Hello World’s Greatest Aspiring
Thriller Writer. Have you checked out your New
York Times or Amazon bestseller
rankings for the tenth time today? Completed your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,
and author’s posts and addressed your never-ending social media obligations?
Read the latest Readers Digest or Huffington
Post publishing article or the latest book on
How-to-become-a-Mega-Bestselling-Author? Attended yet another costly writers’
conference or short-course peddled by literary snake oil salesmen? Have you
driven your agent, editor, publicist, therapist, or significant other crazy
rambling on excitedly about your latest marketing strategy or book signing? In
short, have you been spending a significant time today on anything but writing
and editing your Great American (or insert here) Suspense Novel?
If the answer is yes, then wiser souls
than me will point out that you’re on the wrong track and wasting your time.
Unless you’re a 1% author—and the chances are 99% that you are not—then the
only thing you should be consumed with, and I mean truly consumed with, is
writing and editing (or, should I say, re-writing and re-editing?) your book
until you have actually created the Great American (or insert here) Suspense
And what do I mean by the Great
Suspense Novel? I am talking about a thriller so riveting that it forces
readers to stay up late at night against their will the night before that
career –defining company presentation and to literally not want to put the book
down until they’ve finished it. A novel so seductively addicting that it holds
its readers hostage. As in figuratively chained to a reading chair, bed, or
even bathroom seat.
You scoff. But trust me, when you are
dead and gone, all that is going to matter is that you have left behind a
memorable thriller for the ages. And you can’t write a timeless classic if you
are engaged in endless tweeting, Facebook posting, and passively reading about
or listening to other people drone on about how to write the next
mega-bestseller, as if it is a simple formulaic process that doesn’t actually
require invaluable world experience, passion, and raw talent. Quite simply, you
cannot write your literary masterpiece unless you are actually committing
yourself 24/7 to the nuts and bolts of writing and editing your page-turner.
I know what you’re thinking: social
media and book promotion are absolutely critical to success, and writing is a
highly subjective enterprise in which one reader’s masterpiece is another’s
scathing one-star review. But I politely counter that great is great (think of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s
characterization of pornography in Jacobellis v. Ohio, 1964: “I know it when I see it”). I further
politely counter that the seemingly lofty and unreachable goal of greatness
should be the primary focus of every author. Despite some of their other,
admittedly less-than-riveting works, Grisham will a thousand years from now
still be remembered for The Firm,
Follett for The Eye of the Needle,
Rowling for the Harry Potter series, and Capote for In Cold Blood. These novels are
timeless and so are these authors because of these masterpieces.
“But you’re a nobody!” you snarl. “Where is your
timeless masterpiece?” You’re right, I have not written it. Not yet. But I am
striving for that admittedly far-reaching goal with every book I write and,
with good old-fashioned hard work, I am, slowly but assuredly, making progress
in that direction. In the last year alone, I
have managed to have two #1 Denver Post
bestsellers, an Amazon Top 15 historical thriller bestseller, and three novels garnering
national book award winner or finalist recognition (Foreword Reviews’ Book of
the Year, USA Book Awards, Beverly Hills Book Awards, and Next Generation Indie Book
Awards). From reviewers and readers alike,
my four suspense novels are being compared to the works of John le Carré,
Silva, Follett, Patterson, Forsyth, Baldacci, Vince Flynn, and the irreverent
Edward Abbey. Why old James Patterson himself even praised my third
book, The Coalition, for having “a
lot of good action and suspense” and compared the novel to The Day After Tomorrow, Allan Folsom’s classic thriller; and Foreword Reviews’ said of the political
thriller, “Perfect for fans of James
Patterson, David Baldacci, and Vince Flynn, The Coalition is a
standout thriller from an up-and-coming writer.”
Not bad for a year’s worth of being a
professional novelist. But let’s be honest, it doesn’t mean all that much since
I have not yet written the Great American (or insert here) Suspense Novel. You
know what I’m talking about: the book that cannot be put down by literally everyone. A book where word-of-mouth and
word-of-tweet are organic processes that bring about massive exposure due
solely to the book’s impeccable quality.
Penning such a masterpiece should be
the sole reason to write suspense novels; there is simply no other valid reason
to do so except the pure enjoyment of writing. Unless you’re a mega-bestselling
author, there is certainly no reason to do it for the money. Telling compelling
stories, then, is the sole justifiable reason to write suspense novels that
meets every litmus test. If you’re doing it for any other reason, you’re in the
wrong business. It’s about the art of great storytelling and nothing else. It’s
about the idea that somebody a hundred years from now will read your carefully
crafted words and hopefully be inspired, or at least wildly entertained.
