Wednesday, January 30, 2013

So You Want to Read Your Reviews…

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

reviewsI’ve heard that in the past, writers would hear reactions to their work in very limited ways.  They’d either get a review in a newspaper or they’d get letters from readers, passed on to them through their publisher.

These days are gone.   The number of reviews your book receives from readers on online retailers and sites like Goodreads can be overwhelming.  (I’ve got 222 reviews for Dyeing Shame on Amazon as I write this—and that’s just one retailer.)

It’s feedback—and it can either sting or bolster.  If you’re currently working on a book, you can really mess up your writing mojo by checking out your reviews. 

Reading your reviews can be:

Uninspiring—”Just didn’t do it for me.”  “Boring.”  Not the kind of thing you want to look at if you’re trying to create your next masterpiece.

Disturbing/distracting--  “The formatting didn’t display right on my Kindle Fire".”  What?  Uh-oh.  Must be Amazon’s new anti-Calibre, pro-KindleGen stance. 

Inspiring…but troubling.  “Great book!  Loved the characters.  Can’t wait to buy the next book!” Can you live up to expectations?

Downright anxiety-provoking: People who really LOVE your work.  I read one review that said: "My mother says Lulu is the only character she's ever found who she feels is similar to her."  I was right in the middle of writing the next book in that series and froze. How could I ever give this lady the experience through the character that she's looking for? It took me days to get my mojo back. And this lady was being nice.

Basically, reviews are completely mesmerizing…when we should be focused on moving forward with our new story.

What you CAN take with you:

Make a list of genuine things to improve from the negative reviews (when you feel brave.) Bad reviews can be useful, if they’re meaty reviews.  Paste reader recommendations into a Word file.

Cut and paste the glowing reader reviews for when you’re feeling down…frustrated at your progress or WiP, depressed from rejections, etc.  Glancing through them can bolster you up without your running into the scary stuff.

In general, we should probably stay away.  Your time is better spent writing the next book. 

And—this should go without saying.  Never respond to reviews.  They're not talking to us...they're talking to other readers about us.

How brave are you when it comes to reviews?  Do you read them?  Read them, but only during specific times?  Avoid them?  What’s your personal policy?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Time Saving Tip When Writing Series

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

clockUnfortunately, I wasn’t blessed with the best memory.  And, the busier I get, the worse it gets.

Writing more than one series means that I frequently have to jump from writing a book in one series to a book in another.  I need a refresher to pick back up with the other series.

Style sheets are, obviously, very helpful for this. 

Penguin has been great about sending me style sheets for each book (hoping, of course, that I will use them to eliminate errors and inconsistencies from book to book in a series.)  The style sheets are emailed in a separate attachment from my edits, and sometimes include the email address of the copyeditor on them, in case I want to make changes to the document.

Penguin’s style sheets usually look like this (with the page reference next to the item):


Ash Downey 22
Beatrice Coleman (60s, silvery ash-blond hair) 9
Jo Paxton (black hair with white streaks, small, stout) 10
Miss Sissy (old, cadaverous) 18
Blowing Rock 34
Blue Ridge Parkway 49
Bub’s Grocery 104
Dappled Hills 12

Additionally, the sheets lists actual style: serial comma use, treatment of unusual contractions, how to handle direct thoughts in the book, word choice, etc. It always amuses me when Penguin adds the word y’all’s to the style sheets they send to me. :)

I’ve also used series bibles that go into greater detail….including things like character traits, habits, hobbies; setting details and any details of recurring subplots. This is useful too, but I still like to have the brief descriptions and the characters’ first and last names on the style sheet for a basic, quick reference.

The sheets were so helpful that I duplicated them for my self-published books. I found, though, that style sheet creation after finishing the first draft, was a time-consuming process.

This might seem obvious, but it wasn’t to me…create the style sheet while you’re writing the book.  It only takes a minute to jot down a character description or the name of the local coffeehouse so you’re not scrambling later trying to remember what you called the coffee shop and whether your character has a moustache or not.

Now, if you decide to change the character’s name, appearance, or the name of the coffeehouse, then you’ve got to remember to change the style sheet or you’ll have a real mess.

So…the style sheet helps while you’re writing the book—by offering a succinct reference that you can click over to as you write the first draft.  The style sheet also helps with edits and consistency.  And the style sheet helps with future books in the series.  I’m a fan.

Although this tool is especially helpful for series writers, I think it would also be helpful for writers who are drafting standalone books. When you’re editing your book, you’ll save time while checking for consistency in the document.

