Which is why my guest today blows me away as well. When I read a Lynette Eason book, I am up VERY late at night -- not just because I can't put the book down -- but because I'm scared to death to go to sleep! Lynette's tagline is "Welcome ... to the Edge of Your Seat," and trust me, the lady knows what she's talking about! So please welcome my good friend and bestselling Revell author, Lynette Eason, who is not only a must-read for romantic suspense readers, but anyone who thrives on Christian fiction that both intrigues and races one's mind, heart, and soul.
“What’s the right way to write a suspense novel?”
I had to think about that one and couldn’t come up with an off-the-cuff answer. Or the answer that I considered “right.” Instead, I decided the right way to write a suspense novel is: whatever way works for you!
And then I decided to share a bit of my process. I hope you find it a tad interesting and a bit helpful.
Writing suspense can be quite…suspenseful. Especially if you’re a MOSTLY seat-of-the- pants writer like I am and never really know what’s coming next! Oh, I like to try to impersonate a true plotter upon occasion, but it never really seems to work for me. But I do plot some, so I’ve come up with a term to describe myself:
I’m a PLANTSER. A seat-of-the-pants sort of plotter writer.
I know. Now you’re really confused. Keep reading, it gets better, I promise.
So…how does a seat-of-the-pants/plantser writer manage to plot a suspense book with twists and turns to keep the reader on the edge of the seat?
The truth is…I don’t really know.
Okay, probably not the answer you’re looking for, but seriously…here’s a little how I do it:
Characters are definitely the first thing I have to figure out.
I get to know my characters. I have a character sketch sheet that I snitched from Randy Ingermanson about five of six years ago. (He had it posted on his website as a freebie so don’t go thinking I did anything sneaky…) Once I have that filled out for my hero and my heroine, I start thinking about that first scene. And then I start brainstorming with the “what if” question. I even ask other writers for input. Or readers. Readers can be great brainstormers.
Okay, so, I have my characters (and please don’t spend a billion hours on this). Just one-sentence descriptions of name, age, eye color, hair color, occupation, past hurts, faith arc, family, education, past loves, pets, personality (i.e. - high-strung or laid-back? etc.), and I know a little about them. I have the first scene. Now I just need about a zillion more scenes, right?
Not a zillion maybe, but it helps to know what’s going to happen next.
So, with my handy-dandy little software thingy called Scrivener, I start posting scenes to my corkboard. Things that could happen. Things that need to happen. The faith element, the dark moment. Etc.
And then I start writing chapter two. Then three, then four.
Then I’ll get an absolutely BRILLIANT idea and have to go back and add it in, which usually causes me to have to rewrite the entire first part of the book.
I know…I’m crazy. But it seems to be working for me. I’ve tried other ways, plotting, outlining, singing my story (okay, not that last one), and I always come back to my own unique way of writing a book. Which is RIGHT for me. But maybe not for someone else. I can just see the shudders going through all of you plotters who are reading this!
But I digress…
Once I get to a certain point in the book (most likely the part where I stop because I can’t figure out what’s going to happen next), I stop and re-read, and edit and beef up the characters that I know much better now. I may add a red herring or two. Or go back and add an entirely new character to help support the story.
Or I kill someone off. Because that ALWAYS moves the story right along, right?
Then I write another scene or two and take inventory. Is the suspense high enough? Is the reader yawning at this point? Do I even make sense? Is my police procedural accurate? (I usually find out it’s not when my police officer and FBI buddies get ahold of it…ha!)
And yes, let me just interject here how very, very important research is. If your background is not police, law enforcement, etc., please have someone in that field read your story. The ins and outs of law enforcement can be crazy, even downright confusing, and the only way to get it right is for someone in that field to read it and give you feedback (i.e. – how to fix it.)
So. Moving on. We’ve got characters, plotting seat-of-the-pants way, and research. What about theme? Setting? Time period? All important.
Again, not something I spend a lot of time on in the beginning phase of writing. My goal is to get the story into the computer as fast as possible and then go back and fix it. That way if my deadline arrives, at least I have something to send to my editor to fix. I mean…er…ahem. I mean I always finish my story in time to be completely edited, polished, and shined up like a pretty new penny before I send it off. Yes, that’s what I meant. Really, I did.
Now, I’ve got all these scenes and part of the story written -- it’s time to write out the synopsis.
“What???” (Note to writers, NEVER use three question marks after a word in your manuscripts.) I can hear you screeching. “Write the synopsis now?”
Well, yes. Like I said, I’m a MOSTLY seat-of-the pants writer. I have no idea what to put in a synopsis until I’ve gotten to know a few of my characters and have some scenes already laid out, either in my head or on the computer. But once I get the story started, then the synopsis seems to come pretty easy for me.
I get the synopsis written up to the part where I’ve stopped in the book and then I brainstorm the rest of the story (hence the sort of a plotter writer). Not scene by scene, but the basic plot points, the black moment, crisis points, etc. And the end.
Once I know how it ends, the story really takes off for me.
For the first time ever, I wrote the ending to my story before I actually finished the book. And it worked for me. I had to change a few things, but for the most part, I was able to keep the ending.
So…how do you write? Pantser? Plotter? Or Plantser like me? Leave a comment and we'll enter you in the draw for my latest book, When a Secret Kills.
Lynette Eason has written/contracted thirty-six books since 2007. She has fifteen Love Inspired Suspense books on the shelf with more due to release soon. Lynette also writes for Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Her current release, WHEN A SECRET KILLS hit the CBA bestsellers list this year. Currently, she is working on her third series for Revell and is contracted for three more books through 2017. She has been teaching for more than ten years and is very happy to make the transition from teaching school to teaching writing whenever the opportunity presents. She is married, has two children, and lives in Simpsonville, SC. You can contact Lynette through her website at http://www.infinitesuspensefromlynetteeason.blogspot.com/.