As the October Third Thursday panel began, the audience was sequestered on the third floor of BookPeople with no means of escape except a small lackadaisical elevator. Jennifer Zeigler, the Writers League program director, moderated the panel, featuring four authors of high adrenaline fiction who had drastically different styles and genres.
Gaylon Greer began writing suspense after becoming tired of nonfiction. Janice Hamrick says she is a suspense writer with little mystery in her work. She became a published writer in a backwards fashion, first winning a contest, then getting a publisher, then finding an agent. Don’t try this at home. Lee Thomas began writing for young adults but after deciding the genre to be too structured now writes gross horror that is socially aware. A reviewer said of his recent short story collection ” not for the faint of heart or optimistic.” Kathy Clark came to mystery from a long, successful career in romance writing when she ran out of synonyms for “nipple”.
One thing all the authors agreed on was that this kind of writing was fun and you get to kill people, sometimes even cats. Sick? Maybe, but it is similar to real life without the boring parts. It also gives you a chance to explore the evil in society. The genre has a certain magnetism made obvious by its large audience.
Each author brings a personal approach to writing their manuscripts. Gaylon concentrates on conflict between characters creating tension in the reader. He completes the first draft before sharing his work with critique partners. Janice writes character driven fiction using a map but not a solid outline, then letting the story take on a life of its own. Lee became frustrated with outlining while writing YA. He now writes multiple drafts before even considering his readership. He has been known to write five or more endings to a story before deciding on one. Kathy likes to get the idea for a story in her mind and allow the characters to run with it in an organic fashion.
All the authors agreed that a critique partner could be an asset, whether you have a writing partner as Kathy does or use a critique group like some of the others. Rewriting and multiple drafts were also a common thread, as was the use of “red herrings”, which are plot twists that throw the reader off course. These need to be used sparingly and become an integral part of the story so as not to be too cliché.
It was interesting to find that each author had a different path to publication, some conventional, some not so much. This was the topic of most of the Q & A session after the main program. That, and of course, how many synonyms there are for “nipple”.
These panels occur every month on the third floor of BookPeople at 7:00 PM. Please join us next month. We promise not to lock you in. And don’t forget NaNoWriMo (http://nanowrimo.org) in November, you might be on a Third Thursday panel next year.