Another helpful cheat for the forgetful writer or the writer who writes multiple books a year: long synopses of each book. I heard from a teacher last week who wants me to Skype with her class about Delicious and Suspicious.  Not a problem…except that I wrote that book four years ago. Fortunately, I have a long synopsis that I put together that should refresh my memory enough to speak with some intelligence (ha!) about a book I wrote. 

Do you use style sheets or other memory crutches? Do you have any other time-saving tips while working on a book?

Image: xenia

Sunday, January 27, 2013


by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Twitterific is a compilation of all the writing links I shared the previous week.

The links are fed into the Writer’s Knowledge Base search engine (developed by writer and software engineer Mike Fleming) which has over 19,000 free articles on writing-related topics. It's the search engine for writers.

Sign up for our free newsletter for monthly writing tips and interviews with top contributors to the WKB or like us on Facebook.

Try “My WKB”--a way for you to list and sort articles, view your read articles, and see your search history. Read more about it here: The free My WKB page is here: And check out Hiveword to help you organize your story.
Tips for motivating yourself to write: @ollinmorales

Is Hubris Holding You Back?

6 Warning Signs That Your Blog Is Deflating: @problogger

Synopsis writing tips: @mythicscribes

Writing And Publishing In 2013: Survive And Thrive: @woodwardkaren

Using Meyers-Briggs to Keep Your Characters in Character: @booklifenow

How to Create a Strong Dramatic Premise: @SHalvatzis

How pay-what-you-like ebooks sell [infographic]:

The Secret Writing Rule Book…and Why to Ignore It: @annerallen

4 Ways to Wake Up Your Creativity: @bookemdonna

How to Use Fiction Techniques when Writing Nonfiction:

How (and When) to Give Yourself a Break: @ava_jae

Should You Slam Your Story's Brakes? @kmweiland

Legal Issues in Self-Publishing: What Authors Need to Know: @passivevoiceblg

Script To Screen: "The Elephant Man": @gointothestory

The Difference Between Appositives and Descriptions: @writing_tips

Why Side Characters Steal the Spotlight (and How to Steal Some Back): @susanjmorris

Adding tension to crime fiction with non-physical threats: @mkinberg

How to speed up your writing by not writing: @goodinaroom

What writers want from publishing: @Porter_Anderson @EdNawotka @psexton1

Choosing a Story Idea: 4 Questions Every Romance Writer Should Ask Themselves: @writersdigest

The New World of Publishing: How To Keep Production Going All Year: @deanwesleysmith

13 Ways to Exorcise Wordiness:

More On Writer/Agent Etiquette, How to Approach Agents With Multiple Genres & More: @breeogden

Fight Scenes That Sizzle:

Scandalous: 8 Reasons Intelligent Writers Must Read Twilight: @robdyoungwrites

Process vs Outcome: What Motivates You? @yahighway

The All-Important Fan Base: @kristinerusch

A Book Cover's Evolution: @jfbookman

3 Twitter Tips for Writers: @wherewriterswin

A Goodreads success story: @AuthorTWard

5 Podcasts for Writers: @jeanoram

An agent on board books: @literaticat

Yearly reading goals for writers: @ava_jae

Writing Tips for Getting and Staying Organized: @melissadonovan

Using Wordpress to build your author website: @janvbear

Quotes about Writing from Game of Thrones Author George R.R. Martin: @io9

5 Parallelism Problems in Sentence Structure: @writing_tips

5 choices you face when a minor character decides to steal the show: @Fictorians

Elements of Southern fiction: @xymarla

Should Writers Let Reader Expectations Influence Artistic Judgement? @woodwardkaren

Writing With a Touch of Madness: @tianawarner

How to Apply the Advice to "Show, Don't Tell": @nickdaws

Your Author Business Plan: Compare, Contrast And Conquer: @susanspann

Literature suffers as the pub. ind. shifts focus to digital revolution: @Porter_Anderson @EdNawotka @jenniecoughlin

How to Write a Story Like Les Miserables: @joebunting

4 Tips for Fixing the Infamous "Info Dump": @jamigold

Tips for Pacing Your Novel: @fictionnotes

13 Resolutions To Make You A Better, More Productive Writer In 2013: @kimber_regator

Great scene: Citizen Kane: @gointothestory

Discover Your Hidden Book:

Self-Discipline for the Distracted Writer: @JulieEshbaugh

10 Incredibly Stupid Ways Superheroes and Villains Have Died: @io9

10 things 1 writer wishes she had known before getting published: @bookviewcafe

Do You Hide Your Writing From Friends & Family? @turndog_million

Tips for getting your ebook noticed:

