Top Ten From Thrillerfest

by Jo-Ann Carson

ThrillerFest is the International Thriller Writers’ annual conference held in July, in mid-town Manhattan; a four day celebration of the thriller genre. Hundreds of the world’s top thriller writers, editors, agents, journalists, producers, aspiring writers and readers gather for this event, and even though the numbers grow every year there is a family feeling to it. Everyone there loves books and wants to talk about writing them. The event is broken up into three main parts:

  1. Craftfest, a day and a half of one hour lectures from top thriller writers
  2. Agentfest, a  half day event like speed dating, only with agents (I talked with 10)
  3. Thrillerfest, panel discussions and banquets celebrating the genre

The blog post that follows is based on notes I took at Craftfest, it’s a list of the top ten ideas I gobbled up at the event. If you ever get the chance to attend a Thrillerfest, I highly recommend it.

Thrillerfest 2013 Top Ten Takeaways

  1. “Be a first class version of yourself and not a second class version of someone else.” – David Morrell (see post David Morrell on Creating Vivid Settings)
  2. Use “stealth description.”  Put in a detail here and there. Don’t do long paragraphs to introduce people. – David Morrell
  3. Literary writing is like looking at the world through a stained glass window. The reader is aware of the writer embellishing the world he sees. Genre writing attempts to put the reader right into the story – windex writing. – David Morrell
  4. The simplest device to create vivid stories is to let the reader feel the setting by using all the senses (especially smell). – David Morrell
  5. At the core of the series character is a longing or “incompletion”. – Michael Connelly (see post Michael Connolly says There’s No One Way…)
  6. Concentrate on the book in front of you. The series will come. – Michael Connelly
  7. He starts by writing himself a long letter (talks about things that interest him – he puts them all down and then prioritizes. It’s like planning a dream vacation at no cost. – T. Jefferson Parker (see post T. Jefferson Parker on Outlining)
  8. Always have a specific model of a physical place in your mind. – John Sandford (see post Sandford’s Advice on How to Polish Your Manuscript)
  9. The number one problem in stories by new writers is that they lack structure. – Steve Berry (see post Steve Berry’s  Advice on Story Structure)
  10. Thrillerfest rocks.

I put this post up on my Lovin Danger blog on August 28th. You can purchase tapes of the sessions from the Thrillerfest site.


About the Author:  Jo-Ann Carson an aspiring romantic suspense writer who lives on Vancouver Island and is a member of the RWA, her local chapter VIC-RWA, SINC, and CWC, the Crime Writers of Canada. She’s finaled, placed and won several contests (e.g., Daphne du Maurier, Great Expectations, LoneStar and ECO…), and hopes to publish soon as her fingers are tired of being crossed.