So here, instead, are some borrowed words that I think fit this excellent tale: engrossing, exciting, absorbing. All apply well to a book with the ingredients of this thriller: interesting protagonists, well-captured locations like Arizona and Honduras, drug cartels, corrupt politicians, mystery (involving an international cover-up), and a nice touch of romance.
When I read these tips, I realized that I do both of the following far too often:
Do not use “said as”
- Bad: “That’s really crazy,” Mary said as she turned to pick up little Steven and change his diaper.
- Good: Mary picked up little Steven. “That’s really crazy.”
Avoid “she said, verb”
- Bad: It had taken her a week to get around to going through the pile of paperwork and then she found the check. “Wow!” she said, turning to her husband, “Look at this.”
- Good: It took Mary a week to get around to going through the pile of paperwork. Much to her surprise, she found a check. “Wow! Look at this.
The second way is more active. Active is good.
Scrivener is a great tool for writers.
For me, one of the hardest things about writing a novel is the massive amount of “stuff” you need to get into the manuscript. You have your plot, your characters, your scenes, your dialogues, your narratives and it all has to come together into one comprehensive work. That’s a whole lot of trees making up the forest.
Kudos to Toni Anderson for striking the perfect balance between romance and suspense.
My husband reads classics. I read happily ever after stories. But we both agree on one thing. Getting lost in a book is one of the greatest of past times. There is nothing like being so wrapped up in a book that when you put it down for the night, the story is there in your head when you wake up, and you can’t wait to read the next chapter.
I used to devour romance novels, then switched to mysteries, detective stories, espionage and even the occasional sci-fi or fantasy. I have now returned to the romance genre and have plowed through many books—both by new authors and by the tried and true.
Give me a book with a plot, lovable characters, real women, and a HEA ending.
I am an avid reader of romance, romantic suspense and mysteries, but I will put a book aside that lacks what I consider critical elements:
- Plot. Give me a book with a beginning, rising action, a climax, falling action and resolution. Some romance novels are so steeped in the romance that they forget to include a plot.
- Lovable characters. My favorite authors create characters with personality. One of my favorite characters was Abigail aka Elizabeth in The Witness by Nora Roberts.
- Women who are actively doing something. Modern women have careers, even if their careers are stay-at-home moms. I started a book where the main character moves to a farm she inherited, but she doesn’t seem to be doing anything there. Yawn.
- Happy endings. Ask anyone who knows me, my grown up sons, my friends, my colleagues. I won’t watch a movie or read a book that has a sad ending. The nice thing about romance is that they always live Happily Ever After.
Three out of four of these will carry me to the end of the book, except for the happy ending. I have been known to peek at the end to ascertain whether it’s going to end in tragedy. If that’s the case, I stop reading it immediately.
Which of these is most important to you when you pickup a book?
Write your synopsis before writing your book. Then use it as a roadmap.
When I was a kid, my teachers would tell me to write an outline and then write the piece, whatever the assignment happened to be. I never did that. I would always write the piece and then write the outline. It’s kind of a forest and trees issue. I couldn’t get out of the trees to see the forest.
I am now working on my fifth book. My co-author and I wrote three middle grade mysteries and just finished a novel of romantic suspense. I decided it was time to fly on my own and am writing another novel of romantic suspense.
But this time, I decided to write the synopsis before writing the book. Why? I discovered that novels weren’t like school papers. They’re like, eighty thousand words or more. You don’t write it one night to turn in the next day. You write it for months, years even.
And you are writing it scene by scene. To get your reader into the scene with you, you have to include enough detail to bring it to life. You’re so far into the trees that there is no way to see the forest.
In a murder mystery, is the stuff leads up to the murder backstory, or plot?
Wikipedia defines a backstory as “a set of events invented for a plot, presented as preceding and leading up to that plot. It is a literary device of a narrative history all chronologically earlier than the narrative of primary interest.”
In our romantic suspense novel, Meadowlark Rises, Jackie’s ex-husband, who abandons her when she has breast cancer, is murdered. Up until the moment he is killed, he has been making her life a living hell by trying to get her back. When that fails, he starts working on the kids. So Jackie has plenty of motive for murder.
This is our first adult book after penning three middle grade kids books. In these books, backstory really wasn’t an issue. Perhaps because they were kids. Our characters really didn’t have a lot of baggage. Oops, I mean backstory.
But backstory can be important, especially in adult novels. After all, the characters’ lives didn’t start with the first sentence of the book. Backstory gives characters depth and may be necessary to develop the plot. The reason why backstory is troublesome, of course, is that it tends to be told in narrative rather than scene.
I posed this question here on my blog (which is so new that no one knows about it) and on a forum in Romantic Writers of America. Several members of RWA responded. Now, I realize that members of the RWA are romance writers, but I also understand that writers of romance are also readers of romance.
Here is what they do for a living:
- I’m a full-time writer, a part-time artist, and an all-the-time Mom.
- I’m a Paralegal, and I feel I’ve been one for 100 years, although it’s only been a little over 30. My brain is so fried when I get home, I don’t even know how I make room for anything else. But, the writing has definitely been an escape for me.
- I have a political science degree.
- My day job is in marketing.
- I’ve done just about everything in foodservice and retail. Best job was managing a bookstore, the one I hated most was optician. Currently, I’m a bank teller.
- I am an emergency services operator. I answer 911 call all. day. long. And each day is 12-16 hours, with 2 days off (if I’m lucky).
- I’m a library technician – like a librarian, but with an emphasis on the technical/practical side of things – cataloguing etc.
- Computer geek (and male to boot).
Leave a reply and tell me what you do for a living.
Okay, readers, what do you do for a living?
I am using a book called Building Your Fan Base, which suggests that you come up with one dedicated fan and focus on that one person. It recommends that you create a profile of your fictional fan.
So here is my burning question: what occupation/education does my perfect fan have?
I checked the occupations/careers of a number of reviewers of Nora Roberts books. I found the following kinds of occupations/education: Lawyer, Librarian, Economist, English major, Software Geek, Social worker.
I would love to hear from you.