Personally, I will not give up until I
have either written such a timeless classic, or I can no longer physically sit
at a desk and hammer away at a computer keyboard with my two calloused index
fingers. Ultimately, suspense readers don’t care if you received your Creative
Writing degree from Oxford or Yale, are a mega-bestseller, or are close friends
with Sue Grafton or Lee Child. They just
want a great story, an addictive page-turner with memorable characters. They
just want the Great American (or insert here) Suspense Novel.
And by God, one day I’m going to write
one. Hopefully, so will you. And together we will become immortal. At least on
Samuel Marquis is a bestselling, award-winning suspense
author. He works by day as a VP–Principal Hydrogeologist with an environmental
firm in Boulder, Colorado, and by night as the spinner of the Joe Higheagle
Environmental Sleuth Series, the Nick Lassiter International Espionage Series,
and a World War Two Trilogy. His thrillers have been #1 Denver Post bestsellers, received multiple national book awards
(Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year, USA Best Book, Beverly Hills, and Next
Generation Indie), and garnered glowing reviews from #1 bestseller James
Patterson, Kirkus, and Foreword Reviews (5 Stars). His website is www.samuelmarquisbooks.com and for publicity inquiries, please
contact Chelsea Apple at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Church has stood for hundreds of years, preserving the sole surviving city in a desert wasteland. When Echo Hunter 367 is sent out past the Church’s farthest outposts, she’s sure it’s a suicide mission. But just when she’s about to give up hope, she finds the impossible – another thriving community, lush and green, with a counsel of leaders who take her in.
Wary of this new society, with ways so different from the only life she’s ever known, Echo is determined to complete her mission and bring hope back to the Church. She’s unsure who she can trust, and must be strong and not be seduced by their clean, fresh water, and plentiful energy sources. If she plays her cards right, she may even still have a chance to save the woman she loves.
About the Author:
Stacey Berg is a medical researcher who writes speculative fiction. Her work as a physician-scientist provides the inspiration for many of her stories. She lives with her wife in Houston and is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas. When she’s not writing, she practices kung fu and runs half marathons.
Money, power, prestige…freedom. Echo Coulter is—The Player.
You are a Coulter. You will be perfect. That’s what Echo has been told every day of her life. As the only girl in the Coulter clan, she knows it’s her job to be the glue of the family. But with the Olympics looming, the last thing she wants is to follow the rules. She wants to break free, and she knows just the guy to help her.
Cole Atkins has no interest in spoiled little rich girls. Besides, he’s got the job of a lifetime and just met the girl of his dreams…That is, until she ditches him under the cover of darkness. He can put her out of his head and deal with a spoiled princess for a couple of months right?
where his mind should be. But that didn’t matter because right now it was
filled with her, and how the scent of her clung to his skin. Someone that was
supposed to be a one-night stand had somehow burrowed her way into his mind.
Fine, whatever. He’d figure it out. He could find her again. How hard could it be?
Pulling on a
pair of boxers, he looked around his apartment for any trace of her, but found
nothing. No excuse to look her up to return something she forgot. If he wanted
to see her again, he’d have to find her. And he was surprised by how strong
that impulse was.
up a lot, but he’d never had a one-night stand that had gone quite like that.
But then, he rarely woke during the night, and so he’d never taken the time to
talk, like he had with Cece. Or maybe they’d overshared. He wondered if that
was what had run her off so easily. He shook his head to force the thought
aside. Not with what had happened between them after their little talk. He wouldn’t
believe that they’d been able to connect so strongly physically, if the
personal things they shared were what had made her run.
felt a connection like that before. Maybe her friend had dropped digits. If he
couldn’t find her, that was it, he’d let it go. But he at least had to try.
USA Today Best Seller, Nana Malone's love of all things romance and adventure started with a tattered romantic suspense she "borrowed" from her cousin.
It was a sultry summer afternoon in Ghana, and Nana was a precocious thirteen. She's been in love with kick butt heroines ever since. With her overactive imagination, and channeling her inner Buffy, it was only a matter a time before she started creating her own characters.
While she waits for her chance at a job as a ninja assassin, in the meantime Nana works out her drama, passion and sass with fictional characters every bit as sassy and kick butt as she thinks she is.
Want to know when the next book is coming? Hit up her Newsletter here. You'll only get updated when there is a new release or a special promotion for her Sexy, Sassy Readers. http://eepurl.com/2PeXb
So when your publisher expects you to do readings and signings to help promote the book, your first reaction may be to blanch and feel a little woozy.
That’s completely normal! However, here’s why you shouldn’t be (too) afraid to put yourself out there.
