne Lamott. Rock Your Plot.


  • Breaking the Bank.
  • Moments: Motivational and Inspirational Thoughts?
  • Teen Writer’s Guide: Your Road Map to Writing.

On Writing. Stephen King. Wilkie Collins. The War of Art. Steven Pressfield. Rumors A Lingering Echoes Prequel. Erica Kiefer. The Breakers Series: Books Edward W. Edie Claire. Dale Carnegie. The Lean Startup.

Writing Thrillers: The Writers Guide to Crafting Tales of Suspense Writing Thrillers: The Writers Guide to Crafting Tales of Suspense
Writing Thrillers: The Writers Guide to Crafting Tales of Suspense Writing Thrillers: The Writers Guide to Crafting Tales of Suspense
Writing Thrillers: The Writers Guide to Crafting Tales of Suspense Writing Thrillers: The Writers Guide to Crafting Tales of Suspense
Writing Thrillers: The Writers Guide to Crafting Tales of Suspense Writing Thrillers: The Writers Guide to Crafting Tales of Suspense
Writing Thrillers: The Writers Guide to Crafting Tales of Suspense Writing Thrillers: The Writers Guide to Crafting Tales of Suspense

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