Like Your Life Depends On It with Duane Swierczynski

In this four-week workshop, learn to write a breakneck, no-holds-barred, addictive story, all in service of keeping a reader turning the pages—even if his or her house is on fire.

Your Instructor: Duane Swierczynski, author of the Charlie Hardie trilogy, Expiration Date

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: This class is not currently enrolling. To be notified when it is offered again, Click Here

Enrollment: 16 Students

Price: $375

Class Description

If you want to you grab your reader's attention, you have to write like your life depends on it. 

Because it does.

If a reader puts your book down, you’ve failed.

Your goal is to do everything in your power to keep that book in his or her sweaty little hands.

In this workshop, you'll study the art of writing a breakneck, no-holds-barred, addictive page-turner, including exercises on pitching, pacing, structure, editing, writing action scenes and crisp dialogue—all in the service of keeping a reader turning those pages, even if his or her house is on fire.

You'll be lead to that goal by Duane Swierczynski, who has been lauded for writing "breathless action" (New York Times Book Review) and been compared to "Elmore Leonard on adrenaline and speed" (New York Journal of Books).  

And by the end of this class, you'll have the tools you need to hook your fingers into your reader’s eye sockets and drag them into your book.

And as an added bonus...

Joshua Kendall is an editor at Mulholland Books, the crime imprint of Little, Brown that's published a number of Duane's books. He's seen a lot over the last year, from the publication of Cuckoo’s Calling by J.K. Rowlingto the twisty lit sensation S., by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst.

We're going to dedicate a discussion thread in this class to Joshua, where he'll take questions from students. So if you've got something you'd like to pose to an editor who works at a major publishing house, this is the place to do it. 

You can learn a little more about Joshua from this profile that recently ran in Publishers Weekly

What This Class Covers

Week One: Developing Your High-Octane Story Germ

How to take the tiniest germ of an idea and cultivate it into the “high concept pitch” that will eventually blossom into a page-turner. You can often tweak the DNA of the oldest, lamest germ and grow it into something fresh, surprising, and weird. You can also create fun new mutant concept by slamming together very different genetic strands. Either way, your job is to serve up something that a reader hasn’t seen before.

Assignment One: Writing the back cover copy for your eventual novel, from taglines to two paragraphs of high-octane summary—as well as fake blurbs. (Seriously, this helps.)

Week Two: Starting With a Bang

You only have one chance to hook your reader. In this session we’ll talk about how to write a first sentence or paragraph that readers won’t be able to put down, no matter what else is going on in their lives. We’ll examine tried-and-true methods from the masters, as well as openings that… well, suck. And we’ll discuss how to establish your unique voice from the very first page.

Assignment Two: Write the first two pages of your thriller. Grab us with the very first few sentences, then end at a point where we’re dying to read more.

Week Three: Tumbling Down a Hill in a House That Is On Fire

You’ve got the idea. You’ve got the opening. Now we dive into the heart of darkness, with a discussion about pacing and structure, including: The art of the ticking clock; outlining vs. winging it (and why it’s a smart idea to do both); the pros and cons of first person and third person; using subplots to maximize suspense; when to have a guy with a gun walk into the room; planting seeds for later exploitation; the thrill of the earned surprise—always keep readers guessing; the fun of withholding information—without cheating your reader.

Assignment Three: Write a killer two- to three-page outline (or “beat sheet”) for your novel based on the tips from this session.

Week Four: Kicking In Windows, Slamming Shut Doors

Now that you’ve built up that head of steam with the first three lessons, here’s how to keep the momentum going throughout your novel and never let the excitement flag. We’ll discuss how to do this with action scenes, dialogue, as well as how to enter scenes and leave them. And how to avoid the dreaded “info dump” and “descriptive hells” that bog down otherwise fine and exciting novels.

Assignment Four: Write the sample end of a chapter, followed by the beginning of the very next chapter.

* Assignments will be critiqued by Duane and fellow students. 

Goals Of This Class

  • Learn the elements you need to keep your reader hooked
  • Cover pitching, pacing, structure, editing, action scenes and dialogue
  • Improve your writing through critiques from your instructor and fellow students
  • Challenge yourself and stretch your boundaries with weekly writing assignments
  • Finish with the roadmap to your very own breakneck novel
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