RALEIGH—At the North Carolina Writers' Network 2016 Fall Conference, November 4-6 in Raleigh, award-winning mystery writer Art Taylor will lead a class titled, "Sharp, Succinct & Suspenseful: Crafting the Mystery Story."
Art Taylor is the author of On the Road with Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories, winner of the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and a finalist for both the Anthony and the Macavity Award for Best First Novel. He edited the collection Murder Under the Oaks, a finalist for this year’s Anthony for Best Anthology. He has also won two Agatha Awards, the Anthony Award, the Macavity Award, and three consecutive Derringer Awards for his short fiction. Stories have appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, in the Chesapeake Crime anthologies This Job Is Murder, Homicidal Holidays, and Storm Warning, and in other journals and anthologies. He teaches at George Mason University and contributes frequently to the Washington Post, the Washington Independent Review of Books, and Mystery Scene.
In "Sharp, Succinct & Suspenseful: Crafting the Mystery Story," attendees will ask themselves what makes a mystery? How do you build suspense? Where can I sell my crime story? Art Taylor will offer tips for writing and marketing short mystery stories. From detective fiction to domestic suspense to hard-hitting noir, various subgenres of the mystery offer different challenges for building on tradition and meeting reader expectations. This workshop will examine some specific passages from published crime fiction and look at how they keep aspects of the story in balance: strong prose as much as a fast-paced plot, compelling characters as much as a cleverly solved crime. A discussion of the ever-evolving market for mystery stories will conclude the session.
We asked Art, “What is one piece of advice that you would give to your younger writer self?”
“The advice I’d give to my younger self is—and this is telling—the same advice I’d give to myself now: Write something every day or at least check in on your writing every day.
"Too many times, then and now, I’ve allowed my writing to slip to the back burner while I’m tending too much to other matters. Certainly I have a day job that requires considerable attention (I teach); certainly there are e-mails to answer (and, yes, social media to tend to); and no doubt all of us have personal matters that often take priority: significant others, children, parents. But in the midst of all that, try to find some portion of the day to at least check in on your writing.
"Even if you can’t devote several hours to drafting or revising, there are ways to keep the process going. Read a passage from the previous day’s writing and revise lines as needed. Jot down ideas that have come your way for details, character traits, plot twists. Just open the file on your computer and stare at it for a few minutes. I’m convinced that even these small check-ins keep your mind connected to whatever you’re working on and help keep the momentum going when you do find yourself with more time to immerse yourself in your work-in-progress. (The flip side, of course, is coming back to that WIP cold: Where was I? What was I thinking about here? Where am I going?)
"Even one step is a step further along the path: toward finishing a specific work, toward publication, or toward improving your craft generally—or best yet, toward all three.”
Registration for the North Carolina Writers' Network 2016 Fall Conference opens Monday, August 29, at www.ncwriters.org.