1. They’re more afraid of you than you are of them.
More commonly used when referencing spiders or other creepy crawlies, but also kind of true here. Once you have the label of “author,” you’re automatically given an air of professionalism; you’re now seen as an expert in something. Even working in the industry, I still get nervous and stammer unnecessarily when I meet authors. I can just about guarantee that a good chunk of your audience will feel the same.
2. You’ve been published!
Someone—many someones, in fact—saw your work as worthwhile and invested a lot of time, energy, and money into your manuscript to turn it into a bona fide book. This fact alone should make you feel proud, and give you some confidence to get in front of a crowd.
3. You’ve invested a lot of time, energy, and money into this project.
Let’s not forget what you’ve put into this book. You’ve probably spent years writing, revising, and re-revising before your manuscript even landed on the desk of your publisher. Don’t let all that go to waste! Especially because . . .
4. You’re building a career.
If you want to build a name for yourself as a writer, you need to be in front of the public. There’s a commonlycitedidea that people need to see a product at least seven times before they decide to buy. This means not only do they need to see your book on the shelf, but they need to see you. Besides, how do you think your book gets on the shelves? Yes, by being in the public eye and doing readings and signings. The more active you are, the more stores will happily carry your book.
5. You need to beat out the competition.
Harsh, but true. Bowker & Bowker, the folks in charge of ISBNs (International Standard Book Number, which books need to get into stores), report that in 2015, self-publishing alone accounted for 727,125 ISBNs used (this number is for print and ebooks; the same title with different formats need separate ISBNs, but even if all these were one title in two formats, that’s still about 363,500 books self-published in one year). And what about all those traditionally published books? According to one source, Bowker reported 300,000 traditionally published books in 2013, the most recent year for which numbers are available. So what does this mean? Few bookstores have room for all those titles, let alone those titles plus all the backlist titles people buy on a regular basis. If you’re not getting out there in front of people and you’re not selling, why would bookstores keep your book on the shelf?
6. It’s not necessarily about you.
For all this is about business, don’t forget the reason you’re out there doing events—the people who’ve read and enjoyed your books. The people who come out to your readings and signings are there because you’ve touched them in some way, you’ve said something they can relate to, they love your story, they have a similar story of their own, they’re a writer looking to make a name for themselves; the reasons are as varied as the people. If you keep in mind that the people at your events are just that—people—readings suddenly become a whole lot easier.
7. It’s a lot of fun!
People come to your readings because they want to be there. And these events don’t have to be stuffy affairs—crack jokes, get to know your audience, bring in donuts, whatever you need to do to make the event fun for everyone involved. This is your event, and you can have a good time with it!
Have I convinced you yet? Author events don’t have to be frightening or overwhelming. With these seven points in mind, the next time your publisher asks you about a reading at your favorite indie bookstore, you’ll be able to smile, say “sure!”, buy a big ol’ bag of candy, and get ready to have a great time with some of your biggest fans.
Anne Rasset is the founder of and editor at Inkstand Editorial, LLC, which provides editing services to emerging and published writers of fiction and nonfiction. In her spare time, she can be found reading, playing with her two cats, or cross-country skiing with her partner in the Minnesota winters. You can find out more about her services on her website and follow her blog for book reviews and more tips for authors.
Max's Diamonds is a decades-spanning novel about Paul Hartman, who grows up haunted by his cousin Max, an Auschwitz survivor, and Max's mysterious cache of diamonds. Max’s diamonds fund Paul's Harvard Law education and sparkle in his fiancée's engagement ring. When a stranger from Paul’s past confronts him with an impossible demand, one that could destroy his law career, his marriage and his sense of self, Paul must make choices that will change his fate forever. Max's Diamonds reached #9 on Amazon's Jewish Lit bestseller list and #48 on the World Literature bestseller list earlier this year. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC and the Jewish Museum in New York both carry Max's Diamonds, as does the Cornell University bookstore. You can purchase the book from Amazon, Kindle, Barnes & Noble, and many local bookstores.
What marketing methods are you using to promote your book?
My publisher, Chickadee Prince Books used traditional marketing methods, including submitting the book for early and excellent reviews. We did a book tour in California and book readings in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. The launch reading, at the Corner Bookstore in NYC, had a packed house, with over twenty-five people standing in the street. We will soon be initiating web publicity.
What's your favourite quote about writing/for writers?
“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” W. Somerset Maugham
Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?
According to readers and reviewers, Max's Diamonds is a suspenseful page-turner that grapples with profound questions and is difficult to put down.
Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected?
Every stage of writing and editing is absorbing and enjoyable. Marketing, on the other hand, is, at best, a necessary and time-consuming slog.
Who inspires you?
