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MAGGIE HALL GUEST POST AND THE CONSPIRACY OF US GIVEAWAY

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I'm excited to have debut author Maggie Hall here to share her fantastic tips about how to write a YA thriller story. I found many of them helpful to writing a story in general. And there's also a giveaway of her new YA thriller A CONSPIRACY OF US that releases on January 13th. Details of the giveaway will be at the end of the post.

Here's a blurb of A CONSPIRACY OF US from Goodreads:


To fight her destiny as the missing heir to a powerful and dangerous secret society, sixteen-year-old Avery West must solve an ancient puzzle in a deadly race across Europe. Forbidden love and code-breaking, masked balls and explosions, destiny and dark secrets collide in this romantic thriller, in the vein of a YA DaVinci Code.

Avery West's newfound family can shut down Prada at the Champs-Elysees when they want to shop in peace, and can just as easily order a bombing when they want to start a war.

They are part of a powerful and dangerous secret society called the Circle of Twelve, and Avery is their missing heir. If they discover who she is, some of them will want to use her as a pawn. Some will want her dead.

To thwart their plans, Avery must follow a trail of clues from the landmarks of Paris to the back alleys of Istanbul and through a web of ancient legends and lies. And unless she can stay one step ahead of beautiful, volatile Stellan, who knows she’s more than she seems, and can decide whether to trust mysterious, magnetic Jack, she may be doomed after all.



Doesn't it sound good? Now here's Maggie. 

7 Tips for Pacing a YA Thriller

Pacing is important to any writer, and to any book. You never want a reader to say your story was so slow-paced it put them to sleep! But a quick pace is especially important in action-oriented books, and it was very important to me while writing my own debut, a YA international thriller.

My book, THE CONSPIRACY OF US, is in some ways more like many published adult thrillers than like anything currently in YA. It involves a global conspiracy, international settings, and a chase across Europe a la DaVinci Code or James Bond. So I knew from the start I wanted to write a fast-paced story, but it was also important to me to maintain a decidedly YA feel. I learned a few key points about thriller pacing along the way, and tweaked them to my purposes, and I’d love to share them with you today.

1. Start with action. Many adult thrillers I read start with immediate life-threatening danger. While this is certainly one strategy to hook a reader, especially in YA, readers usually prefer to know the character before they’re asked to care whether they die or not! So when I say start with action, I don’t necessarily mean start with a knife to your MC’s throat, but start with something that asks questions; something out of the ordinary; something hopefully related to your overall plot action.

2. Alternate up and down scenes. Chase scenes lose their meaning when there are ten of them in a row.
The characters need to catch their breath, and so does the reader! Even in a very fast-paced thriller, the thrills will become less thrilling if there are no valleys. But make sure the valleys are important, too—there are no filler scenes allowed in thrillers! In the valleys, you have a great opportunity for extra character development, romance, humor—whatever other elements make up your story.

3. Go big or go home. It’s a thriller! Make it thrilling! One of my favorite questions to ask myself is: How can I make this bigger? Not every single scene has to be huge and over-the-top, but peppering in some big moments can really add to the peaks and valleys of your pacing. And the big moments don’t just have to be action. Especially in YA, they can (and should!) sometimes be personal. A confrontation, a meeting, a kiss.

4. What seems to take longer in real life should take up less page space, and what feels like it goes by very quickly should take up more. (This is a quote paraphrased from some famous writing advice, and I can’t remember who originally said it! Can anyone help me out?) No one wants to read an entire chapter about a character brushing their teeth and washing their face to get ready for bed, even if that takes up the same number of minutes as the important conversation you spent a whole chapter on earlier. And you sure as heck better spend more time telling us about your MC’s too-short one-minute interaction with her crush than you do on the interminable twenty minutes she sat on the bus earlier.

5. You often don’t need the beginning and end of chapters. Your characters are going from one place to another? Unless they get in a car chase on the way, you don’t need to show them getting there. Your MC has decided to leave the restaurant to pursue a clue? Unless she gets in an important fight with someone on the way out, cut the scene at her decision. Readers will understand that she left without spending boring time reading about it.

6. Maintain suspense. Alfred Hitchcock has a famous quote about the difference between surprise and suspense. Let a bomb no one knows about explode, and the audience is surprised for seconds. Plant the seed that something bad could happen, and they’re in suspense for the whole movie. Suspense, according to him, is all about anticipation. To apply this to pacing, the thriller writer must make sure there is enough suspense planted early enough to keep the audience on the edge of their seats immediately, but not too early the audience gets tired of waiting for the resolution.

7. Make it all about your MC. All these tips are really just tricks to make the reader feel like they’re living the action alongside your main character. If you can really get in her head, all the better! Your main character inherently knows how to pace a story. She has a lot to say about being shot at. She has a lot to say about a kiss, even if it only lasts thirty seconds. She has a lot less to say about waiting for the elevator. In fact, she’d probably skip telling you about waiting for the elevator at all, because it’s pretty much the same for everyone, and why would she waste any of her story telling you that?

