Thursday, June 4, 2015


I love me a good mystery. Thrill me and I’m yours ’til the end of the book, AND if my bookshelf is loaded with them, I’m yours 'til you stop writing.

But how do we, as writers, create these thrillers and mysteries? Last week, I spent some time dispatching Katherine Tegen Books Senior Editor, Ben Rosenthal’s words of wisdom, and now I bring you some writing exercises he suggested.

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WRITING EXERCISES from Ben Rosenthal, Senior Editor at Katherine Tegen Books

  1. Read the first line of your novel. Do you want to hear the next line? Write several first lines until you have one that screams, “YES!” to the question.
  2. Create multi-dimentional heroes and villains. Write down their defining qualities. Then, write down the opposite of that. Now, create a scenario in which your protagonist and antagonist demonstrate the opposite qualities you have identified.
  3. Write down a list of characters in your novel. Pick a character that is either an ally or enemy of your hero. Find a scene with both characters. Rewrite the scene with different motivation for the secondary character or the hero. You might just locate a plot twist.
  4. Write a dialogue in which each of the two characters has a secret. Don’t reveal the secret, but make the reader figure it out.

Good luck and let me know how if these exercises work for you or share some other techniques in the comments!

Talk to you soon,

Kim Briggs

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

WRITE HABIT: #NYSCBWI15 Seven Essentials You Need to Know about Mysteries and Thrillers with Ben Rosenthal, Senior Editor, Katherine Tegen Books by Kim Briggs

Ben Rosenthal

Ben Rosenthal, Senior Editor, at Katherine Tegen Books gave some fantastic tips about how to write Mysteries and Thrillers, and I want to share them with you because it shouldn't be a thrilling mystery to learn helpful tips to make your writing stronger. Here goes:

1. Killer First Lines and First Pages
HOOK them from the first line. Reader will have no other option but to keep reading.
CREATE intrigue factors: What happens next?   
ENGAGE the readers: Keep them reading

2. Heroes and Villains  (Ha! HaHa…!!! Sinister laughter necessary)
CREATE hero by creating tiers of empathy. 
Your job is to convince reader to KEEP READING!!
DEVELOP a hero with admirable and attractive qualities AND flaws too in order to ground them in reality.
CREATE an equal match to your Protagonist.
*Nothing creates more tension than the reader feeling the villain might win. 
Villain always one step ahead of hero.
3. Establish Conflict and Raise Stakes

Introduce conflicts. THEN build stakes. AND THEN, always, always, increase the stakes.

BEST TIP: Stakes can NEVER be too high.

If you ground your thriller in reality, than anything goes. Your reader will follow you anywhere.

4. Edge-of-Your-Seat Tension and Pacing 
  • Ideally, every page of MS should have tension.
  • Be cautious with 1st person. Watch to make sure there’s not TOO much narrative summary.
  • CUT the boring parts. Readers want to escape everyday life. (Showers, meals, getting dressed…)
  • Frequent paragraphing allows the eye to naturally move down the page faster—creates the allusion of quicker pacing

5. Suspense and Plot Twists
  • SUSPENSE is about delay, create the SENSE that climax is coming but reader can’t skip ahead or they WILL miss something.
  • PLOT TWISTS: An okay plot twist surprises reader. A GREAT plot twist pulls the rug out on the character.  
  • Character Motivation Twist: A character works with main character for much of the book or at least part of the journey, only for us (and MC) to find out character was working against MC the WHOLE time.  **I don’t know about y’all, but that makes me crazy to no end.

6. DIALOGUE: needs to match characters.

  • Dialogue tells the truth.
  • Turn the volume up on your dialogue.
7. Confusion is not mystery.
Difficult, complicated puzzles don’t necessarily translate to a more satisfying and entertaining journey for readers.


The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Mass

Now go THRILL your readers!!

Write on,


Thursday, May 21, 2015

LIFE IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Take 1 by Kim Briggs

As writers, we constantly work on our craft. We attend workshops where we dig into the heart and soul of our novels. We zip through writing exercises at home to ensure we yank our readers into our gripping tale. We read books, lots of them. We spend hours upon hours upon hours writing and revising.

But what happens once our book goes to publication? Sure, our royalty checks will keep us living on chocolate bars and chai lattes for the next few weeks, or if we sell enough copies, months, but unless you're J.K. Rowling or James Patterson, you need to take your show on the road.

You'll make your rounds at the local schools and libraries. Then your circle will grow and you'll drive a little further or you'll fly. You'll hit the book tour circuit, signing books for all your adoring fans. You might even get invited to speak at a conference. First, you'll think JACKPOT! Then, you'll think...OH NO, WHAT DID I DO?    

Because now, you're in the spotlight...