My late brother, Hy Greenfield who was willing to sacrifice his life for a cause greater than himself. And my cousin, Howard Sackler who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for his play, “The Great White Hope.”
What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
I am more than halfway through my second novel, Almost Friends, focusing on the complex and often strained relations between well-meaning, but sometimes insensitive, Jews and sometimes resentful African-Americans during the middle of the twentieth century, particularly during 1964’s Freedom Summer. Almost Friends will be loosely based on my experiences working as a civil rights lawyer in the South.
What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?
In the publishing world, there is a stigma associated with self-published books. Many reviewers will not review a self-published book, and marketing is far more challenging as a result.
Does your family support you in your writing career?
Yes! Yes! Yes! How? My wife of fifty-nine years, Judy Greenfield, is the love of my life and my partner in everything. Her singularly insightful and careful reading of my drafts made this a much better novel than I could have written without her. My children, Susan, Mark and Ben supported my career change from litigation partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind & Garrison to full-time novelist. They were there for me with encouragement, advice and love whenever I needed it, which was often.
There is nothing more thrilling than starting to write a new suspense novel. You create new characters, develop a plot line, and try to make everything as much intriguing as possible. You are not satisfied with the mediocre results, so you do your best to make your writing perfect. However, during the process of creating new fiction, you meet a huge number of challenges that make you feel embarrassed and confused. How to start a writing so that it will be interesting to you? How to make the plot even more thrilling and add some unexpected episodes? How actually to develop those unexpected episodes?
These are the common problems of young and experienced writers. Of course, experienced writers have already some expertise in overcoming such problems, while for young writers this may become the end of their career. We have decided to analyze how to write suspense fiction in the most effective way and what tips to use to overcome common problems.
Create the Necessity of Finding an Answer Introducing Characters
Primarily, you should always remember what kind of fiction you are writing. The matter is that your approach to writing will differ from the approach used for writing comedies and romances. You need to keep the intrigue, and you need your readers keep looking for the answers till the very end. Your hero or heroes need to be in a constant danger, and no one should be able to predict for sure what happens next.
To create this necessity of looking for the answers, you need to make you readers love the characters. You need to make them feel as though they are their friends. The protagonist should provoke some emotions, as well as other characters that perform secondary roles. You would probably agree, that Happy Potter is a famous protagonist, but many people love Hermione Granger more than him.
To make your novel even tenser, add some villain characters and use them to create a necessary atmosphere. A small trick for the professional writers: the villain characters should not always be villain till the end. Moreover, in some cases, villain characters may appear to be good ones, and you can use that for your novel.
Find Proper Time for Events
In a suspense fiction, time really is important. If the events happen too early, the readers may not be prepared for that (for example, they still do not know the characters, and they already need to take care of them). If you wait too long, the readers may be bored with the development of events.
These are no common formula for time to pose the most important questions and events, but many writers recommend to do that in between 1/6 and1/3 of the novel. Thus, your readers already know the characters and are ready to read what happens to them.
Add Wins and Losses
Your whole story should never be based on only one win or loss. To create enough tension and make the story more dramatic, add small wins and losses. You can also add some battles, problems and complicated situations that help the plot to develop but do not create a separate story. The wins and losses may be connected with the story of the protagonist, or reveal other characters better.
Add Some Clues
Your reader should be able to find the answers by himself, and you are to introduce some clues throughout a story. Of course, it is better not to give the tips that will reveal the truth easily. However, when the story is over, you reader should have a chance to return to the story and check all the events that indicate this development of the situation.
Each detail that you write should contribute to the development of the story. Even if it is slightly misguiding, it should give a chance for another development of the situation.
Let Protagonist Find the Answer. And Fail with It
Your protagonist should not be a genius, who makes no mistakes. He or she should be a real person, who thinks, makes some assumptions, then makes some attempts, fails, and tries again. No one is interested in novels where a protagonist is capable of everything and is never mistaken. Let him or her be a real person.
Keep the Intrigue
One of the major mistakes for writing suspense fiction is to create an intrigue at the beginning of the story and to stop develop it later. You need to keep the intrigue at the first, second and every following chapter of your story. The intrigue is the key aspect for an interesting suspense fiction and you should not miss it.
Writing suspense fiction, you should always keep in mind an image of your reader. It is likely that he has already read dozens of suspense books and he is looking for something new and thrilling. You should be able to create such atmosphere and make a reader stay with you till the last pages of the book.
Kevin Nelson started his career as a research analyst and has changed his sphere of activity to writing services and content marketing. Apart from writing, he spends a lot of time reading psychology and management literature searching for the keystones of motivation ideas. Feel free to connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin.
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