Thursday, February 20, 2014

Dream Team

If you could choose different aspects of famous writers, who would you use to construct your ideal writer (ie, plotting from James Patterson, characters from Carl Hiaasen, setting from Charles Dickens, etc)?

Here’s my dream team:

Plot – Michael Connelly
Characters – Tom Wolfe
Setting – J.K. Rowling
Pacing – John Gilstrap
Prose – Dennis Lehane
Hook/Premise – Michael Crichton
Plot twists – Jeffery Deaver
Humor – John R. Powers (go look him up!)
Emotional heft – Reed Farrel Coleman
Storytelling – Stephen King
Ka-Chingability – James Patterson

Feel free to agree/disagree/add your own choices in the comments!

(This entry is “simul-posted” on Criminal Minds.)


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Just Call Me Cliff Cliffhanger

How do you know where one chapter ends and another begins? What *is* a chapter?

When I first started writing novels, I wrote them as if I were watching a movie. I’d start at the beginning of a scene, write until that scene ended, then begin another chapter. Each scene/chapter was its own distinct unit. In fact, when I wrote my very first “novel,” I saved each chapter in a separate Word document. (Talk about your logistical nightmares! Writers: DO NOT DO THIS!).

What did I know? I was as green as a guy who’d just downed a bucket of bad oysters while on a rollicking sea cruise (and that was the kind of simile I used in my very first “novel”).

My writing process has evolved over the years (thank goodness!). Now, I sit down and write a novel as one continuous story. One scene flows into the next, rinse and repeat. Start on Page One. Continue until I type “THE END.” I don’t even think about splitting my masterpiece up into chapters until I’m ready to finish the first draft.

Then I go back and figure out where to break it up to maximize the suspense.

Most of my chapters end up being approximately the same length, give or take. I’m not a fan of long chapters—I’d say most of my chapters run between 6 and 12 pages, depending on the genre. Short chapters usually translate to faster pacing, which is what I’m going for.

I try not to start chapters with characters waking up (although, I must admit, sleep happens!). I try not to end chapters with my characters rolling over and turning off the light as they end their days. I try to use a fair number of cliffhangers (but not TOO many). Sometimes I end my chapter at the end of a scene, but often I’ll end the chapter in the middle of a scene.

Basically, I try to leave my readers in a spot where they feel compelled to move on to the next chapter and keep reading.

(This entry is “simul-posted” on Criminal Minds.)