Category Archives: Writing Tips

Tips To Help You Improve Your Writing

We often share writing tips on our Instagram page, but we realize not everyone is following us there. (You’re more than welcome, of course!) In the meantime, we’re sharing some of our top writing tips here because you can never have too much knowledge!

When the Answer is Wait by Susan Lantz Simpson

GUEST POST BY SUSAN LANTZ SIMPSON, AUTHOR OF THE PLAINLY MARYLAND SERIES

KindleHow many times in your life have you been told, “wait a minute,” or “wait until later,” or “not now”? I think that has often been the answer to my prayers, as well.

 I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I’ve written poems and stories since I was able to string words together. Surely, this must have been my calling! I’d write. I’d submit my work. I’d be published. Easy. Right?

 Not!

 I wrote. I worked. I wrote. I cared for children. I finally submitted a few stories at a time when magazines published short fiction. I promptly received notes like, “the story is good but isn’t what we’re looking for right now.” I took some small comfort in the fact that the editors didn’t tell me my writing was awful. I’d put my stories and ideas on hold and pursue other interests.

 Inevitably, my heart and mind returned to writing. I’d haul out all the stories and begin again. I communicated with authors I admired and received so much helpful advice and encouragement. I rewrote, resubmitted, and waited. And waited.

 At the urging of one well-known author, I contacted an agent and held my breath waiting for her reply. Agents are busy people. They can’t accept every writer who reaches out to them. I was an unknown. I knew my chances were slim. To my amazement, the agent loved my story and my writing! She offered me a contract. Yea! Now I would have my book(s) published.

 But the wheels of publishing turn slowly. I waited while my agent sought an interested publisher. Several months and several rejections later, she found publishers for my two proposed series. Yet, books are not published overnight. I had to wait some more. Maybe I should never have prayed for patience years earlier because God certainly gave me plenty of opportunities to learn that virtue. At last, my books are seeing the light of day. Hallelujah!

Moral of the story: Persevere. Follow your dreams. Believe in yourself. Believe God will lead you where He wants you to go—if you let Him. Prepare for bumps in the road so they don’t surprise you. Plan to wait . . . and wait some more. You can accomplish your goals and achieve your dreams if you hang in there.

When developing a new character changes your entire story

 

I started writing a book I tentatively named The Bishop Committee in 2012 as strictly a conspiracy/suspense novel. The protagonist is a vice president of a large armaments company. He uncovers evidence his CEO is in league with a cabal of notorious arms dealers selling weapons to terrorists.

I like to include in all my books a strong female character who is the opposite of the protagonist and therefore the two of them have conflicts they must work out. Characters in conflict and how they will resolve their issues keep the readers turning the pages. However, I was having trouble creating the female character for this book. Until I did I couldn’t continue writing the book.

 

I put the book aside and went to explore one of my favorite pastimes, local history. Shrewsbury, NJ, a town twenty minutes north of mine, was having an Octoberfest. Shrewsbury was founded in the 1660s and one section of the town is on the National Historical Register.

 

In the historic district was a Society of Friends (commonly known as Quakers) meeting house. The congregation was also founded in the 1660s along with the town. Their current meeting house was constructed in 1816 because the original one burned. (Don’t confuse the Quakers with the Amish. The Amish have mostly withdrawn themselves from the modern world. The Quakers participate fully in present day society.)

 

The festival was Saturday and the Friends were giving a tour of their meeting house. During the tour, informational brochures were passed out.

 

As I listened to the guide explain the Quaker religion it hit me, why not make my female character a Quaker. What could be more opposite and create more conflicts between the two major characters than have one working in the military weapons business and his love interest a pacifist.

 

I did more research and found, as in most religions, there are orthodox, traditional and reformed followers. I decided to make her a traditionalist, adamantly opposed to war and fighting and believing what happens in the world is God’s will.

 

I had my basic plot. The conspirators would be chasing my protagonist trying to retrieve the evidence. There would be fights and escapes. When I started to write in my female character the entire story began to change. It quickly became a romantic suspense novel.

 

Here are excerpts from three consecutive chapters:

 

Set up: The main characters are Jason and Ariel. It was Ariel’s birthday. Jason had planned an evening with dinner and a Broadway show, and of course he had bought her a gift.

 

She reached for the pink ribbon.

