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The Mystery Of It All

The mystery and suspense genre has always been historically popular, there was Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins, Arthur Conan Doyle, and even Charles Dickens. The genre has evolved over the years and I have noticed somewhat of a revival, if I dare call it that. It’s not that the mystery genre ever went “out of style.” It just seems like whoever I talk to, whether it’s a publisher, another literary agent, or a client/author, everyone is all about more mystery, more suspense, and more thrill. That’s why I was very happy to see an article on Bustle today about writing tips from Shirley Jackson, a true master of suspense. The article takes inspiration from Jackson’s newest book coming out August 4th, Let Me Tell You– in which the last section is a collection of essays and lectures on how and why she writes. I couldn’t possibly phrase Jackson’s advice any better myself, so here it is:

1. “The very nicest thing about being a writer is that you can afford to indulge yourself endlessly with oddness and nobody can really do anything about it, as long as you keep writing and kind of using it up, as it were.”

2. “All you have to do … is keep writing. As long as you write it away regularly, nothing can really hurt you.”

3. “I cannot find any patience for those people who believe that you start writing when you sit down at your desk and pick up your pen and finish writing when you put down your pen again…”

4. “I tell myself stories all day long, and I have managed to weave a fairy tale of infinite complexity around the inanimate objects in my house…”

5. “A writer who is serious and economical can store away small fragments of ideas and events and conversations, and even facial expressions and mannerisms, and use them all someday.”

6. “…with the small addition of the one element of fantasy, or unreality, or imagination, all the things that happen are fun to write about.”

7. “Now, no one can get into writing a novel about a haunted house without hitting the subject of reality head-on; either I have to believe in ghosts, which I do, or I have to write another kind of novel altogether.

8. “Using any device that might possibly work, the writer has to snare the reader’s attention and keep it.”

9. “I delight in what I fear.”

10. “All things are potential paragraphs.”

Write On.

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