What Magic Realism Has to Offer Horror: @mybookishways @manuscriptgal

How Long Should You Keep Trying to Get Published? @janefriedman

Failing your 2013 writing resolutions? Top 10 Strategies for Making Your New Year's Resolution Stick: @lifehacker

New Adult: Marketing? Age? Accessibility? What makes it different? @wordforteens

Symbolism Preliminaries:

When you should write a sequel to your novel–and when you shouldn't: @dirtywhitecandy

Options for Conflict in a Scene: @kmweiland

How 1 writer fast-drafts: @LeighAnnKopans

How To Write A 1-Page Synopsis: @stdennard

Self-publishing--Planning for the Long Term:

Writing a Book Series from a Blog Series: @laurahoward78

Writing Nowadays–Observations on Ambition: @StevenPiziks

Finding your tactical plan for writing this year: @livewritethrive

Screenwriting Advice From The Past: The Denouement: @gointothestory

6 things writers taught an editor: @ruthharrisbooks

5 Online Dictionaries: @writing_tips

Understanding the Story Climax: @SHalvatzis

How to Stay Loyal to Your Writing Schedule: @ollinmorales

A free directory of cover designers, formatters, freelance editors, and more:

The Search Engine for Writers:

13 point blog checklist: @HeidiCohen

3 Problems of Nonparallel Interjections: @writing_tips

Non-American spelling:

A warning to screenwriters: @cockeyed_caravan

Should you use a pen name if your real name is difficult to spell or pronounce? @KgElfland2ndCuz

Easy Ways to Build Your Novel's Character: @Lindasclare

Scene Goals: what your characters want: @woodwardkaren

3 tips for dealing with critiques: @writersdigest

Why Every Author Should Be On Goodreads In 2013 [Infographic]: @jonathangunson

The 48-Hour Sulk Rule & the Creative's Occupational Hazard: @MarkMcGuinness

Learn to Be a Better Writer By Reading Fanfiction: @io9

10 Grammar & Usage-Related Resolutions: @writerscramp1

Book Cover Trends That Have Oversaturated the Market: @deadwhiteguys

How to pitch:

How a paradox can help you to warm to your protagonist: @donmaass

The Magic of Stephen King: The Opening Paragraphs Of The Dead Zone: @woodwardkaren

The infodump scene:

9 Ways To Stay On The Writer's Fast Track Once You're On It: @ollinmorales

40 Ways to Develop and Protect Your Writing Brand:

25 Writer Resolutions For 2013 (And Beyond): {lang}

Publishing--What to watch for in 2013: @MikeShatzkin

Script To Screen: "Double Indemnity": @gointothestory

Vowing to blog more? 7 shortcuts for fast blog posts: @publicityhound

Right Now Is the Best Time Ever To Be a Writer (if you work for it): @danblank

Writing Rules and Fantasy: Kill Your Darlings: @VickyThinks

1-Star Amazon Reviews from Readers Who "Haven't Read It Yet": @ddscottromcom

Why Writers Should Use the My Healthy Habits App: @jasonboog

A list of top 10 villainesses: @emeraldfennell

12 Tips for Recovering from Writing Burnout: @jamigold

An Agent on The Editorial Process: @stevelaubeagent

Why do so many villains get caught on purpose? @io9

The Starburst Method of Plotting: @woodwardkaren

Stop obsessing over your numbers: @kristinerusch

6 Effective Ways to Inspire Yourself: @write_practice

Dialogue Tags Are Annoying: @mooderino

The Business of Screenwriting: Anatomy of a Deal: @gointothestory

What's the Most Important Moment in Your Character's Arc? @KMWeiland

Starting a New chapter: Defeating the Blank Page: @fictionnotes

Developmental Editing: @kcraftwriter

Standalones, Trilogies, and Series: @Suzanne_Johnson

Brain "Rules" for Writers:

3 Ways to Supercharge Your Writing This Year: @jfbookman

How To Combat Book Piracy This Year: @galleycat

15 Great Vintage Book Covers: @publisherswkly

6 Tricks For When You Don't Want To Write: @joebunting

How Much Detail Should Writers Use? @kristenlambtx

Classic Books On The Craft Of Writing:

The Business of Screenwriting: Anatomy of a Deal (When the Project Isn't Made): @gointothestory

