I never give writing tips. I figure everyone has his own personal style. Plus some people are just naturally good. But I do think there are a few things authors can do to sharpen their work. Here are some of the things I think about when I am writing a novel.
1. Start with a hook. Make your first sentence or at least your first paragraph compelling. Make the reader want to read the book! In INTO THE FURY, my newest Romantic Suspense, the first sentence reads,
SINNERS, SLUTS, and WHORES–BEWARE. Your TIME is at HAND. Standing next to the long mahogany table in the conference room, Ethan Brodie re-read the note heâ€™d just been handed.
Everyone who sees this paragraph recognizes the threat in that note. Someone–probably a woman–could be in grave peril.
With any luck, this opening will intrigue the reader enough to keep reading.
2. Enter late and leave early. In the above example, weâ€™re starting in the middle of the scene. Weâ€™re not in the conference room waiting for Ethan to show up. We arenâ€™t there until after he receives the note. From there we start charging forward, finding out whatâ€™s going to happen next. Just remember the reader isnâ€™t interested in â€œHi, how are you?â€ â€œIâ€™m fine, and you?â€
At the end of the scene, get out.
3. Make sure thereâ€™s conflict in every scene. This doesnâ€™t necessarily mean violent conflict. It can be man against nature, man against man, man against himself, anything that makes the reader interested in continuing.
In my example, the conflict in the opening scene of INTO THE FURY is mostly Ethanâ€™s battle with himself. He doesnâ€™t want to take a job bodyguarding what he thinks will be a bunch of air-headed models. Heâ€™s had too much woman trouble lately, but itâ€™s a good job that pays well. They need his skills and so he decides to take it.
4. Stay in the active voice whenever possible. Try not to use the word was too many times. Hereâ€™s an example. A rumble of thunder in the sullen gray sky blotted the reverendâ€™s next words. I could have written, The sound of thunder could be heard in the distance. The sky was a sullen gray. Thatâ€™s passive voice. Itâ€™s important to stay active.
Personally, I have to work at this. I often go back and change from passive to active after I write the first draft.
5. Write characters that grow and change. Writing a character arc, itâ€™s called. It means your characters learn something or do something that changes them. During the time Ethan is working with the La Belle lingerie models, he learns how difficult their job is. He comes to admire their work ethic and their brains.
It changes some of his thinking about the female sex and helps him realize the kind of woman he really wants in his life.
There are lots of great tips to writing. The five above I learned from studying very successful authors. Dean Koontz has a wonderful book called Learning To Write, but its out of print and hard to find.
All the authors Iâ€™ve studied, all the books by other authors that Iâ€™ve enjoyed through the years, have helped me immeasurably. I hope these tips will help you, too.
Best of luck with your writing and all good wishes for a terrific 2016.
New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. She is married to L.J. Martin, author of western, non-fiction, and suspense novels.
Her last 10 books have hit the prestigious New York Times bestseller list. AGAINST THE WILD, AGAINST THE SKY, and AGAINST THE TIDE her latest release, took top ten spots. Visti Kat at the following: