It Takes A Village (A Tip for New Writers)

It Takes A Village (A Tip for New Writers), guest post by Steve Hadden

Where can you go to hear a writer like Michael Connelly tell you how his spaghetti sauce holds the secret to handling backstory in a novel? 

It Takes A Village (A Tip for New Writers), guest post by Steve Hadden, Includes giveaway!
That answer, along with about a thousand others, has helped me in my writing journey through six thrillers. I’ve picked up these subtle and not so subtle tips from bestselling authors, editors, agents and books. And like all the great crafts, I believe writing a novel is learned by doing it, finding a problem, and seeking an answer from a mentor, other writers, editors or formal sources like books and classes, to come up with your own solution.  But this is where it gets tricky: the approach of one successful author is different from another. While some of the basic skills about plot, setting, point of view, dialog and narrative prose are universal, my experience says that each author combines them in a way that’s unique to them. So the job of the aspiring author is to sort through all of the insight and advice they receive, find what works for them and combine it in a way that develops their own unique voice.

In my new thriller, The Victim of the System, those insights have built the story about a hometown sports hero turned investigator who races against time and the most powerful family in Pittsburgh to solve a series of cryptic clues to save a ten-year-old genius on trial for murder.

For example, I’ve utilized some of the secrets about story structure shared by bestselling historical thriller author, Steve Berry, and the father of the mythical structure of story, Christopher Vogler, author of the landmark book, The Writer’s Journey. You’ll also see elements of super-agent Donald Maas’s unique approach to getting to what he calls the third level emotions of a character. Personal insights from bestselling authors including Meg Gardiner, Lee Child, John Sanford and David Morell, the father of the modern thriller, are in my work too. There are many more that I can mention that have contributed to the development of my craft over the years. As you can see, for me, it indeed takes a village to write a great novel. I am grateful to all of them for their generosity and insight.

Now, back to my opening question. The answer is a writers’ conference. I’ve gained insights from these great writers from conferences like the San Diego State University Writers’ Conference, The Pacific Northwest Writers’ Conference, and ThrillerFest in New York City. ThillerFest is where I met Michael Connelly and where he told the story about his spaghetti. The story went something like this: Michael explained he loved making spaghetti sauce. Over the years, his recipe evolved. Then suddenly, a few years ago, his friends and family started raving about it. He’d become extremely proud of his culinary expertise. Then one day he was making his sauce and left for work while it simmered to perfection as he always did. But for the first time in years, he came home early and spotted his wife in the kitchen, gently grating parmesan cheese over the simmering pot. He entered the kitchen and explained to his wife that he doesn’t put parmesan in his spaghetti sauce. She smiled and said, “You don’t, but I’ve been doing it for the past few years”.  And that, he explained, is how you handle backstory. Just shave a little bit in when no one is looking, and it will turn out great.

There are conferences all around the country and some probably near you…and remember…it takes a village.

It Takes A Village (A Tip for New Writers), guest post by Steve Hadden, Includes giveaway!
Steve Hadden was born in Columbus, Ohio but spent much of his childhood in North Severna Park, Maryland. Building a short-wave radio with his father (an electrical engineer), frequent trips to the US Naval Academy, and the gift of a chemistry set, sparked his interest in chemistry and mathematics at an early age. At the end of elementary school, Steve's family moved to Columbus, Indiana where he developed his love for basketball and where his favorite book was Stranger Than Science by Frank Edwards. Two years later, Steve moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where his junior high school creative writing teacher sparked his interest in writing. Steve attended North Allegheny High School and fell in love with Clive Cussler's Raise the Titanic.
He attended Penn State, graduated with a degree in chemical engineering, and began a career in the oil and gas business, where he's worked in engineering, management, and advisory roles. He's traveled to intriguing places around the world and met fascinating people. His experience in the oil and gas business ultimately led to the idea for his first thriller, The Sunset Conspiracy. His interest in biology and science formed the foundation for his next four thrillers, Genetic Imperfections and The Swimming Monkeys Trilogy. He returned to his hometown of Pittsburgh with his latest thriller, The Victim of the System, a story with a mind-bending scientific twist.
Steve now lives in the foothills of the Cascades outside of Seattle. When he's not working on his next intriguing thriller, Steve is hiking the trails with his wife and two Labrador retrievers, playing guitar or piano, reading great books, listening to music and consulting on business matters.

Visit Steve Hadden at stevehadden.comGoodreads, & Facebook!

It Takes A Village (A Tip for New Writers), guest post by Steve Hadden, Includes giveaway!


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  1. A very interesting post! Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Hi Jo,

    Thanks much for the opportunity to share an insight with your followers. All the best to you and your followers and best of luck to those who enter the giveaway.

    Write on!


  3. Thank you for taking the time to write this for us


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