Let Characters Be Wrong: @mooderino

Give your book a theme: @karalennox

Dealing With the Passage of Time Between Scenes: @janice_hardy

Why Your Characters Should Be "Gray": @kmweiland

The Secret to Writing a First Novel: @JCBaggott

Jane Dystel: Agents Unwilling to Adapt Won't Last: @passivevoiceblg

How To Modify A MS Word Paragraph Style: @woodwardkaren

Testifying for Fan Fiction: @PeterDamien

Summarizing in Books: When it's Good and When it's Bad: @AmericanEditing

7 things 1 writer has learned so far: @ARScattergood

Data tracking and book recommendations: @Porter_Anderson @jwikert

Physical Attribute Entry: Fingernails: @angelaackerman

Crafting a Strong Beginning With a Young Narrator: @janice_hardy

The 10 best Jane Austen characters – in pictures: @guardianbooks

Great Scene: "Citizen Kane": @gointothestory

13 Ways To Kickstart Your Writing in 2013: @ajackwriting

Writing is Pain, Learn to Take a Hit: @kristenlamb

Data tracking and book recommendations: @Porter_Anderson @jwikert

‘Legitimacy’ and Traditional Publishers: @Porter_Anderson @jennienash


Friday, January 25, 2013

Blogging for Writers

By Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig
Recently, I’ve noticed a shift in writers’ opinions on the importance of blogging as part of a writer’s general platform.

Popular blogger Jody Hedlund expressed it well inher post, “Blogging News,” stated:

I think the nature of blogging is changing. While blogging was once considered essential to a writer's platform, most of us are beginning to understand that a blogging platform for fiction-writers doesn't translate into significant sales (at least for the average blogger).

In a day and age with limited time and resources, writers are realizing their time is best spent writing books—including eshorts and enovellas. Getting our stories in front of readers does much more for furthering our careers than blogging.
I definitely see where Jody is coming from.  I’ve read other posts by other writers lately stating that they think writers should bring their focus back to their writing. 
What I’ve done was to cut back the number of days that I’m blogging. I blogged every day, religiously, for a couple of years before my schedule last year got out of control.  I cut back last year…at first temporarily so that I could handle a few deadlines that were happening at once. Then I decided to make it permanent. I was getting more writing done—and not just writing. I was getting a lot of writing-related activities done (required outlines, Twitter promo, edits, emails, etc.)

What I get out of blogging:
I still feel that blogging is an important part of my platform. I’ve gotten to know a good number of writers through blogging, and the blog has even received some recognition.
The blog provides a good home base for me, helps me interact with other writers (writing can be a lonely job), and provides me with encouragement and support.  And…it’s hard to explain, but I feel more of a part of the writing community with my blog than I do on Facebook and Twitter. This is probably because I don’t interact on Twitter except through DM (leaving my tweet stream clean) and because I have a fan page on Facebook instead of a regular profile.  It’s harder for me to interact through those platforms.
Blogging serves as a good writing warm-up…sort of a writing prompt.
Blogging challenges:
Sales. If you’re blogging to see a direct impact on your book sales…you’ll probably be disappointed. I can’t say I’ve seen a direct correlation. Let’s just say that this isn’t why I blog.
Time.  As always, writers are juggling a lot of promo and their stories.  There are only so many hours in the day.
Connecting with readers.  Do readers visit author blogs? I think they do if the bloggers create blogs specifically with readers in mind. Writer Roni Loren changed her writing-related blog to focus more on readers. She explains why in her guest post “Social Media Overload: How Do You Reach Readers?” on Anne R. Allen’s blog:

… I chose to go a slightly different route because (a) I get tired of writing about writing at times and (b) I wanted to provide my readers with something fun to if they happened to stop by.

Roni gave suggestions for reader extras in her post, “Author Websites: Layering Yours With Sticky Extras.”
Ways to lessen the impact of blogging challenges:
Accept guest posts. (While still keeping an eye on quality control.)
Reduce the number of days a week you’re blogging.
Find other ways to connect with readers.  I’ve found there are more readers on Facebook than other social media platforms (much as I dislike Facebook.)
The problem with group blogs:
A word about group blog challenges.  As a link curator (I share writing-related links on Twitter that archive to the Writer’s Knowledge Base), I’ve noticed a widespread problem with group blogs—attribution.  The reason most writers are on group blogs is to increase their reach and help develop their platform. If you’re not getting credit for your post or if your byline isn’t linking back to your blog, website, Twitter page, etc….then what’s the point? 
As unbelievable as it sounds, sometimes I can’t even tell who wrote particular posts on group blogs.  The byline will just mention “posted by Group Blog” or something similar. That author got absolutely nothing in return for the post. No promo value from the time spent writing the article.
The best group blogs immediately identify post authors with a byline hyperlinked to contact info, an author headshot, and short bio at the end of the post.
Now I’d love to hear from y’all—because most of you are bloggers, yourselves. How many days a week do you blog? Do you have trouble finding time to blog? Thought about cutting back on blogging?  Ever considered trying to connect more with readers than writers? What are your thoughts on group blogs?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Characters Who Surprise Us