About the author:
Maggie Hall indulges her obsession with distant lands and far-flung adventures as often as she can. She has played with baby tigers in Thailand, learned to make homemade pasta in Italy, and taken thousands of miles of trains through the vibrant countryside of India. In her past life, she was a bookstore events coordinator and marketing manager, and when she's not on the other side of the world, she lives with her husband and their cats in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she watches USC football, dabbles in graphic design, and blogs about young adult literature for YA Misfits.

You can find Maggie at:



Maggie has generously offered a copy of A CONSPIRACY OF US for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through January 24th. I’ll announce the winner on January 26th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry.This is for US only.

Here's what's coming up:

Next Monday I have a guest post by debut author Susan Adrian and her agent  Kate Schafer Testerman and a giveaway of TUNNEL VISION, her YA thriller. And there's going to be a query critique by Kate too!

Next Wednesday I have a guest post by Robert Kent and a giveaway of his new middle grade book, BANNIKER BONES.

The following Monday I have a fantastic guest post by Dianne Salerni on writing a trilogy and an ARC giveaway of INQUISITOR'S MARK, the second book in her middle grade fantasy.

And the Monday after that I have an interview with follower and blogger friend David Powers King and his co-author Michael Jensen and a giveaway of their fantastic YA fantasy WOVEN.

Hope to see you on Monday!



59 comments:

iLuvReadingTooMuch said...

Thanks so much for the great giveaway! It sounds absolutely fantastic (I do love thrillers) and the cover is gorgeous :D

GFC: iLuvReadingTooMuch

iliveforreading AT hotmail DOT com

Ellie said...

I LOVE The Go big or go home attitude! I'm totally pumped up for this book now :D

GFC: Ellie
Email elliemoreton at gmail

Linda Romer said...

I would love to read A Conspiracy Of Us. Thank you
email isisthe12th@gmail.com

Kim Van Sickler said...

A DaVinci Code for YAs. Sounds great! I especially like Maggie's #4. Good luck with the book, Maggie!

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

These are great tips! I'm writing a cosy mystery right now, not a thriller, but her tips apply just as well. I've bookmarked this. And yes, it does sound like a good read for sure.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Those are all awesome tips - "start with action" and "go big or go home" are my favorites! Thanks for sharing!

Christine Rains said...

Fantastic tips! I love to start right in with the action. It's always a great hook. Good luck to Maggie!

~Sia McKye~ said...

I love reading thrillers but I have to admit, I haven't seen many in the YA genre. This is the kind of story I'd enjoy. I love your tips and yes, Alfred Hitchcock had the right idea on creating suspense in his movies.

Sia McKye Over Coffee

Rachna Chhabria said...

Thanks for the super tips, Maggie. Starting with action is a great way to hook readers early on. Good luck with your books. I definitely want to read it.

Cynthia said...

Congratulations on your book, Maggie. I remember the Champs-Elysees when I visited Paris years ago.

I like the Alfred Hitchcock tip that you offered. I do agree that suspense gives the audience something more to look forward to.

Kristin Lenz said...

Congrats to Maggie, and thanks for the tips!

SStokes said...

Great post-- I'm writing a thriller at the moment and really appreciate the advice! The peaks and valley advice is so true - I've been noticing in some recent thriller reads that the most successful stories take almost an every-other chapter approach, which leads to page turning and stronger character development. Congrats on the new release.

Crystal Collier said...

Awesome advice. I think I've read it all before, but it's so easy to forget. Pacing can be so tricky and it's difficult to know we've got it completely right. I especially appreciate the bit about skipping the boring parts. Some authors get tied up in the details. =)

M Pax said...

I don't write thrillers... maybe in the future, but I do the same with each chapter - how can I make this bigger and have a greater impact.

Happy New Year, Maggie and Natalie!

Weaver said...

What a great post. I'm struggling because my newest project has thriller elements but isn't a thriller based on what I've read about them. Ugh.

Congrats to Maggie. That books sounds like it has everything! :D

Jenni said...

I don't write thrillers, but this advice is so helpful for me as I've been struggling with pacing in my work. I seem to tend to make it too fast or too slow. Love what Maggie said about hills and valleys.
And her book sounds amazing!

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Maggie, Hi, Natalie,

Great tips! I write edgy Y/A and I can't agree with you more, Maggie! It's a wonderful reminder especially when we are doing our final edits!

ALL the best with your debut novel!!!!!

Gwen Gardner said...

Wonderful tips! I'm going to bookmark this page. Congrats on your new book, Maggie. It sounds wonderful.

Hi Natalie!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Those are great tips for any genre. I know just what she means in her fourth tip. I've fight scenes that last for pages but would be mere minutes in real life.

Emma A. said...

This sounds amazing!!! Thank you so much for offering a copy of it!

I follow via Bloglovin: Emma Andje McAndrew

And I shared on Twitter: https://twitter.com/emandm2222/status/552986415772880897

Julie Musil said...

Oh, wow, great tips! And I agree with Alex. They work for any genre. Great reminders for me. Thanks!

