Genre tips / writers tips

Writers Tips #81: 11 Tips on Writing Thrillers

writers tipsWhen you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

These come from James Frey’s excellent guide to writing a d*** good thriller. If you can’t get your hands on a copy of the book, at least own these:

  1. Commit yourself to creating strong conflicts in every line of every scene
  2. Have fresh, snappy dialogue and not a single line of conversation
  3. Write quickly when drafting.
  4. Have production quotas of at least a thousand words every day. three-four thousand is better
  5. Have no bland, colorless characters
  6. Trick your readers
  7. Dump your characters into terrible trouble from page one
  8. Have powerful story questions at all times
  9. Have a hook at the end of each chapter
  10. Be fresh in your writing
  11. Keep the clock ticking and the excitement mounting

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Questions you want answered? Leave a comment and I’ll answer it within the next thirty days.

Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman.  She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.comEditorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing TeachersIMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s seeking representation for a techno-thriller that she just completed. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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13 thoughts on “Writers Tips #81: 11 Tips on Writing Thrillers

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  7. Hello, Jacqui. I found your site through Cafe Girl. I awoke this morning feeling a little down about blogging. You’ve posted so many wonderful articles and excellent advice. How do you do it all? My head is spinning. 🙂
    Thank you for sharing. I look forward to reading more.
    (A few connections … boy oh boy do I agree that writing is one lonely business, my maiden name is Casey, we used to have a black lab (named Sadie), I know what you mean about Notre Dame, I have two grown kids …)
    Best luck to you!


    • Cat does some great posts about her marketing efforts for her new book. I learn a lot from her.journeys. Thanks for coming to visit me. And thanks for the kind words. I try to listen to what people are interested in and post those kinds of articles.

      Some funny connections between us. Sadie’s a cute name. I still miss my black lab, though my yellow lab Casey is wonderful. I love the name so much, I want to use it for a character in my next novel.

      We’ll see. I’m going to hop over to your blog and see what you’re doing…


  8. The 1000 word (or more) production quota seems daunting. But I guess when you’re a good fiction writer, words frequently flow like that, even if it’s just getting something down as a first draft. I’m sure the editing phase can be monstrous later.


    • That’s about four pages–no editing or formatting, just spewing it out. And yes, editing doesn’t move nearly as fast. A page could take a day–a paragraph could. And then you change it the next day.

      How fast can you write your medical writing?


    • I think this is where the private, vulnerable aspect of writing comes into play. Writing might be easier, if no one but you ever read it. But, the thrill and fear lies in creating something others will consume. To me, this is at the root of “writer’s block.” (I agree with other writers who say writer’s block isn’t real, by the way)

      Staring at the blank screen, watching the cursor blink is when the most cruel of all our critics screams loudest. “You aren’t creative, that’s a dumb idea, who would read that?”

      In spite of those hauntings, a writer must strike the keys. 80% might be lost to the edit, but the 20% that remains is worth it.

      I still cannot specify my genre, my style, or my methods, but I will write. You can do it too. The quota of a thousand words begins with the first letter. 🙂


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