On Writing,  publishing,  workshops

Two New Online Workshops Announced

Two New Online Workshops Announced!

Two of the workshops I asked about last week are going to start in August.

We are taking sign-ups for both right now since the July workshops are starting in one week.

Writing Mystery and Reader Expectations

The two new workshops have also been added to the September and one of them to the October schedule which are listed under the Online Workshops tab above.

I know it is hard to imagine, but July is almost here. All but one of the July workshops have only one or no one signed up, so if you want almost private lessons from me and Kris in July, this would be the time to sign up.

And the two new workshops are limited as well, so don’t delay on those.

More details on the two workshops below. Feel free to ask if you have any questions.

Class #1… July 5th … Author Voice
Class #2… July 5th … How to Write Thrillers
Class #3… July 5th … Adding Suspense to Your Writing
Class #4… July 5th … Plotting With Depth
Class #5… July 5th … Character Development
Class #6… July 6th … Depth in Writing
Class #7… July 6th … Advanced Character and Dialog
Class #8… July 6th … Cliffhangers
Class #9… July 6th … Pacing Your Novel
Class #10… July 6th … Teams in Fiction

Class #11… Aug 2nd … The Business of Writing
Class #12… Aug 2nd … Expectations (Writing on the Rails)
Class #13… Aug 2nd … Writing Mysteries
Class #14… Aug 2nd … Ideas into Stories
Class #15… Aug 2nd … Teams in Fiction
Class #16… Aug 3rd … Depth in Writing
Class #17… Aug 3rd … Plotting With Depth
Class #18… Aug 3rd … Writing Fiction Sales Copy
Class #19… Aug 3rd … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #20… Aug 3rd … Advanced Depth


(Starts in August)


Kristine Kathryn Rusch (also Kris Nelscott) and I both love writing mystery short stories and novels. Nominated for every major award in mystery, including three times for the Edgar Award, Kris also won the Ellery Queen Award numbers of times. As always, Kris and I will be planning this workshop together.

Finally, we bring our love of mysteries to an online workshop. This workshop will not only give you really clear knowledge of exactly what makes a story or novel a mystery, but we will also talk about the sometimes fine lines between the subgenres.

The five assignments in this workshop will go straight to the heart of the different mystery elements.

Writing mysteries seems vast in nature, but in six weeks you will feel far more confident about the stories and books you write and call mystery. And also, you’ll know where to put your books on the electronic bookshelves to make sure the readers who would enjoy them get to them.

Mystery and mystery elements can also be part of any novel, from young adult to science fiction and beyond. Learning mystery craft skills will help all your novels and stories hold readers. Kris taught a mystery workshop here on the coast a while back, but we will make this one very, very different.

Online, we can be more focused on the craft, the techniques, and the varied subgenres. This workshop will improve your writing in a lot more ways than just writing mystery stories.


(Starts in August)


Reader Expectations or Writing on the Rails

There is often a fine line to writing to market, which can often hurt a writer, to writing so that a reader’s expectations can be filled. To have a reader be satisfied that the promises you  made to them in your cover, your blurb, your opening is critical to a reader buying the next book in your series or the next book you write.

So how do you know what a reader is expecting in all the different genres and subgenres?

That’s what this workshop is about. That’s what this workshop will teach you to understand so you can do it automatically.

“Writing on the Rails” is a term to describe when a writer starts a story off in a certain direction with promises of a certain ending and those promises are fulfilled. But there is a problem. If that sort of writing is obvious, characters cardboard, and readers are way ahead of your story, the readers will stop.

So “On the Rails” means reader expectations are met and you have done your job with the characters and pacing and such.

In every genre there are a bunch of reader expectations that if you follow, you sell more copies and get readers telling others about your book. Doesn’t mean the book isn’t original, not at all. It means that in your original story you gave readers what they wanted.

Reader expectations for me are so ingrained now, I don’t even much think about them and never as I write.

Readers need to care about your story and your characters while at the same time allowing the reader to feel secure that you will fill your promise you made to them for a certain type of book.

For example: You promise a cozy mystery, then have a gunfight in the middle of the book with blood and lots of dead bodies. Cozy readers will put the book down because you promised them a cozy and didn’t deliver.

Or you put a spaceship on the cover of your most recent sf book and there is no spaceship.

Readers hate having promises broken and won’t buy more of your books.

So this workshop is all about all those expectations a reader has coming into all the varied genres and subgenres. Once you know about the expectations, understand deeply that you are writing for someone else on the other side of the typing, you can then just go ahead and write for yourself.

In other words, a lot of this workshop will be awareness. A massive amount of awareness that has never been covered in any way in any other workshop we have done. We did one workshop that is now a classic called Genre Structure, but that workshop didn’t cover any of this. In fact, it would be a nice fit with this one.

After you get through this workshop, you will have faith that you are fulfilling reader expectations. And that faith will help your sales and your writing.



  • Vera Soroka

    Both of these would be great to take. I have been planning on writing a cat cozy mystery series. But I’m not sure because all the ones I’ve been reading have all these common things. Number one there is a dead body. Second it appears the main character is a human with the cats being the side characters. Not sure I like that idea. I want the cats to be the main characters. The other thing I’m not so sure about is the dead body thing that appears to be the whole point of the cozy mystery. I read one story where the cat was the detective and basically solved things that where missing or got lost. I liked that but is that cat cozy mystery anymore? Reader expectation would probably be where there is a dead body and murder to solve I’m guessing. Anyway, when it comes time, I’m not sure how I will write these stores.

    • dwsmith

      Vera, there is sometimes a dead body, but the murder and blood are not on stage in solid cozy mystery. The focus is on the solving of the crime. The crime itself is not important to see, often.

      As for cat stories in cozy mystery, honestly I have no clue. One of the sub-subgenres I haven’t paid attention to. But in general, mystery does not require a murder. Mystery requires a crime, for the most part (there are exceptions to even that). I often write mystery stories with no murder, just crime. And I have seen numbers of cozy novels without murders, just crimes. For example, missing person cases. No body, no murder, but a mystery. So I think you should write what you want to write. The key with the Expectations workshop is that if you set up a certain type of story, meaning a cat solving a mystery (Kris did this in one of her award-winning mystery stories in Ellery Queen Magazine), you have to carry through the expectation you set up. And in a way the reader can’t see coming but yet is still logical from the beginning (often only in hindsight).