Welcome to the Thrillerfest V Blog!

We hope you'll bookmark us, just as you bookmark so many of the hundreds of the International Thriller Writers that participate in our annual conference, held in New York City in July.

ITW is a youthful organization, always ready for a new way of looking at things. You'll find that dynamism here, in blog posts from authors, agents, editors and Thrillerfest attendees, past and present.

And that same excitement you feel from your favorite reads is evident in everything ITW does, and no wonder--the organization, staffing and publicity for ThrillerFest--including this new blog--is undertaken by volunteers, most of whom are ITW authors themselves.

So pull up a chair and stay awhile ... discover the latest news on what Thrillerfest V--the fifth anniversary of the conference--has to offer. Visit old friends, make new ones, ask questions, and hear about the remarkable things in store for the conference.

Whether or not you can come see us in New York--and we hope that you can!--please join us here. It's gonna be ... a thriller!

Kelli Stanley, Thrillerfest Publicity Committee Chair

Thrillerfest Publicity Committee:
Jeannie Holmes
CJ Lyons
Carla Buckley
Grant McKenzie

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


By Avery Aames (the alter ego for Daryl Wood Gerber)

Do you like riding on a rollercoaster?

I love it! I love the thrill of not knowing what comes next. I crave spinning upside
down, twisting to the right, the left, going through a dark tunnel, a plummeting drop, a loop-the-loop. Crave it. But I also like knowing that the rollercoaster creator spent hours—hopefully years—designing that ride and personally tested it out hundreds of times. I want to know that the designer rode, feet dangling, nose facing the ground, seeing that pavement below. I want the designer to be darned sure that the rollercoaster won’t collapse right at that very second. That took planning. Lots and lots of planning.

Why am I writing about a rollercoaster? Because designing a rollercoaster is like
designing a book. If the designer (i.e. author) doesn’t have a clue where the story is going, then the book can have sags and false starts and even plummet before its time.

Yes, I love writing with an outline. I know that puts me in about one-half the population of writers. Many enjoy writing by the seat of their pants, but I like an outline. I prefer to know where the story starts and ends. I enjoy plotting out the turns, the act points, the highs and lows. I need to know how all the clues play out. I have to know all the red herrings ahead of time so I can plant them well. In the case of my current book, The Long Quiche Goodbye, the first in A Cheese Shop Mystery series, I also planned where I was going to include thrilling cheeses and intriguing points of interest in Ohio and the quaint town of Providence. The fine-tuning is in the details. It’s like creating a recipe for success.

However, let’s return to the rollercoaster analogy ride for a second. I must admit that I like NOT knowing, too. You know what I mean. I don’t want my readers to guess every story turn I write. I want them thrilled, surprised. That’s why an author needs to be flexible and allow the outline to change. You read me right. An outline can change. Because when a surprise happens, and you know it’s the RIGHT surprise, then an author has to grasp it and believe it’s the right change to make. For me, an outline is like having a road map that shows the route to one destination, but along the way, I might decide to take the scenic route. Stop off at that little town to the east, have lunch, buy a trinket-- have a brawl with a villain or find a body--and get back on the road.

The value of an outline is the comfort I get when I know where the end of the road is. I know who did it and why and what justice will be served.
But what happens if who did it changes along the way, you ask? [Ahem.] Yes, that’s happened to me, too. I started out KNOWING that one character killed another, until surprise!, I discovered it was not one but a gang. Not a woman, but a man. Not the husband, but the ex-boyfriend. Does that shred my outline? Not necessarily. That’s when I go back and re-outline. I create a graph that makes sure I didn’t leave IN a red herring that now doesn’t belong. I make sure that the twist I took to get the original story to point A is now a twist to take me to point B.
I outline because I don’t like to feel lost. I’m not James Bond. Heck, I’m not even Laura Croft, Tomb raider. I don’t feel comfortable if I’m in the dark without a flashlight…or a weapon…and I hear a crackle, a footstep, and then feel heavy breathing down my neck. {By the way, a deadline can often breathe heavily down one’s neck. Ever felt that?}

But I do like a rollercoaster--the faster and steeper, the better.
Do you like writing with an outline? Why? Or better yet, why not? What’s the advantage for you? Have you ever tried it the other way?


  1. Great analogy!
    I write with the outline too, so I guess we are sided on the same half. lol.
    I can do seat of the pants, but in short stories where the rewriting would no entail 20-30k words or resurrecting dead characters.

  2. I write with an outline--and yep, sometimes take a side trip that ends up working (or not) and adjust accordingly. Great blog! I'm personally not a fan of roller coasters in real life--the resulting migraines ain't fun--but gotta have 'em in my reading.

  3. I use an outline for all my novel-length fiction. My stories typically involve numerous changes in physical locations and I try to make sure the outline identifies those places. I may not follow the exact order as specified by the outline, but I like to have those locales in my mind as I'm writing. The most important thing the outline does, of course, is identify where the story ends up. It is first and foremost a map showing my main character's ultimate destination. James Guy Roberts (JamesGuyRoberts.com)

  4. Bill Scott
    I use an outline for novels, because fiction, for me, is also analogous to an air-to-air or air-to-ground missile: If you haven't designated a target on which the missile can home-in, it has no idea where it's going or what it's supposed to hit. The missile will "go dumb," and whiz around aimlessly, until its fuel is exhausted. This ol' writer needs to know where he's going, as well — before launch.

  5. Bill, the missile whizzing around is a great analogy and the "go dumb" apropos! LOL.

    ~Avery (aka Daryl)