Award-Winning Author ~ Editor ~ Writing Instructor
Quickie Writing Tips!
* Before you start writing a mystery, work out the villain’s behind-the-scenes actions: How he commits the crime, how he sets up an alibi and directs attention away from himself, as well as how he counters the protagonist’s actions as the book progresses. Though the villain’s identity is typically kept off the page until late in the book, it’s important that the writer be able to switch between on-the-page mode to behind-the-scenes mode to avoid plot holes. You can’t have the villain committing a second crime when you’ve accidentally put him on the page before the reader, giving him an unshakeable alibi.

* Before you begin writing your novel, write a dust jacket-type description of it. Effective dust jacket blurbs capture the drama, the fiercest conflicts and essential character failings that will trigger growth arcs. Not only does writing a blurb teach you what matters most about your own book and helps to shape it, there’s an added benefit: You’ll use great lines from it in your eventual query letter, and you’ll have a start on a strong submission synopsis.

* Good characters, like real people, rarely give themselves unconditional approval. For insight into the limits of your characters’ self-esteem and self-approval, let them finish this sentence: “I’m good enough as long as I’m _____”

* While it’s important to know what your characters want in the course of your novel, it’s even more essential to understand what they need in their lives, as well as the behavioral changes and obsessions that will develop if those critical needs are not met. Then it’s your job as the writer to see that they won’t be met, forcing your characters to overcome difficult circumstances with their most challenging traits. Novels aren’t written about ideal periods in characters’ lives, but the times that test them and force them to grow.