Learning to Write a Thriller with John Gilstrap

“A thriller is an interesting story that has a rapid heartbeat in places.” – Bestselling author John Gilstrap

Imagine taking a master class from a master storyteller. I did that on Thursday with John Gilstrap’s “Adrenaline Rush: How To Write Suspense Fiction”

Our instructor, John Gilstrap- currently a best-selling author and creator of the Jonathan Graves series – lets us know what he planned for our class.

John started right from the beginning. John set the class up as a collaborative learning environment- he asked lots of questions of students. We talked about what makes a great thriller to strong ideas for books.

We dealt with outlines. Outlines are huge. How to create a scene. How dialogue works, the importance of setting and the development of character.

“Write the story, don’t just write sentences,” said John. “It’s a daunting idea to sit down and start a book.” He covered what we needed to learn to start writing our own best-sellers.

“I hope you guys will pick up a lot of tricks of the trade,” said John.

John broke the class into several modules.

1. HOW TO USE THIS CLASS

“Before we dive in, we have a few recommendations for getting the most out of your experience,” said John. John took advantage of the innovative tools and interactive assignments he created to enhance our education. We did three interactive writing assignment.

2. THINGS YOU MIGHT NEED

“To enjoy this class you only need a desire to learn. I’ve found that some students learn best when using a few other tools, so here’s a short list of ‘nice-to-haves’ to help maximize your learning potential, “ said John. Here is the list:

1. Raw ideas- Where do great ideas come from? Writing ideas down and keeping a journal.

2. Plot- Create conflict. Build in surprise with worthy opponents.

3. Outline- Outlining as a tool to troubleshoot your story. A character centered approach vs. an action driven plot. Outline as a tool to step back and start writing.

4. Create characters- Make a complex hero and villain- this creates reader intimacy. The importance of secondary characters.

5. Prose- Favorite first lines. Pulling the reader in with developed prose, this gets the reader invested early. Get the reader invested using simple, short declarative sentences with terse prose.

6. Dialogue- Example of great dialogue that heightens reality and reveal your characters through dialogue. Dialogue move the story forward and allows you to compress time.

7. Ending the book- What the ending needs. Plant seeds along the way. Think of alternate endings. Analyze your favorites and why like them. The secret to great endings.

8. Editing- Remove the distractions. Edit the dialogue. Keep the pages turning. Stay positive during the edit in the 200 page slump.

9. Getting published- Find the right agent. Send query letters. Don’t give up. Enjoy the victories and learn from the failures.

Gilstrap’s Rules of the Roads

“A thriller is an interesting story that has a rapid heartbeat in places. An internal pulse of the action. That’s created through sentence structure, paragraph structure,” said John.

“In movies, you’ve got the soundtrack to give you that sense of pulse. In a book, that’s gotta come from the syntax of the sentences and the word choice. As the action gets quicker, sentences get shorter and verbs become stronger. You don’t knock, you pound. It’s a secret sauce,” said John.

Outcome

I learned a lot from the informative, entertaining day-long class on the craft of writing a thriller. John Gilstrap answered the questions: What makes for a strong plot? How do you take cardboard characters and bring them to life on the page? Through a lively lecture and writing exercises, we all got a peek at the skeleton that gives structure to the stories that keep us reading long into the night.

 

 

Midwest Writers Workshop

Midwest Writers Workshop, Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana- July 20-22, 2017

I just got back from the Midwest Writer’s Workshop (MWW). MWW gives writers the opportunity to improve their craft, to associate with highly credentialed professionals, and to network with other writers. The conference offers over 45 different writing sessions with on everything from fiction to nonfiction. The quality instructors offer advice on everything writing, editing, marketing and publishing.

Part I focuses on genre-specific intensive sessions. We had classes with seasoned writers on writing a thriller, horror and romance. Part II is packed with sessions on the craft of writing and the business of writing. The workshop has given me the professional guidance I was looking for! It has helped me, as a writer, to inspire me to become a published author. The MWW gave me the opportunity to improve my writing, to associate with highly credentialed agents and publishers, and to network with other writers.

How It Works?

Imagine taking a master class from a master storyteller. I did that on Thursday with John Gilstrap’s “Adrenaline Rush: How To Write Suspense Fiction” Our instructor, John Gilstrap- currently a best-selling author and creator of the Jonathan Graves series – lets us know what he planned for our class.

John started right from the beginning. John set the class up as a collaborative learning environment- he asked lots of questions of students. We talked about what makes a great thriller to strong ideas for books.

Friday and Saturday were packed with sessions on the craft of writing and the business of writing. I focused on classes on story structure, editing my story, and how to organize my book. I met with experienced agents and publishers, where I learned about the business of writing a book.

What I Learned

MWW showed me how to get the most out of myself and develop my writing skills. MWW revealed the qualities of good writing and provided specific solutions for overcoming and correcting poor writing practices.

MWW guest speakers are rich with anecdote, vivid illustrations and practical applications to become a better writer. MWW provided instruction and gave advice for improving relationships with agents, publishing houses, and family members to become a better writer.

Outcome

Top Performance as a writer and what I expect of myself. So how do I make it a reality?

MWW has taught me to maximize my abilities and manage my skills as a writer. At MWW I learned winning ideas on how to:

– How to direct my energies and fan the flame of inspiration

– How to manage my time better and get the most of my writing

– Some strategies to overcome and correct poor writing practices

– Develop a healthy self-image of myself as a writer

– Establish editing standards for evaluating my own writing

– Improve relationships and communication with my family for support and how to network other aspiring writers

These dynamic principles developed by master writers are applicable to writing in every genre. Sprinkled with sardonic wit, great war stories about the industry, and helpful illustrations, the MWW principles helped to propel me-and those around me-toward being a better man and a better writer.