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

30538661_ebc4d149a3For my daughter’s entire life, I’ve watched with amusement as people have made the mistake of judging her by her appearance.

She’s diminutive, doll-like in many ways.  Very odd, since I’m 5’10” and don’t have many memories of the brief time I was small.  But my daughter is frequently mistaken for a second grader, although she’s in middle school.

People don’t expect is how tough she is.  She knows her own mind…and speaks it.  She can certainly take care of herself.  And I wouldn’t advise calling her cute.

I think that’s one aspect that makes my daughter interesting—that dichotomy between her appearance and her personality.  She’s a surprise. 

Characters who surprise readers are also interesting…and provide realism in a story. 
Ways that characters can surprise readers:

Characters who pretend to be different than they actually are. Common in mysteries, but useful in other genres, too.  We can all play nice for short periods of time, can’t we?  The opposite is true, too—the person who plays the tough guy, but is actually very sensitive or timid.

Characters who change during the course of the story.  Directly related to plot events, these characters change for a variety of different reasons: death of someone close to them, change of health, change of circumstance, change of marital status.  Might be a good idea to see those changes happen gradually to a character…but if it is abrupt, it needs to be believable. 

Characters who differ from what their physical appearance suggests (see above.) This could encompass a Napoleon complex…someone who has a particular personality as a result of their appearance or size. 

Characters who experience a change of heart.  Sometimes I’ll see this in films where the bad guy has the opportunity to save the good guy (usually when the good guy is hanging off the side of a cliff.)   Again, there’s got to be something there in the plot to make the readers believe this abrupt change of heart.  Has the protagonist saved the antagonist in the past?  What’s the backstory here?

What other ways can characters surprise us?  Which ways are your favorites to read or write?

Image: Flickr: A. Currell

Monday, January 21, 2013

5 Tips to Create a Page-Turning Plot

Guest Post by J.E. Fishman, @JEFISHMAN

Purchase Here
Last year, when I was visiting a library book club to discuss my first novel, Primacy, a woman told me she kept flicking the bedroom reading light back on because she wanted to know what would happen next.

A couple of months ago, a fellow writer whom I’d met on Facebook sent me a message about my second novel that began: “I just read the prologue to Cadaver Blues. Wow. Straight into the story and already hooked.”

Both of these interactions — and others like them — have left me smiling over the past eighteen months. They’re gold for an author. More important than money, almost on par with food.

Regardless of genre, the greatest compliment one can pay to a writer is the turning of a page — followed, of course, by the turning of another and another.

Beautiful, compelling prose can do that — what editors often refer to as “voice.” But voice alone can’t carry an entire novel, and it certainly won’t carry a mystery. People who read mysteries want more than character, great writing, and peppy dialogue. They want to be challenged to figure something out. The puzzle, if it’s intriguing enough, can propel much of a story forward. But if you can also create suspense — a sense that the character faces peril — so much the better.

The No. 1 way to build suspense is to instill in your reader a sense of danger without paying it off right away. Suspense ends the moment anticipation ceases. That anticipation might be relieved by assured safety, of course, but it also expires along with your character the moment that the knife goes in. Keeping them waiting for that knife is the heart of the matter.

Thrillers frequently have more suspense than traditional mysteries, but these lines have blurred, which is all to the good. Thriller writers often introduce a mystery element when they need to complicate their plot. And mystery writers introduce suspense to quicken the pace.

Ah, the quicker pace. The thing about knives is they can’t threaten on every page or the reader becomes inured to them. So what other techniques might we use to keep those pages turning? Here are five that I find effective both as reader and writer.

1. Make us care.

Perhaps it should go without saying that we need to care about the protagonist, but how does one make the reader care? First of all, bring the character to life through particular elements of characterization — appearance, tics, manner of speech, etc.

Second, give the character something or someone to care about. People who care about something are more interesting and sympathetic than people who just float through life. The target of that caring could be a person, a pet, a possession, or a cause — any number of things. It doesn’t matter what, exactly. We root for people who have a stake in life.