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Do you run, do you hide, 
do you rescind your acceptance?
NO, you swallow the lump in your throat, 
you shake out your jitters 
and you find a way to make your 
Presentation the best it can be.   

But how?

If there's time, attend The Highlights Foundation: Life in the Spotlight Workshop with Peter Jacobi. Peter is the Master, the Guru, the King of Public Speaking and he will help you develop your Presentation Craft--because that's what it is. 

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We don't think about our skills as a presentator and that's WRONG. We disservice ourselves and our audience. No one wins. But if we develop our Presentation Craft, we will all be WINNERS!

If you can't attend Life in the Spotlight before your Big Event, here's some QUICK tips: 

REMEMBER THE CROWD WANTS YOU TO SUCCEED. They do. They REALLY do. Use their energy to keep yours up.

BE IN THE MOMENT. Sounds like a no brainer, but it's not, at least not for me. I often think about what comes next. Blame it on A.D.D. Blame it on a long line of hyperactive women, but I might hurry through a passage or I might worry the crowd isn't interested in what I'm reading or I might think about that chocolate bar waiting for me back in my room. DON'T. Be in the Moment. Read each word as if it is the most important word you've ever read. 

ACT NATURAL. Be yourself. YOU were asked to present because people want to hear what you have to say. 

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.  You wrote this brilliant, amazing, inspiring speech. Now it's time to practice it over and over again. Record yourself. You'll be surprised what you see, (Shocked probably), but don't run and hide. Now that you've seen and heard that you read too fast or you stumbled over a passage or you forgot to look at your audience or you read in a quiet, monotone voice that bored even you, you can practice and practice until you get it right. You WILL. I KNOW you will. 

And once your speech is over and the applause dies down, Go to Highlights Foundation and Sign up for next year's workshop because you nailed your presentation, but you can always do better and don't your fans deserve it? 

I plan to write a number of blog posts discussing the Presentation Craft. Sign up for emails so you don't miss anything!

You work on the craft of writing everyday. Now it's time to develop your Presentation Craft. 

Write on,
Kim Briggs

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

WRITE HABIT: #NYSCBWI15 Seven Things You Need To Know About Writing YA Fiction with Razorbill Editor Liz Tingue

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Liz Tingue is an editor at Razorbill, Penguin Young Readers Group. She edits YA to picture books, including the Falling Kingdoms series by New York Times bestselling author Morgan Rhodes, The Way We Bared Our Souls by Willa Strayhorn, the New York Times bestselling picture book Marcel the Shell with Shoes On by Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp, and Zodiac by Romina Russell, which was named one of Amazon’s best books of December. 

She broke her talk into Acts with the Seven Things You Need to Know about Writing YA Fiction woven in. Check it out:

ACT I: Getting Started
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1. DO Read A LOT, but DON’T only Read YA. 
It's crucial to keep up with major trends and players of the YA world—but don’t limit yourself. Seek inspiration in Adult fiction, nonfiction, poetry, memoirs, and biographies.

  • Join/create a book club
  • Expose yourself to diff voices and POV 
KIM TIP: just don’t expose yourself because—ya know, that might get you arrested.
  • Read about books and the book industry.
    • Follow Blogs HINT, Hint: like this one—you can sign up for email updates—I promise I won't overload
    • Follow the big ones like: 
      • Publishers Weekly
      • School Library Journal
      • Epic Reads
      • Galley Cat
  • Sign up for Publishers Weekly’s Children’s Bookshelf newsletter for biweekly updates on the children’s book biz.
  • Find inspiration everywhere—TV, movies, internet memes, viral videos,blogs. Teens don’t live in a vacuum—you shouldn’t either.
2. DO get a SOCIAL MEDIA presence and network with other writers: Find the thing that works for you and go with it.  
THINK: Twitter Wattpad
Facebook Blogger

**DON’T spend your life tweeting and forget to write your novel.   

BEST TIP: Agents and editors research querying authors on social media—no one wants a whiner or a meanie.  

SOCIAL MEDIA ROLE MODELS: John Green, Sarah Dessen, and Veronica Roth

ACT II: The Writing Process
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3. DO get to know your characters REALLY WELL

  • Know their wants and needs and know the difference.

  • Techniques to use: Character sketches

    ONCE you know your character…put him or her into ACTION. 
    Boil MC’s arc into WANTS and NEEDS

    **EDITOR TIP: If you’re doing it right, your characters WANTS and NEEDS should be in direct conflict.

    4. VOICE: You need to decide POV and tense. BUT don’t force it. It must come naturally.

    1st person: An intimate voice for a coming of age story
    3rd person: Fantasy/Sci-fi 

    **BEST TIP: If you lose momentum on your POV, try writing the story from a different character’s voice and see if it’s a better fit. Change tense. Play around. 

