Traci Abramson at Storymaker. I'd taken a class from her at the UVU Book Academy, too. She's got some very interesting real life experience, having worked for the CIA, which she does a good job bringing into her writing. I'm currently reading one of her books to my hubby, and he keeps dreaming about it.I took two classes from
Keep Your Readers Up
She helped define the difference between mystery (begins with a question) and suspense (begins with a threat). While both will have an element of suspense in them, both are meant to let both the reader and the character be scared.
Regarding the hook, I loved the way Traci phrased it. Say what you mean and then get out of the way. This made me think of my Show, Don't Tell class and the need to not tell the reader what they should be experiencing but letting them do that for themselves.
She quoted Alfred Hitchcock who said "emotion is an essential ingredient of suspense". It's important for the reader to make an emotional connection with the main character. I can vouch for this because there's a very popular writer out there who's put out a lot of books, but I haven't connected emotionally to the writer's main characters in a very long time. As a result, I haven't picked up a new book in several years.
It's important to make your reader curious. Like Hansel and Gretel, we need to leave breadcrumbs--not infodumps. Be careful about your scenes; every scene should move the story forward. Be realistic with your clues but don't be too obvious. This makes me think of Jo Rowling, who does a wonderful job with her clues and red herrings in the Harry Potter books. You really need to pay attention when you're reading because she has so many things hidden in plain sight.
You have to raise the stakes for your characters. I heard this over and over again in the conference. You have to be mean to your characters ... and then be meaner. Make it hard on them. Danger and time pressure add to the suspense. But be realistic, plausible. Don't give the reader a "Yeah, right" moment.
Use action words and sentence structure to move the story along at a quicker pace. Don't let description slow the action down. I've read books where the writer did that. O_o Totally kills that feverish, forward motion.
Do you have guidelines for breaking chapters to keep your readers reading?