September 23 – 29: “Are thriller authors particularly pressured to write fast?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5A.J. Liebling once quipped, “I can write faster than anyone who can write better, and I can write better than anyone who can write faster.” Are thriller authors particularly pressured to write fast? This week we’ll hear from ITW Members Christopher Brown, DiAnn Mills, Don Helin and Reece Hirsch. You won’t want to miss it! Scroll down to the “comments” section section to follow along…but be quick about it!


Christopher Brown’s debut Tropic of Kansas was a finalist for the 2018 Campbell Award for best science fiction novel of the year. His new novel RULE OF CAPTURE, the beginning of a series of speculative legal thrillers, is forthcoming from Harper Voyager in August 2019. He was a World Fantasy Award nominee for the anthology Three Messages and a Warning. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he also practices law.


During his time in the military, Don Helin served at a number of stateside posts as well as overseas in Vietnam and Germany. He is the author of six thrillers that draw from his military experience including three tours in the Pentagon. His novel, Secret Assault was selected as the Best Suspense/Thriller at the 2015 Indie Book Awards. Don is a member of International Thriller Writers and a mentor with Mystery Writers of America.


DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She weaves memorable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure? Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.


Reece Hirsch is the author of five thrillers that draw upon his background as a privacy attorney. His first book, THE INSIDER, was a finalist for the 2011 Thriller Award for Best First Novel. His next three books, THE ADVERSARY, INTRUSION and SURVEILLANCE, all feature former Department of Justice cybercrimes prosecutor Chris Bruen. Reece is a partner in the San Francisco office of an international law firm and cochair of its privacy and cybersecurity practice. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation (


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  1. This took some thinking. My goal is a quality story, not a quantity of stories. I want each novel to be the best writing possible and to always strive toward excellence. To accomplish my personal definition of a well-written novel takes time, patience, and a critical look at every word. Six + months is my minimum, with a preference for eight months. I understand a thrilling story keeps the reader’s adrenaline going, and a thriller junkie want’s the next “high,” but I refuse to send inferior writing to my editor. So, while I may be pressured to write fast, I won’t sacrifice the story.

  2. In any writing, there’s a tension between the improvisational jazz of fresh prose and the crystalline beauty of sentences that have been chiseled like coal into diamonds. Consider the difference between Jack Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD and Cormac McCarthy’s BLOOD MERIDIAN. Thrillers can derive much of their energy from the immediacy of the writing, and that immediacy can be enhanced by the need to get a book turned in—the ticking clock at the heart of the plot is often linked to the calendar on the author’s desk. My latest book RULE OF CAPTURE is the story of a deadline-driven lawyer exposing a dark conspiracy, and when I was staring at my own imminent deadline I used that feeling to charge the sense of urgency driving my protagonist. Done right, that kind of writing can generate its own propulsion. And as Diann notes, it doesn’t have to be at the expense of quality—indeed, I think fast writing coupled with an intensity of focus can produce some of the very best writing.

  3. I have learned to write and read like a writer. My wife is a very fast reader, but I like to take my time. John Sanford is one of my favorite writers. I find by the time I’m on the fifth or sixth page of his book, he has me hooked. I’ve got to go back and reread to see how he did that.
    Same for writing. I moved very slowly. The complexity of putting together quality characters my readers will enjoy with a meaningful plot is hard work. It takes thought. It takes time.
    I have to figure out how my detail to put in right away. What does the reader need to know at that minute. I’ve heard one way to do it is to give the reader the dots and let the reader connect them. You must trust your reader. But that takes time and balance.
    Early on I rushed. Had that great story my publisher would love. Doesn’t work for me.
    Would love to hear your questions and comments.

  4. Thriller writers are under the same pressures as all writers of genre fiction, from crime fiction to cozies, to keep producing books to stay in the minds of readers. Because I also maintain a full-time legal career, it’s not easy for me to produce a book a year, but I’ve done it when my current publishing deal calls for it. I find that 18 months is a fairly comfortable time frame for me to produce a book.

    I think thriller readers expect a good thriller to READ fast, regardless of how long it took to write it. Maybe working under a pressing deadline helps an author write a book that is a propulsive page-turner ….

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