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Writers' Corner

It took me a long time to find a workable writing rhythm to produce Japantown and jumpstart the Jim Brodie series. Finding your voice, writing rhythm, and even simply the time to put words to paper are initial obstacles faced by nearly every aspiring and published writer.

As a former book editor and now an author, I often field queries about writing and publishing. Two of the most popular questions are "What are some of the things I must do to start?" and "How can I find an agent?" These are answered in the collection of pieces below. Since the list or articles keeps expanding, I've divided it into two sections for convenience's sake:


There is no single way to write a novel. However, authors mostly agree on two points: first, you should read widely and deeply in your field or genre and, second, you should rewrite ruthlessly.

After that, the path to becoming a writer seems to vary. But there is no shortage of hints to be picked up along the way. I hope you'll find a few to suit your needs in this collection. And it doesn't hurt to remember that every new idea or technique gained is another step forward.


NEW! "10 Things Bestselling Thriller Writers Do to Make Their Manuscripts Sing." This is for most, if not all, types of fiction writing. At CraftFest, put on in New York City every summer by ITW (International Thriller Writers), fellow author Anthony Franze and I gave a talk to a packed house on vital practices followed by a number of bestselling authors. The techniques range from simple to counterintuitive but we believe all are necessary to get your work noticed. Here are links to purchase an audio copy of the session, available in mp3 and CD format. The funds for this very reasonably priced recording go to ITW.

NEW! "Author Workspace: Mood, Art, and How It 'Works' in My Home Office." I write in many places, under many conditions, working at home in the morning, and outside in the afternoon. For what it's worth, here are a few more details.

"Habits to Write By" tackles in broad strokes a trio of ideas about how to get started with your writing and keep going.

"America's Favorite Suspense Authors on the Rules of Fiction" discusses some of the practices that work for me, including one about self-editing I've found invaluable. By Anthony Franze, for Suspense Magazine.

"What It Takes" relates the unique hurdles I was forced to leap over to finish my first book. Each writer has his or her own barriers to overcome, so while the specifics of my case will most likely not apply to your situation, the general ideas about determination and persistence and finding your own "mental and physical balance" might. Written for The Thrill Begins.

"3 Things to Set You on the Path to Publishing Success." More points you may find helpful, including two "must-do's." Written for Writer's Digest.

"Thrillers, Mysteries, and Crime Fiction: 5 Masters of Opening Lines." The title says it all. Here, fellow author Anthony Franze and I look at the "first offerings" of five top writers in the field: Gillian Flynn, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Sue Grafton, and Dennis Lehane.

"From Book Editor to Thriller Writer: Barry Lancet's Advice to Aspiring Scribes." Based on a talk and workshop I was asked to give, this article lays out (a) five vital qualities I think a good novel should have (there are more, depending), (b) the parallels between today's genre fiction and many literary classics, (c) how the idea for the Jim Brodie series slowly developed, and (d) a scattering of "how-to" points. Reported by Jeremy Hill for the Society of Writers, Editors, and Translators.

"101 Writing Tips." A humorous romp through some of the bad habits writers can fall into. Posted courtesy of Peter Durfee, who is quick to point out that this is not an original list but one that has been floating around the Web for some time.


"How to Find an Agent" discusses some ways to secure the right representation, with a number of important points not to be ignored or glossed over. After additional questions from readers, I added more details about the content an approach letter should contain. There is also a brief commentary about when going directly to a publisher is fine.

"An Inside Look at a Big 6 Editor's Job." This is a must-read for every aspiring and new writer. Sarah Knight, my acquiring editor at Simon & Schuster for my first four books (over two contracts), was extremely candid about the day-to-day at a major publishing house. Her answers are sharp and insightful and there is much to be gleaned here. In addition, there are a pair of "do and don't" questions with answers every author should heed, the more so since the Big 6 have become the Big 5. Written for The Big Thrill.

"Author Work Space—Tokyo: Barry Lancet." Actually, I work wherever I happen to be, but this has some details about my study regimen in Japan, and how I split my day: mornings at home, afternoons at a café.