It’s a question new authors often ask the Internet. Even experienced authors address the question when embarking on new writing projects. Here are the methods I employ when writing quality fiction.
Start with a theme.
I forget about titles and begin writing a story about adult emotions. Humans relate to them, so I tend to pick an emotional theme first and work out a way to incorporate that into a story. I’ll start with a character in a single scene and then see what develops. Often, that scene and character won’t remain in their original form (or at all) by the end of the writing project.
Vengeance is built on a complex set of emotions and actions. Anger and hatred are vengeance motivators. When I write about vengeant adults, it’s mostly about managing their emotional outbursts — bottling them up, controlling them, so they are released at the optimim time.
Some authors choose to dabble in science fiction and take their characters into outer space. That’s okay, but I’ve never been to space. I love science fiction stories but I feel I’m underqualified to write about them. I write what I know. I know about photography.
For seventeen years, I worked as a professional wedding photographer. I also taught photography classes at college and I got to meet thousands of people in both jobs. I became acquainted with cameras, composition, lighting, and the motivations of people who exist in front of and behind the lens. I handed my experience over to the characters in my book and that’s what got me started with SEETHINGS.
Write what you know. Find a way to bring your knowledge into the story. That way, it will sound authentic and plausible.
Write for yourself.
When JK Rowling’s Harry Potter became a hit, every new writer wanted to be a children’s and YA fiction author. Stories with supernatural themes in them flooded the independent publishing market and I met other authors in my city who wrote the same kinds of stories. Harry Potter became Henry Trotter and his wand became a sceptre. When asked, each responded that they were writing for themself.
I think they misinterpreted the memo.
JK Rowling wrote stories for herself. She followed no one. She had a unique idea and kept it true to the end. Industry professionals who knew the market better than anyone said to her that there was no market to be found in the children and young adult age groups — and they most definitely didn’t want to read her material if they did.
A market appeared and then everyone wanted a piece of the action.
Editing is the key element to publishing a successful book.
I love and hate THE EDIT. It’s a process of applying a magnifying glass over each word after the story is written. I’m the kind of person who avoids monumental tasks like these because I can’t stop once I start them. I guess that’s why I choose THE EDIT timing wisely. The obsession to see it through nearly kills me.
SEETHINGS was re-written 12 times. (This doesn’t include the incidental edits that occurred daily when writing.) The first three passes were to knock out unnecessary plot deviations. The next three filled in plot holes and added other elements for extra jazz and conflict refinements. The technical edits didn’t take place until the final two re-writes. (I can’t tell you what happened between those times. It’s a blur.)
Tension and conflict build stronger stories.
Whenever there is doubt, mistrust, deception, deflection, (or similar) in a narrative, the story develops tension. Sometimes there is actual conflict on the page but the conflict can be with the reader as they decide how to feel about the situations they are reading. Good writing involves the reader as much as the characters within the text. I like writing this way. It challenges a reader’s moral code.
Keep the bloody thing simple!
Many characters placed inside multiple locations add the kind of writing challenges new authors can probably do without. If ten people are eating a meal and talking over a dinner table, that translates to ten people’s names, ego’s, motivations, ambitions, fears, outfits, food, the way they eat, and monologues to describe and manage (not to mention the scenery around the table) to the story. It’s hard to do well and it slows the writing.
If the dinner number drops to four, the writing tempo increases because there’s less extraneous content to incorporate. If it drops to just two people, the dialogue can be made so tight that several subjects of a single conversation can be written into just a couple of pages. There’s more time to study characters nuances — like glances between people and those words they never say.
Modern stories move at a great pace. If it takes a whole chapter to describe how a single blade of grass shimmers in the morning light, it’s probably going to be a little too slow for today’s readers.
I got much better with my pace during the writing of my second novel. After learning a lot from the first, I decided to take my advice and limit the number of characters who meet together at any one time. I then squeezed the hell out of describing scenery by adding only small, relatable bits of it here and there between dialogues. For instance: I wrote a coffee shop scene. There’s a lot of noise and movement in the shop but none of it leads the scene. There’s the hiss of the coffee machine between a line a dialogue. A wailing baby from a mother’s group is inserted between another line of dialogue. By the time the conversation tells us what the characters are talking about, readers have inadvertently built the entire scene of my coffee shop in their minds using my brief inserts and mixing it with the real-life experiences they’ve had with real coffee shops!
When it came to the photographic topics in the book, I got in a little closer to the action. I wanted readers who knew nothing of the subject to keep up with the story. It’s not crucial they do as the story is more about adulting — but I don’t want anyone lost along the way.
Sequels and prequels?
Sure. If you think there’s enough to say for a second book. I got caught up in the whole sequel/trilogy ideology early in the piece. Like you, I did an online search for writing tips and found many benefits to writing sequels. They said it was good because linking stories help draw more readers to each story. Get a reader for one and you may have a reader for two.
My original SEETHINGS manuscript contained almost 200,00 words. (Yes, two books worth of content in one.)
It also had an open ending — perfect for a sequel. And then I crucified it during re-write five (I think) by shutting the door with a creepy happy ever after. During re-write ten (approx), I opened that door again AND left the happy ever after right where it was. It was a beautifully weird way to end the story — and it gave me an opportunity to continue it if I chose to do it later. And I did.
Marketing and advertising.
Here we go. Are you ready for a secret to be revealed? Here’s where a grail of valuable information should lie.
Yes, marketing and advertising are definitely needed. How else would strangers discover any book?
No, I can’t tell you what’s best for you and your genre. I’ve had writer friends self publish their books by ordering themselves four thousand hard copies from a commercial printer and then schlepping them from book stores to book signings to sell them. I’ve seen others pay Facebook and Amazon mega-dollars for advertising. I know of one author who went to schools and dressed up in superhero costumes to excite young readers about her book.
Each method worked but didn’t work too.
The authors sold copies of their books but none of them made money. One lost out big time and now uses unsold boxes of books to prop up old fish tanks in their garage!
If there’s a holy grail in book marketing and advertising, I haven’t found it.
My own method of M+A is more intimate: Breadcrumbs.
I deposit little bits of my writing here and there, adding backlinks to my site with each breadcrumb I post. I feel my genre is so niched that I need to focus my efforts on a specific type of reader. For this reason, breadcrumbs have been placed in various regions of the web — and this has been done since 2014. (Even this page acts like one.) There’s a huge body of work out there.
It’s a much slower, passive way to do it but it qualifies readers. No one accidentally reads my work. They discover it. Like you.
Five women’s bodies are discovered after the nights of thunderstorms. Their spouses are suspected of the crimes, but it becomes clear that someone else is responsible. There’s no blood and few clues. A storm photographer who specializes in taking pictures of lightning may be the only witness.