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How to Write a Bestseller with Kelley Armstrong and Brian Henry

Recently I was thrilled to join New York Times Bestselling author Kelley Armstrong and long-time editor, Brian Henry at their workshop on writing commercial fiction.

As a female and Canadian writer, I believe that Kelley Armstrong has become a role model for the rest of us by breaking through the invisible boundaries that dictated only men wrote good dark material. Her first novel, Bitten, is about a female werewolf, and inspired the television series on Space network.

Kelley has since published over thirty other novels for adults, and has been writing for children and the YA market.

And by creating strong, competent, female protagonists, she provides readers with the opportunity to read about women and girls they could be proud of. No longer were women the counterpart to a sole male lead. This is what I admire most about Kelley’s writing, and it was a pleasure to be able to express this to her in person.

So, in preparation for the workshop, I quickly grabbed my stack of Kelley Armstrong books in hopes she could sign my favorites – the Age of Legends series and Bitten (part of the Other World series) – and off I went.

(It’s no surprise that when you’re a writer, you covet books, especially those from your favourite authors and when they are signed, they become something akin to the Holy Grail.)

All the fan girl stuff aside, I was also at the workshop to learn. And learn, I did.

Brain Henry talked about the importance of creating memorable and multi-dimensional characters and how to create characters that readers empathize with. I found his discussion of the roles of victims, villains, heroes, and anti-heroes fascinating, after all, it is character relations as well as plot that drive a story. In terms of plot development, I was encouraged to develop a plot line that was original and fresh, because, after all, that is just what the agents are looking for.

When Kelley Armstrong took the helm in the afternoon, she offered the single best advice I’ve heard about building your first chapter which was, make it memorable and start with action (and, no, this doesn’t necessarily mean a fight scene). In that first chapter tone, voice, genre, and time period all must be all established. Introduce your character(s) and ground your reader, ensuring they know what the book is about. It may seem like a laundry list, and but Kelley reminded us that we have ten pages (and in all likelihood only two), in which to grab the attention of our readers, and that reader could be the very agent you’ve been trying to query. So make those first pages count!

Kelley’s passion for writing, and the very real job of writing commercial fiction shone through – writing is work, and should be treated as such.

In the end, I left fully inspired and filled with advice for to build a better manuscript. And what better way is there to spend the day?

Many thanks to Brian Henry of Quick Brown Fox and Kelley Armstrong.

For our reviews of Kelley Armstrong’s work and more of her advice on writing, be sure to check out

Kelley Armstrong’s Advice For Writers

REVIEW – Kelley Armstrong’s The Masked Truth

REVIEW — Kelley Armstrong’s Stolen

REVIEW — Kelley Armstrong’s Led Astray

And you MUST go to the official Kelley Armstrong site for FREE excerpts of her work.



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