He took her hand. “Open it when we get back.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s to cap off the evening, not start it.” He had agonized for hours over what to get her. Ariel was constantly testing the waters. “Experimenting,” she called it. He hoped this gift would help her make the ultimate transition.

(Note: As a traditional Quaker, Ariel avoided as much as possible anything that excited her senses like provocative movies, art museums, wearing makeup and she was a virgin. However, upon meeting Jason, she had let him take her to Broadway shows art museums and she began to wear a bit of makeup.)

What if she took it the wrong way? It was too late for those negative thoughts. He had made his choice, and would have to live or die with it.

Ariel’s eyes bounced from the box to his face then back to the box. “What is it?”

“You’ll have to wait until we get back to find out.”

…..

Her upbringing didn’t make her a recluse. She had gone on dates, but when the boys started pawing she broke it off. In high school she garnered a reputation as a prude. In college the groping that had struck her as childish and infantile in high school became much more seasoned and smooth, full of lust, but devoid of affection. She wanted more from her partner than what she saw between a stud horse and a mare on her farm. She wanted to feel love like the women in the romance movies. (Note: She loved old romance movies from the 1930s and 1940s.)

When Jason sat next to her at that conference a month ago (note: where they met) she had thought of him as handsome and rugged, like the leading men in the movies. She wanted to find out more about him. As their relationship progressed, she could sense the desire in him, but she also sensed he had more to give. She didn’t feel as if all he wanted was to get her into bed. He seemed to truly like to talk to her, understand her. When he held her hand, when they danced, even when he drew her to him, there was tenderness in his touch unlike any other man she had dated. She liked it.

….

(Note: They were in her apartment. The evening was ending.)

“Can I open my present now?”

He sat forward, crossing his fingers behind his back. “Go ahead.”

She pulled the pink ribbon. The bow dissolved. She lifted the top. The tissue paper rustled as she unfolded it. Cautiously she touched the lace trim on the shiny, jet-black garment and quickly withdrew her hand as if her fingers had been burned by a red hot branding iron.

She smiled meekly. “Thank you. It’s very pretty.”

….

Ariel took her present into her bedroom and placed the box on the heirloom bedspread. Ever so carefully she removed the black silk camisole, laid it on the bed and smoothed it out. She placed the tap pants below it. Slowly she undressed, dropping her blouse and skirt on the carpet. Reaching behind her back, she unhooked her bra then stepped out of her panties.

Slipping on the tap pants, she trembled as the sensuous silk stroked her long legs. Holding the camisole by the thin straps, she extended her arms over her head and released it. It floated over her torso sending a shiver through her.

Turning toward the mirror, she stood tall, her arms dangling next to her thighs. Will wearing this blind me to the hungry, the homeless? Will it prevent me from working toward a more peaceful world? I don’t think I will change my convictions because I put this on, or wear makeup, or like movies, art, TV, dancing and…

Her fingers fluttered against her thighs. She closed her eyes and envisioned Jason caressing the fabric against her hips, her waist, stomach, breasts.

“Jason, I want to, but…Lord, what should I do?”

….

(Note: On his walk home.) She certainly was not the type of woman he was used to dating. With his other dates he couldn’t care less about where they came from, what they wanted out of life or anything at all about them. He was only interested in one thing.

With Ariel it was different. When he realized she was not going to have sex with him on that first date, or most likely anytime in the near future, he was still drawn to her, wanting to learn all he could about her. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get the picture out of his mind of her lying naked next to him.

He wanted to scream, What are you waiting for?

….

None of the other women he had dated left him with feelings like he felt for Ariel. She danced in his thoughts every minute he was away from her. He longed to hold her hand, talk to her, kiss her, smell her, draw her close to him, consume her with his love.

There was no doubt in his mind that he loved her. But what if she didn’t love him? Her reaction to the gift had made him feel he had destroyed their relationship….

Patience! If you love her you can wait even if it’s until our wedding night.

 

As the story progresses, Ariel is caught up in the kidnappings and killings from those trying to retrieve the evidence from Jason. Throughout the battles and harrowing escapes their relationship dramatically changes, especially when Ariel has to kill to save them. The are forced to delve deeply into their often opposing long-held convictions, and question whether they are truly meant to be together. Ariel feels she has abandoned her faith. Jason feels he has ruined her life.

