Suspense Basics

July 23, 2014

My favorite leisure reading is mysteries because I like trying to figure out whodunit and why. It follows that I also like reading suspense, and I’m not alone. Many readers like the juggling of hope, fear, or time.

Here are some suspense basics you can try.

  • There’s something to fear. The bad thing hasn’t happened yet, and readers don’t want it to happen, but they fear that it may. The bad thing can be death, disappointment, financial ruin, moral injustice, capture by the enemy, or something like not being invited to the party.
  • There’s sympathy. Suspense involves the fear something bad may happen to someone whose side we’re on. We not only fear that it could happen, we anticipate when it could happen–and we don’t want it to.
  • There’s a force working on the side of good. But that force should be a surprise to the reader. A hero/heroine who just saves the day is not good because the reader gets cheated out of clues that help the reader figure out how the bad (whatever it is) will be defeated. You mustn’t keep a secret from the reader, but make sure the reader gets the enjoyment of figuring things out without being handed the answer too easily.
  • There’s a time limit. Play the suspense effort against time and work up to something (a revealed clue or event or observation or something else that will engage reader’s involvement).

The one complaint I hear the most from my mystery-reading friends is the author reveals either the who (villain) or the why (motive) too soon. Consider incorporating these suspense basics into your writing and void disappointing your reader. Happy writing!

Organize and Track Your Submissions

July 16, 2014

Writers are creative people. Creative people often live in chaos because they’re so busy creating they don’t have time to organize.

If you’re writing for publication, however, you’re in business and need to stay on top of your submissions. You can create a form in your word processing program, use a table format you like, or create a spreadsheet. The important thing is you find what works for you so you keep it updated.

Once you’ve determined which tool you’ll use (form, table, spreadsheet), you need headers. Here are some for your consideration.

  • Title or subject. Use the title of your piece if you have one, otherwise enter the subject you’re writing about. Avoid abbreviations because you’ll tend to ignore or forget what they stand for after some time has gone by.
  • Type of writing. This is a reminder to you regarding whether you’re sending a query letter, an article, a short story, or a novel.
  • Status. A quick glance will show you what you’ve submitted (submitted), what you’ve completed (final), what’s at the editor (editing), what’s being rewritten (revising), what’s in research (researching), and what hasn’t quite made it to the writing stage yet (idea).
  • Where submitted. This is the place to track where you’ve sent your work. NOTE: If you’re keeping track on the computer, you can insert another line to list a second place for submission without repeating the title, etc. so you know how many places you submitted your query or article or fiction.
  • Date. This is the date you submitted your work, not each date you make a change to your tracking document.
  • Deadline. This is the date your writing is due after it’s been accepted.
  • Future submissions. You may want to create a list of other places to submit your query or article in case your first choice doesn’t accept your submission. Having a list of additional places to send to will keep your pieces going out because you won’t have to think about where else to send them.

You can’t be published if you don’t send your stuff out. Better to track your submissions so you don’t send the same thing to the same market/person a second time. Figure out what system you will work with (not start, then stop) and use the headers I’ve provided. Happy writing!

Writing Can Help You Reduce Stress

July 7, 2014

I recently heard on public radio that people are dealing with more stress than ever in their lives. I haven’t researched the topic personally, but I do know writing can help reduce stress.

Many of us internalize our stress, which can lead to more stress. If we don’t internalize, but choose to verbalize instead, we risk creating stress in our personal and professional relationships. Friends can only hear so much before they get tired of the tirade. Exercise works until you’re physically exhausted. But writing? Writing works, and you get the stress reduction without the risk of hurting your relationships or your body.

Here are some tips:

  • Write in a dedicated notebook (not on the computer) that you can control access to. A dedicated notebook assures all your frustrations are recorded in one place instead of scattered about. A dedicated notebook can also be hidden in a special place selected by you. It can also be destroyed without a technical person accessing content you thought you deleted.
  • Determine how you’ll use your notebook. If you’re writing about things going on at work, keep your notebook at home so no one at work will have access to it. If you’re writing about personal relationships, find a safe place to hide your notebook.
  • Date all entries and include the day of the week. Doing so will reveal any stress trends such as feeling anxiety on Sunday night when anticipating the start of the work week. Or you may find stress on the weekends because you’re pulled in so many directions with family, chores, lack of personal time, etc.
  • Jot down stress thoughts on pieces of paper you can keep in your pocket or purse until you can transfer the thoughts to your notebook. Better to get the stress thoughts out of your head and onto paper than to keep thinking about them. By the time you get to writing in your notebook, you may decide whatever was stressing you is over and not worth writing down. Remember that you can destroy anything you write down whenever you decide to destroy it.
  • Try to do most of your stress writing privately. You’re doing this for you, and no one else needs to know what you’re writing about.
  • Consider establishing a regular time for writing about your frustrations or stress. It may help you cope when things are hard because you know your release writing time is coming.
  • Give yourself a break. One reason you’re writing about stress is to release it. It doesn’t make any sense to put more stress on yourself by worrying about grammar or spelling or punctuation. No one is going to see your writing but you anyway, so be kind to you.

If you’re feeling stressed in your daily life, consider trying the tips listed above and give yourself the gift of writing–especially writing to reduce stress. Happy writing!