    PLAIN OLD COMMON SENSE: Don’t talk down to your reader. Kids are SMART. Readers are SMARTER!!

    5. PLOT & STRUCTURE: Make maps for plot & structure. DON’T be afraid to stray once in a while.

    *If you have a map, you can get back to beginning…especially if you take a detour or all off the tracks.

    **BEST TIP: Always good to know the rules of good writing AND THEN you can break them. (If appropriate)

    STRUCTURE: Beginning, Middle, End

    ACT 1: Always shorter than you think
    ACT 2: MID: Action/events etc.
    ACT 3: END

    WRITE TIP: Ask question at the end of one chapter and answer in next chapter.

    ACT III: Taking it to the Finish Line

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    Love criticism. Invite it. Ask for it. Find someone who will tell you the truth—Find a Sagittaurius. They’re honest. (Liz is a Sagittaurius and PROUD of it!)

    Edit process is part of writing.

    7. DO PERSEVERE WHEN GOING GETS TOUGH but DON’T be afraid to walk away.

    Writing is hard work. Keep at it, but if a MS isn't working, don't be afraid to walk away.  

    KIM TIP: Try something new. Don't stop writing, just work on something else.

    “YA is about the experience of being young.”


      Contemporary, Voicey, Coming of Age
    Families, friendship, alternating POV, Big romance

    (She sees and feels there’s some reeling back of love triangles.)

    Happy Writing!!


    Wednesday, March 18, 2015

    WRITE HABIT: #NYSCBWI15 Friday Intensive Editor Panel: “Great Books Happen Through Revision”

    OR The Long Title: How to Incorporate Revision Notes in Your Manuscript 

    (I like mine better)

    Moderated by Author, Martha Brockenbrough

    By Friday afternoons, most of us fizzle and droop after a long week. We're ready to shed our work clothes for our yoga pants and sweatshirts. For attendees of the conference, we already sat through a morning Agent Panel and two Group Intensives, but rather than sneak away for a caffeinated beverage, we gathered back in the ballroom for the Final Editor Panel. 

    I LOVED this session. LOVED, LOVED, LOVED. The Editors got along brilliantly. They were smart, funny, and nice, oh so nice. They LOVE books as much as we do, and they understand that it's tough being under the microscope--but a wonderful, marvelous, amazing relationship could turn an ordinary book into something extraordinary, provided we remember they're regular people just like us. (Sometimes Cliche adjectives get the point across! Catch my drift:)

    Sara Sargent, Editor at Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

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    She loves Contemporary Realistic. She LOVES sweeping romance and kissing in YA. 
    Who doesn't?!?!

    She edited Abbi Glines, the New Adult ebook trendsetter, Deb Caletti, Jennifer Echols, Julie Cross, and Aaron Karo. 

    LITTLE KNOWN FACT: The Editorial letter is the TOUGHEST part of their job. Editors HATE them.

    “We’re not up in a castle cackling, after we hit send.” 

    Editors are REAL people, with REAL emotions, and they feel REALLY bad after the send an Editorial Letter. 

    Kristin Rens, Editor at Balzer & Bray, reps PB-YA

    She has broad tastes. She likes funny, quirky picture books and MG and YA fiction with strong narrative voices and memorable characters. 

    PSST: Kristin was Sara Sargent's boss and mentor for a long time. You could feel the positive vibe between them. 

    She's worked with Audrey Vernick, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Michelle Markel, Melissa Sweet, Crytal Allen, Gretchen McNeil, and the list goes on and on.

    BEST REVISION TIP: Read your book. Again. And Again. AND Again. 

    LITTLE KNOWN FACT: She reads the book twice each round of edits. 

    EDITORIAL ROUTINE: She processes slowly and with hard copy. She gets nervous, SO nervous, when she hits send, and then if she doesn’t hear from her client, she worries and worries and worries.  **See, Editors are as neurotic as the rest of us!

    Jordan Hamessley, Adaptive Books, Formerly of Egmont USA

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    She's worked with Isla J. Bick's new series, The Dark Passages, Bree DeSpain's new series, Into the Dark, Kaitlin Ward's LGBT YA Horror, Bleeding Earth, and lots more.
    She likes dark/quirky YA, funny MG, and tends to be called the Horror girl.  

    INTERESTING FACT: She LOVES to work with her clients through every round of edits. She’s an over-collaborator if ever there was one. 

    If you work with her, get ready to talk, and I mean that in the best of way. She's positive and funny, and prepared to work!

    And that's a wrap on NY15SCBWI Editor Panel...I'm actually wondering if it's Friday already. I better go search for a caffeinated beverage, just in case...

    Write on,