Four thriller writers at today's ThrillerFest panel "What's The Worst Advice You Ever Got? The Best?" entertained the audience with tales of the real life hints, tips and advice that they have used to launch and sustain successful writing careers. The panel was moderated by Matt Ritchel and included authors Daniel Palmer, Lisa Gardner, Alex Dryden and Alex Kava.
Lisa Gardner got this advice at a conference years ago – and now swears by it. “When you are writing, light a scented candle. If you do this for two weeks you will get a Pavlovian response to the scent which will actually keep you inspired.” Gardner shared that after she had a child and life became exponentially more helpful, all the writing she does these days she credits to The Scented Candle Technique.
Daniel Palmer credits his dad with the best advice he ever got. “It doesn't have to be probable – just possible. If it happens once, it's still the best benchmark for writing.” His example of improbable but possible? A cockroach climbing out of the mouth of a corpse. Gory but it could (and may) happen!
Alex Dryden offers these two pieces of advice: One, write a thousand words a day. Two, he says you should think about following fellow author Robert Harris' suggestion that you should plot each book from start to finish. (Dryden warns that he doesn't actually follow this advice – but it is sound nonetheless.)
Alex Kava passed on advice that her editor shared with her. “It's very 'duh' but don't age your character a whole year just because it takes you a year to write the book.” As Kava's editor has also worked with mystery superstars Tom Clancy, Dick Francis and Patricia Cornwell, I'd take that advice any day!
Some more writing tips from the experts:
“Remember that you are asking for advice – don't cut off [your critiquers'] heads.” - Daniel Palmer
Dryden shares, think before you respond. “As soon as I defend myself, it's a sure sign I am in the wrong.”
And some of the best advise Gardner can give? “Come to writer's conferences.”
Kava chimes in her best advice about writing is all about location. “To write, go somewhere where you can't do the laundry or the dishes.” Kava tries to carve out week-long blocks where she will not schedule appointments or answer emails and instead spend her days incommunicado so that she can focus on her craft.
But Dryden takes the opposite stance and always writes from home. “I do about two hours of writing a day but am thinking eight hours a day while I do chores.” He swears his house never looks as good as it does when he is writing, “it's practically spick and span.
One last piece of advice from Palmer - "If you have an unlikable character, give him a dog. Everybody likes a guy with a dog."