This was my third time to attend the annual meeting of the thriller writers’ trade association – The International Thriller Writers’ Ass’n. It was a fascinating learning and cultural experience. As I see it, there are four elements of ThrillerFest:
1. CraftFest: experienced writers teach novices about the elements of the craft;
2. AgentFest: agents looking for new talent conduct speed interviewing, apparently akin to speed dating with 3 minute pitches;
3. ThrillerBusiness: interviews of famous authors, more advanced craft sessions, and focus on the business of ITW (which is largely financed by thriller writers combining for ITW book projects); and
4. Celebration: of the joy of being practicing or aspiring professional writers, as well as presenting awards to the most successful of our craft, over career or shorter spans.
This was my best ThrillerFest by far.
By the time of my first year in attendance, I had been writing international thriller manuscripts for at least 10 years. I had secured an agent who I thought to be knowledgeable and was ready to move along in the business.
What I did not know or appreciate was the depth and breadth of what I needed to learn! It has taken awhile for me to appreciate where I stand. Fortunately, I am a patient and persistent fellow. I may learn slowly, but I do learn.
By my second visit to ITW, I had learned that having an agent is nice. The critical element is whether the agent believes in the projects at hand. My agent had gone in-house without having made a serious evaluation of the work. In the craft sessions, I tended to have other things on my lap. I don’t think I had any illusions about where I stood in the thriller world, I just did not appreciate how far above the seabed I was (wet sand still filling my pants).
This year, I participated in every element of ThrillerFest. At each of the craft sessions, I simply listened, absorbed the wisdom of the best thriller writers in the world, and made notes of the guidance being dispatched. I have 20 pages of notes! I will distill all of that down into my lessons for me and get it into blog format. Maybe it will be of interest to others..
Five things became crystal clear to me this week in a hot New York City: (i) I want to learn how to write a compelling, page-turning story; (ii) I have a treasure chest full of ideas and experience; (iii) I have a lot to learn; (iv) there is room for another respected thriller writer; and (v) I will do my best to fill that space.