The Secret Life of Successful Mysteries

  • Saturday, May 19, 2018
  • Chris Knopf
  • 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or thereabouts, $25 (public), $20 (FC Writers Studio Students, and Sisters in Crime)

Are you writing (or do you want to write) a thriller, a cozy, a caper, suspense, or any other type of mystery? Don’t know your puzzles from your police procedurals? Need some help with craft, structure, composition and more?

And do you want to sell your book?

Best-selling author and publisher Chris Knopf can help, whatever stage you are in in your pursuit of publication. There are pragmatic things to know that will help you get there. And once there, how to earn the best reviews, sales and acclaim your book can achieve.

This workshop is focused on those aspects of style and sensibility that will have the most impact on helping your book move on to the next level. The first rule is there are no rules, Knopf says, though there are guidelines on how to improve your chances.

Writing Craft

Pace.  What agents and publishers look for that moves them off the first page, into the first chapter, and then holds them to the end. If that sounds like a gauntlet, it is. The trick is to get through it without getting knocked out.

Character(s).  How to create, staff and manage your entourage of characters: protagonist, principles (helpers, friends, lovers, antagonists, experts), extras (beat cops, shop keepers, bartenders, clerks, average people you interact with daily) one and done.

Voice and composition.  Those ineffable qualities we’ll try to pin down as well as we can.

Structure.  What you can learn from theater and music.

Practical Tips 

Polishing a manuscript. Everyone needs an editor. In Chris’s opinion, every step of the way.

Format.  It may surprise you how often manuscripts are never even read because of format issues. If you worked for a literary agency, or publishing house, you wouldn’t be surprised a bit. It’s the worst reason to be rejected, but the easiest to fix.

Pitching an agent.  Do’s and don’ts.


About the Instructor’s Awesome Books

Tango Down, eighth in Knopf’s Sam Acquillo Hamptons Mystery Series, was released December, 2017.  Back Lash was published in 2016, and received a starred review from Booklist.  It followed Cop Job in 2015, about which Booklist said:  “…maintains the high standards of previous entries:  smooth prose style, brisk dialogue, smart plotline, well-drawn characters, keen sense of place. Another winner from a consistently strong author. “  Knopf’s first novel, The Last Refuge (2005) was a finalist for The Connecticut Book Award.  In 2007, Two Time was one of thirteen mysteries listed in Marilyn Stasio’s “Recommended Summer Reading” column in The New York Times Book Review.  Head Wounds was cited as one of the best mysteries of the year in 2008 by both Mysterious Reviews and Deadly Pleasures, and the 2008 Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Mystery.

His thriller series featuring off-the-grid sleuth Arthur Cathcart began with Dead Anyway, which received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus and Library Journal.   It was named one of The Best Crime Novels of 2012 by The Boston Globe and won the 2013 Nero Award.  The sequels, Cries of the Lost and A Billion Ways To Die, were released in 2013 and 2014.  Three  Jackie Swaitkowski Hamptons Mysteries were published by Thomas Dunne/St. Martins – Short Squeeze, Bad Bird and Ice Cap.

Kill Switch, included in Rogue Wave: Best New England Crime Stories, was short-listed for the 2016 Derringer Award.  Ugly will be in this year’s Best New England Crime Stories. A Little Cariñoso appeared in the April, 2017 edition of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Crossing Harry has been included in Akashic’s New Haven Noir, released August, 2017.  

Knopf is also a co-publisher and editor at The Permanent Press.

2 Comments On “The Secret Life of Successful Mysteries”

  1. I’m wondering when Chris Knopf might do another workshop on how to write a successful mystery.

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