 

 

The questions you will be wondering throughout the book is, when the battles are over, will Jason be able to help her restore her faith; will Ariel change Jason’s cynical philosophy about mankind? Or, will they break up?

 

One early reviewer said, “…I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see if they were able to resolve their differences or if they would split up.”

 

In conclusion, the introduction of a new character can change the entire theme of your book. With the help of my publisher I changed the title to Love’s Sweet Sorrow which perfectly fits the sorrow both characters are feeling throughout the story.

 

Love’s Sweet Sorrow is being published by Vinspire Publishing, (www.vinspirepublishing.com)

It will be available September 2014 in trade paperback and e-book wherever books are sold. The ISBN is: 978-0-9890632-7-2.

 

However, you can pre-order from Vinspire Publishing by sending an e-mail to: vinspirepublishingeic@gmail.com

 

Vinspire is a well respected mid level publisher, not a vanity or self publishing press.

 

Richard Brawer writes mystery, suspense and historical fiction novels. When not writing, he spends his time sailing and exploring local history. He has two married daughters and lives in New Jersey with his wife.

 

You can read the book jacket and an excerpt for Love’s Sweet Sorrow, and about all Richard’s books at his website: www.silklegacy.com

 

Richard’s social web addresses are:

 

http://www.facebook.com/richard.brawer

 

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/735730.Richard_Brawer

 

http://www.linkedin.com/profile/portfolio?id=193398556&mediaID=50063963

 

Talk Shows and Writing

I’ll admit I’ve never really been a fan of talk shows, especially the ones where people are talking over top of everyone. You can’t understand what’s being said, and it’s confusing to try to make sense of the topic. That said, recently I’ve discovered that talk shows can provide interesting fodder for writers as well as help to establish characters.

The world of talk shows invites a writer to experience characterization in a way they might have never seen before. Sometimes this might enable an author to see a potential character in whole new light. You can weave in traits you see in a person’s personality, use some new terminology, and even see varied styles of dress you might not even see on the street.

Also, the topics of talk shows can provide potential conflict for an entire book, and I’m not just talking about the DNA results show. They can help you think outside the box and stir your creative juices even if you don’t watch the full episode. Just scan the headlines on the talk show websites and see what ideas you get; however, once in a while, watching a talk show can really give you great notes for your next book.

 

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Is “Write What You Know” All You Should Do?

When I first started writing, I was told to write what I knew about. Since I’d spent so much time in the legal field, a lot of my characters were either lawyers or members of law enforcement. I knew there was so much more I was interested in than just the law, and I wanted the opportunity to write about those things. The question was: could I write about what I didn’t know?

Did it really matter if I hadn’t been to Egypt? Couldn’t I learn about the Emerald Isle? Was it possible I could immerse myself in the knowledge so I could write intelligently about different places, different cultures, and different occupations?

I believed I could so I branched out, bought books, searched the Internet, visited places I’d never thought I’d go, and even did things I never thought I’d do all in the interest of research. But I had to force myself to break out of the mold of the tried and true which wasn’t easy.

My knowledge of the law came easily to me. I’ve loved it since I was a young girl, and it was all I wanted to do…until I started writing. Then I wanted my characters to experience so much more than the inside of a court room. And now, through my research, they can. I just had to be willing to take a chance and to really devote myself to the learning process.

While writing what you know can be comfortable, wanting to write about what you don’t know forces you to learn, to grow in knowledge, and when you think about it, isn’t it better to keep learning in life?

 

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Quick Writing Tip: Emotional Scenes

In any genre there is bound to be an emotional scene (or several). Those are your opportunities to let the readers experience the characters’ emotions. Don’t just tell us Sue was angry or Sue felt emotional. Show us. Take the reader on a journey into the depths of the character’s pain, anger, love, etc.

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Quick Writing Tip: Your Villain

Working on a suspense novel? One key way to build the suspense is to introduce the readers to your villain by use of his/her POV. Just a few sentences will give your readers a look inside your antagonist’s mind and will heighten the suspense factor.

 

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Quick Writing Tip—Characterization

Don’t make your characters flawless – make them human. Of course it would be wonderful to possess the beauty of Catherine Zeta Jones or the good looks of Cary Grant, but even with beauty comes humanity. Give readers a reason to sympathize with them or want to encourage your characters toward the finish line. Flawless, beautiful characters are boring characters. Readers want more. Give them a reason to want to keep reading.

 

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