Top Writing Tips From 13 Thriller Authors You Can Use Today
Before releasing a manuscript into the wild, I need to hear it. The sultry voice on my computer reads the entire story to me, so I can cull any dissonant phrases such as, “Chester gestured.” It looked well enough on the screen. But when I heard it aloud, I winced. To me the lyrical quality of my words—their rhythm—is as important as the information they convey.
Keep a summary of your novel as you write it. Different from the outline–if you work from one, or even if you don’t–the summary is the actual shape the story takes as it goes onto the page. I keep a note not only of the plot as it unfolds, but how much time goes by, if it’s raining, if any of the characters are carrying injuries, or if I’m laying in a plot thread I need to remember to pick up later. I do a paragraph for each scene break or chapter, and also jot down if there’s a time gap between scenes/chapters. When you come to the editing stage, any major alterations–adding a subplot, removing an extraneous character, etc.–can be worked out on the summary rather than having to work with the whole typescript, which can be very unwieldy by that stage.
The most invaluable tool in the writing arsenal is simply knowing your characters beforehand. By knowing I don’t mean hair color, eye color, height/weight, etc. Ask them some deeper questions (yes, ask THEM). What makes them tick? What has happened in their past that affects their present? Fears? Loves? Disappointments? Hopes for the future? Create a template for each character and write it all down. Exploring these will allow the characters to come across the written page as three-dimensional instead of stick figures. They will contain a depth and richness that arm you, the writer, with the ability to portray them so the reader will gain understanding as to their motivations within the story–the ‘why,’ not just the ‘what’.
By far, my favorite tool for writing is a research book that, nine times out of ten, provides the precise name of any object you’re trying to describe. The title isWhat’s What: A Visual Glossary of the Physical World, edited by Reginald Bragonier, Jr. and David Fisher. Unfortunately, the last update was 1994 and it’s out of print, but there are used copies out there and they’re worth finding. Especially if you want to know the difference between a theater’s iron curtain and its grand drape, or if the object a dentist is aiming at your hero’s mouth is an explorer or a hand excavator. DK publishes the Ultimate Visual Dictionary, which is only four or five years old and almost as good as WW.
It’s always good to see what the other authors are doing. As you can see, they all have vastly different types of writing styles and strategies. Which one resonates with you?
If you got a lot out of these writing tips, you can find 26 more from Chris Well at DIY Author. Check out his website. He always comes up with some great posts.