I don’t write reviews about books I don’t like. I don’t think it’s good karma since I’m an author too and I know how hard this person has worked to write the book even if it needs more work. Instead, I come here and tell you what not to do when writing your books.
The thriller genre is one of my favorites. I’ve said that before. I read a lot of thriller novels. I’m okay with the book starting out with a killing. In fact, the book probably should start out with the very least a dead body. But the trick is making the reader care so early on. They don’t know these characters yet. There has to be a reason for the reader to keep turning pages. I don’t recommend starting in the killer’s point of view especially if we know right off the bat it’s the killer and he’s about to make a kill. I just put down a book that did exactly that. Right away the killer is on the prowl. He bashes his way into a professional establishment and starts swinging an axe at people. My first thought was, why should I care about this? Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not so cold-hearted that I don’t care about people dying. This is a work of fiction, I hope, and my editor brain never sleeps.
The reader isn’t invested in the story on page two to have the killer describing what the axe feels like in his hands. I’d say if you’re going to be in the killer’s point of view so early on, get right to the point. Leave out the sensory details, blinding lights, smooth handles, the clothing of other people. All the inner thoughts of how he’s moving around the room or perhaps he pulled a muscle while swinging the axe. (I don’t know, maybe the author has a weird sense of humor?) The killer is crazy, he breaks in, swings the axe, the victims try to get away, but fail. Done. Now, get me to the protagonist whose going to stop this madman but not before the end of the book.
Here’s another tip: Your protagonist, the main character, isn’t going to think about her beautiful hair and how she doesn’t have to fuss with it upon waking up. Do you ever think about that in the morning? Not me. My first thought is usually, why the heck is it so early? Followed by who has to be where at what time? Thoughts of my hair, like do I have time to wash it, are further down on the list. An author needs to hold off on fancy descriptions of hair until there’s a better way to let the reader know what the character looks like. Heck, here’s an idea, let the reader make it up for himself. And if you’re going to tell me your protagonist doesn’t fuss with her appearance, she isn’t mentioning her lovely locks.
I gave up completely a few pages later. The author tells us it’s early winter. On my calendar, that’s December. Anyone else’s calendar have a different date? Okay, the hero, the detective, and his partner and getting in the car. The partner is yapping about a professional baseball game he watched the night before. NOT IN EARLY WINTER. Major League Baseball finishes in November except for 2001 when a few lunatics flew planes into buildings in this country. Where is this woman’s editor?
I checked to see who published this book. She’s an indie author. That’s okay. I’m an indie author and know plenty of very good indie authors. But if you are going to be an indie author I can’t stress enough the importance of hiring a professional editor. We could argue in circles all the stuff about point of view, caring about the characters, description of appearances, but a professional baseball game in early winter is just too big of a mistake to miss. You’ll lose all credibility if you don’t check your details. A professional editor would’ve red flagged that sentence. And if the editor wasn’t a hundred percent sure when the baseball season was, an editor worth her salt would’ve checked.
I closed that book. I will never recommend it and I will never read another book by that author. Don’t be that author. Be better. Learn your craft. Make me want to read your book until the end.
Is setting a character in your story? It should be. Setting flushes out the story. It grounds us in the moment. We want to see, hear, and smell what the character does. Don’t try to be suspenseful with your setting. You won’t draw your reader in by making them wonder where the character is. Unless we’re two-thirds into a thriller novel and our heroine wakes up knowing nothing except she’s encased in a dark space that smells like freshly cut pine.
Showing setting through your character’s eyes tells us about the character. Setting can show pain, discomfort, nostalgia, joy, familiarity. Every character in the story should see the setting differently. Think about it. Do you see the world exactly the same way your best friend does? I see a tent pitched in the middle of the woods as a torture treatment and an opportunity for serial killers. My husband sees that same setting as an adventure to be experienced. Go figure.
But don’t worry about how well the setting shines in your first draft. Just put down anything. Keep it simple if setting isn’t your thing. Then go back and spend some time with it. Close your eyes and imagine how the character feels in that room or house or farm.
And if setting really escapes you and you want to pull your hair out of your head every time you have to describe a new place then find authors who do setting the way you’d like to and study them. Don’t copy. It won’t sound true to your voice. Study. And practice. Writing is a practice and a journey along a flat road where your tires kick up sand and the smell of salt thickens the air. Sea gulls squawk an early morning greeting while the sun paints the sky in pink.
One of the things I loved about writing fantasy novels was I got to make up the entire world. All the rules of the world were determined by me. I didn’t have to worry about where Route 80 intersected with Route 66 (if that even happens, see?) My world didn’t function within the laws of the real world. It was very freeing. And scary at the same time. The rule of thumb when creating a fantasy world is; whatever rules you make up have to be consistent throughout the book. You can’t change the rules to suit the needs of the scene. In my series, the three main characters can’t do magic. The world around them is magical. When I placed them into difficult situations, they had to use their smarts to get out of it. Magic was reserved to the creatures that lived in the world I created. Unfair odds? Maybe. But my characters learned a lot about themselves along the way.
Here are some things to think about when creating your own world:
Rights and privileges
Crime and its punishment
Good vs Evil
Right and wrong
What is worth living for?
Add your own rules for your world. The sky is the limit!
It’s official. The doors to my editorial business are now open. I’m excited about the opportunity to help writers fulfill their writing goals whether it’s to be published or simply become a better writer.
I have been editing fiction manuscripts for 8 years. I am the author of 3 middle grade fantasy adventure novels and a teacher of creative writing to students of all ages. Clients include award winning authors of all genres.
My expertise lies in developmental editing. I will provide a comprehensive assessment of story concept, story structure and plot points, characterizations, point of view, dialogue, and setting.
I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech, Theater, Communications and over twenty years writing experience.
My critiques will be constructive. I believe in focusing on the positive approach while offering suggestions to make your manuscript better. I will never use negative comments while handling your work. I respect and admire all my clients’ quest for publication and I’m honored to be able to assist them in pursuing their goals.
Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. I look forward to working with you.
Ever since I was seven, I wanted to be an author. I loved the magic of books and their stories and the way an an author can take your hand and say, “follow me for awhile. I have something to tell you.” And you go willingly. I wanted more than anything to create those magical stories myself. I’ve always written something, whether it was in my journal through my teen years, my first novel at the age of twelve, screenplays in college, or tariffs for a phone company. But now I’m an author of books with readers of my own and when I take the time to enjoy my accomplishments, I’m sort of proud of myself. “I did it,” I say.
One of the things I love about being an author is going into schools and speaking to the students about creative writing because my other passions are speaking to groups (we all know I talk a lot) and inspiring others to follow their dreams to be a writer too.
Recently, I spoke to 65 sixth graders. It was a total blast. I taught them something about writing, they got the chance to create a story, and they shared it with the group. I was humbled when one group of students asked me to read their stories out loud for them. It’s not easy to share your stories and much harder to have someone else’s eyes upon the rawness of a first draft.
Writing is magic. It’s not only the place of other worlds, but the place where dreams live.