Least important, I think, is for your character to be likable. Some will argue with that statement, but I think we ultimately care more about a character who is interesting than one who is nice.

Once you have that interesting character sketched out — or even before — introducing a sense of foreboding is a great way to get us behind him.

Phillip Margolin begins Chapter One of The Burning Man as follows: “On the day the gods chose for his destruction, Peter Hale ate his breakfast on the terrace of his condominium.” What an effective opening! I don’t know about you, but I’d personally allow Margolin to bore me to death for the next thirty pages just to learn how the gods plan to destroy Peter Hale.

2. Limit the field.

The closer your protagonist gets to the source of danger, the greater the suspense and the faster the pace.

Proximity is a powerful source of suspense, even when danger isn’t involved. Think about your last trip to somewhere you really looked forward to going. Maybe it was a visit to a national park or a play in the big city. Most of us start out at a leisurely pace, but as we get closer we speed up to meet the anticipation.

The protagonist of a mystery isn’t closing in on the theater; she’s closing in on the truth. But the truth is dangerous because a murderer will be exposed.

In a thriller, the protagonist is closing in on the antagonist (or vice versa). The closer he gets, the greater the pace, because a physical threat is most easily carried out in close quarters. When the antagonist is halfway around the world, we may be willing to set the book aside. When the antagonist is in the back of the car, those pages will turn.

3. Raise the stakes.

This one may seem like a contradiction to Nos. 1 and 2, but they can all complement one another.

Even if we already have a sympathetic protagonist who’s in danger, we feel more strongly for that character’s fate if she willingly risks her life for something bigger.

First of all, seeking out danger shows moral fiber — something the character cares about bigger than herself. As the business guru Tom Peters wrote (quoting Texas Bix Bender), “You can pretend to care. You cannot pretend to be there.” Risking your life for something bigger than you is a sign of authenticity.

Second, bigger stakes are...well, BIGGER. If Asia is threatened with obliteration, that’s four billion people, which is a lot more than one.

But here’s the caveat about those stakes. Notice I didn’t say, “Have big stakes.” I said, “Raise the stakes.” If Asia will be nuked, who cares? Don’t know any of those people. If, on the other hand, the protagonist I’ve come to know and love may be nuked while trying to save Asia, now you’ve got me.

Fiction — even when it has broad themes — always goes from the specific to the general. Never the other way around.

4. Keep us hanging.

Remember that knife. The moment it falls, the suspense dissipates.

As a storytelling technique, the cliffhanger used to get a bad rap. It was said to belong in the realm of hack writers who relied on cheap tricks. Bull-dingy! Everyone uses cliffhangers, even literary novelists. Why? Because they work.

The cliffhanger is nothing more than a cutaway employed when something important is about to happen to the protagonist. If your protagonist is suspended over a pot of boiling oil at the end of Chapter 35, why pay off the scene right in Chapter 36 when instead you can go to a completely different location and character and get your reader to keep turning pages to see what happens?

Best of all, have the intervening chapter (or chapters) focus on someone who cares about that character. Maybe he doesn’t know what’s happening to her — or maybe he’s racing to save the day.

5. Leave something out.

If you’re a reader or writer of mysteries, you have to love the phrase, “The mystery deepens.” It’s an invitation into the abyss, isn’t it? Something was missing. Now, suddenly, even more is missing!

When it comes to suspenseful storytelling, what the author leaves out is as important — perhaps more important — than what he puts in. Say the maid found the butler dead in the library. The mystery, of course, is who killed him and why. But what if we also don’t know how? Doesn’t that add to the intrigue? You bet it does.

All novels complicate the plot as they go along. In page-turners, each revelation both advances our understanding and, at the same time, raises further questions. And fresh questions keep readers turning pages.

Storytelling is a form of manipulation, but the more the reader feels manipulated, the more you run the risk of losing her. So use these techniques as artfully as you can. Combined with the core of a great mystery, they’re guaranteed to keep your readers up at night.

J.E. Fishman, a former Doubleday editor and literary agent, is author of the thrillers The Dark Pool and Primacy, as well as the mystery Cadaver Blues: A Phuoc Goldberg Fiasco. With his friends at Shelton Interactive, he also administers The 1000-Word CliffhangerProject.

He divides his time between Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and New York City. Follow him through his website at .

Sunday, January 20, 2013


by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Twitterific is a compilation of all the writing links I shared the previous week.