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

These are great tips! I'm looking forward to reading A CONSPIRACY OF US

Anonymous said...

I enjoy thrillers. These are wonderful tips to keep in mind. This looks like an intense read.

Christina Fiorelli said...

I love what she said about how in YA we like to care about characters before seeing them fighting for their life.

Awesome advice!!

GFC follower Christina Kit.

email subscriber ccfioriole at gmail dot com

Christina Fiorelli said...

I tweeted https://twitter.com/christinafiorio/status/553093496476012545

GFC follow Christina Kit.

email subscriber ccfioriole at gmail dot com

dolorah said...

Hi Natalie and Maggie; great tips for writing.

Happy New Year to you both.

Anita Saxena said...

The Conspiracy of Us, sounds super exciting. And it's got a great cover! Thank you for the pacing advice.

Productofanillusion at gmail dot com

GFC follower Anita Saxena

LSpeers said...

This book sounds awesome. I look forward to reading it!

lcspeers@gmail.com

Beth said...

This sounds like an awesome book - a thriller set in a glamorous location can't miss! Thanks for this interview.

DMS said...

This does sound like a book with lots of action and excitement. Great blurb! I also liked the advice. Definitely important things to think about when writing. Wishing Maggie the best of luck!
~Jess

Emily R. King said...

Wonderful advice! I need to work on cutting the transitions at the beginning and end of my chapters. I needed this post. Thanks so much!

Margo Berendsen said...

Looking forward to this one and learned a couple good things from this list. Any book, thriller or not, can benefit from these tips.

Kiersti Torok said...

Thanks for the awesome advice--especially the bit about maintaining the valleys in all that action. Can't wait to read this book!

kdtorok@gmail.com

Danielle H. said...

Well-written and valuable advice. Thank you for the post and giveaway. I shared on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/danielle.hammelef?fref=nf&pnref=story

Anonymous said...

I've heard a lot of good things about this one. =)

Caryn Caldwell said...

WONDERFUL advice! So glad you shared it! I especially love #2. It's easy to feel pressured to have lots of action scenes in a row in order to up the pacing, but those valleys really ARE important.

J Lenni Dorner said...

These are some great writetips!

She looks like a young Sarah Jessica Parker. So pretty.

Shared on Twitter, G+, and Facebook.

Anonymous said...

I could never write thrillers, but this sounds like something I'd love to read :-) Still some great tips I can use in my own YA novels, too!

Rosi said...

Thanks for a great post. Please let someone else win, though. I am buried in books right now.

Vanessa Morgan said...

Europe, mysteries, secrets, and masked balls? Yes, please. I'm in.

Jessica Lawson said...

Wow, I love these tips and the book sounds great!

Stephanie Garber said...

Great tips, Maggie! I'm so excited to read this book out, everything I've heard about it is awesome!

Katie Bucklein said...

What great advice! Many of these tips should span across all genres! I can't wait to read the book.

Alisha S. said...

Sounds great! Thanks for the chance to win :)

GFC as Alisha
sienkiel1821 at yahoo dot com

Unknown said...

Maggie's book's cover is stunning. Such a vivid blue. It's hard to imagine a YA kid going around Europe by herself, but I'm sure it's all in the plot details. wishing Maggie much success! :)

Empty Nest Insider said...

What a wonderful premise for a book! Great tips about pacing, and maintaining suspense. These are both essential elements of a first-rate thriller! Best of luck, Maggie! Thanks Natalie! Happy New Year!

Julie

Carina Olsen said...

Not entering the giveaway, just wanted to say that this post is awesome. <3 Thank you for sharing sweetie :) I adore that cover for this book. It sounds pretty awesome ;p

Nicola said...

I really enjoyed this post and wish you great success with your new book. I was hooked from the blurb and will definitely be reading it. All the best.

Teri Polen said...

A YA DaVinci Code with hints of James Bond? This sounds amazing - count me in!

Robyn Campbell said...

Wonderful tips. I've heard about this book on other blogs. It is going to be very popular. Congrats, Maggie!

Patchi said...

Great tips! I can't wait to read the novel.

Natasha said...

Sounds like a great read!!
Thanks for the chance to win!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Munnaza said...

This book sounds so exciting! Thank you so much for this giveaway! I follow you via email (infalliblyyours@gmail.com) and GFC (infalliblyyours) and I also tweeted about the giveaway here: https://twitter.com/yoursinfallibly/status/555275611804303360

KatieC said...

This sounds awesome! Thanks for the chance to win :). katieclarkbooks @ charter . net

bison61 said...

secret society-this sounds like a great read

tiramisu392 (at) yahoo.com

Maisha said...

Amazing tips! I'm super excited to read this book! Thanks so much for the giveaway! :D

Kimberly V said...

This sounds like a good read. The author has led quite an interesting life.
k3kdpv at gmail dot com

Kimberly V said...

I shared on Twitter.

holdenj said...

I would love to read this book! I enjoyed her comments on the pacing of a thriller. Thanks for the chance to win!
JHolden955(at)gmail(dot)com