The links are fed into the Writer’sKnowledge Base search engine (developed by writer and software engineer Mike Fleming) which has over 19,000 free articles on writing-related topics. It's the search engine for writers.

Sign up for our free newsletter for monthly writing tips and interviews with top contributors to the WKB or like us on Facebook.

Try “My WKB”--a way for you to list and sort articles, view your read articles, and see your search history. Read more about it here: The free My WKB page is here: And check out Hiveword to help you organize your story.

Making Money From indie Publishing: A Guide For the Hopeful, the Optimistic and the Doomed: @sarahahoyt

How to Cut the Filler and Tighten Your Book: @kmweiland

Goal-Keeping from the Greats: @diymfa

Marketing Your E-Book: Making The Most Of Your Time:

The New World of Publishing: Goals and Dreams: @deanwesleysmith

Resort settings featured in crime fiction: @mkinberg

Grammar: Know the Rules Before You Break Them: @suspense_writer

Cautious and adventurous personality types in crime fiction: @mkinberg

A preview of today's DBW conference: . Twitter updates: #DBW13 @Porter_Anderson

Top 10 Things One Writer Learned About Social Media Marketing: @colbymarshall

The DBW con: kid lit goes digital, issues for trad. pubs, piracy, more: @porter_anderson .Follow con #DBW13

Can You Tell ‘Male Writing’ from ‘Female?’ @Porter_Anderson @MykeCole @TeresaFrohock

A "Dear Abby" Writing Exercise: @LAMysteryWriter

Whoever Told You Editing Was Easy is Nuts: @behlerpublish

Writing Horror: What Makes A Story Scary? @woodwardkaren

The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains: @LeoWid

Writing a better climactic scene: @Lindasclare

When to shut down a creative life: @emergentpublish

Starting a New chapter: Defeating the Blank Page: @fictionnotes

Why we don't write: @write_practice

Great Scene: "Casablanca": @gointothestory

Great Character: Buddy ("Elf"): @gointothestory

Freelancing--the writer's portfolio:

Real Life Diagnostics: Using the Journal Format in a YA Novel: @janice_hardy

The Structure Of Short Stories: The Elevator Pitch Version: @woodwardkaren

Writing Religion in Fantasy:

Create Your Own Storybook App: @JulieFHedlund

Should you re-query an agency? @rachellegardner

Tips for writing a book proposal: @GillianMarchenk

Managing Story Conflict: @SHalvatzis

Tips for authors for getting their books into local bookstores: @bizauthor

The Three Building Blocks of the Scene: @kmweiland

How Do Authors Reach *Readers*? @annerallen

How to add jeopardy to your story before the main conflict starts: @dirtywhitecandy

Writing Goals Versus Writing Dreams: How To Get From One To The Other: @woodwardkaren

How much do ebooks cost to create?

Trying to place more of your stories in anthologies and ezines? Use a lower word count: @BryanThomasS

Using the Real World in Fantasy Fiction: @fantasyfaction

1 writer reports on a KDP Select experiment:

Lessons From 'The Godfather' On Sticking To Your Creative Vision: @danblank

e Business of Screenwriting: Withdrawing screen credit and pseudonyms: @gointothestory

Editing & Critiquing: @woodwardkaren

How Writing Helps Us Heal: @write_practice

Toothless Writing Goals? Try These Tools: @Jan_Ohara

Clothes in books: "A black dress, and a jewel the size of a trouser-button": @clothesinbooks

7 Elements of an Effective Landing Page Designed to Increase Your Mailing List: @karencv

The Psychology of Rejection & Criticism: @markmcguinness

9 Tips For Finishing That Novel: @annastanisz

How to Edit Your Own Writing: @cbmcmillan

Writing Worldbuilding Into Our Books: @davidbcoe

Why we need beta readers:

Dealing with Rejection: @avajae

Effects Of Stress On Creativity: @TheArtofMind

A writer reports on using CreateSpace:

Male Authors, Discover Your Feminine Side: @turndog_million

Problems for writers as readers: @suzanne_writer

When Your Schedule Changes And Writing Suffers: @yahighway

Fight your censor:

Keeping track of your characters:

How you should treat edits on page proofs/pass pages:

Mistakes with metaphors: @robdyoungwrites

Character Development: What Do They Want? @ava_jae

Blending Sex and Suspense:

How to Choose a Creative Writing Course:

The InfoDump Scene:

Tips for using dashes:

Promotional Techniques for Authors: @ashkrafton

Finding the Balance Between Action and Character: @janice_hardy

Stupid Characters vs. Stupid Decisions: They're Not the Same: @ava_jae

16 villain archetypes: @tamicowden

Know the Dramatic Question of Your Story: @cockeyed_caravan

What's the Most Important Moment in Your Character's Arc? @KMWeiland

Writing bloopers to avoid: @Lindasclare

3 Reasons Why You Need a Mailing List as an Author: @fcmalby

The Business of Screenwriting: Anatomy of a Deal: @gointothestory

6 Effective Ways to Inspire Yourself: @write_practice

9 ways to shatter genre boxes: @io9

Learn to Use Keyboard Shortcuts Like a Ninja: @kingthor

5 things to remember about writing: @theresastevens

Scene-stealing Antagonists:

Art first, commerce later: @kristinerusch

Write badly: @selfpubreview

Dialogue Tags Are Annoying: @mooderino

7 Great Book Dedications: @johannthors

An agent on the year of self-pub: @sarahlapolla

Romance novels that read more like categories: @heroesnhearts

Finding Your Audience and Branching Out: @booklifenow

*Is* Writing Creative? @lilylefevre

Attracting Reader Responses on Your Blog: @auntyamo

Semicolons: @WriteJoMichaels

Striving to Be a Better Writer by Writing More: @karencv

10 Elements of Reality Not Allowed in Fiction:

Should novelists be bloggers? @jfbookman

Fantasy: Manipulating the Mythos: @rmriegel

Blogs For Writers: @woodwardkaren

Dramatic Situation Vs. Dramatic Scene: Win the Fight Against Poor Form: @cdrosales

WIP feedback: When, How Often, How: @fictionnotes

How Music Affects the Writing Process: @KMWeiland

Kobo Becoming a Player for Self-Published Ebook Authors: @goblinwriter

YA--beyond wizards and vampires, to sex: @nytimes @leslieNYT

5 Ways to Optimise Your Facebook Author Page: @fcmalby

Starting a Podcast: What You Need to Know to Succeed: @smexaminer

3 steps to hosting a giveaway: @TweetTheBook

Why Do We Bother?: The Quest for Accuracy: @davidbcoe

7 Ways Twitter is a Writer's Endless Holiday Party: @NinaBadzin

All about book trailers (and resources for making your own): @PBRWriter

Whys & Hows of Co-Writing a Novel: @LauraHoward78

Ebook pricing: @goblinwriter

8 Books for Writers: @raimalarter

"People forget years and remember moments." @gointothestory

Smooth Out Your Novel's Scene Writing: @Lindasclare

Designing character interviews that really matter: @juliettewade

The benefits of long-writing: @woodwardkaren

3 Cheap Promo Ideas for Self-Published Authors:

Exploring Tortured Heroines in Romance Novels: @heroesnhearts

How 1 writer used Kickstarter to reboot a series: @tobiasbuckell

Turning Passive Plots into Active Plots: @susanjmorris

7 Ways to Add Subplots to Your Novel: @BrianKlems

Different Characters, Different Beliefs: @mooderino

Stephen King Gives Screenwriting Advice: @galleycat

Writing across the media: @tordotcom

"Platform" Doesn't Have to Be a Four-Letter Word: @AuthorTedFox

5 Famous Authors Who Became Infamous: @jtjarzemsky

Why 1 writer decided not to self-pub his stories: @jamietr

Do You Follow Yourself Around The Web? @novelrocket

13 Types of Writers' Blogs – Pros and Cons: @VeronicaSicoe

Unleashing the Internal Editor: A Self-Editing Checklist: @jodyhedlund

An index of helpful writing guides for writers:

How To Measure Your Writing Success: @originalimpulse

Some questions for interviewing your characters:

Successful Query Letters for Literary Agents: @galleycat

Protect Your Wrists: Exercises for Writers: @jamigold

Tips for breathing life into your fiction: @JanalynVoigt

The Universality Is in the Details: @livewritethrive

4 Simple Ways to Track Your Book Marketing Progress: @duolit

How To Give Your Story a Better Middle: @storyfix

Fun With Foreshadowing: @cockeyed_caravan

TED Presentations from Writers: @galleycat

The Value of Google+ As A Writer's Platform: @woodwardkaren

The Intersection of YA and Dystopian: @lkhillbooks

How to Embed a Twitter Tweet Into Your Blog Post: @jfbookman

Your Optimal Creativity Time May Be the Opposite of Your Optimal Cognitive Time: @lifehackorg

Assume Reader Resistance: @mooderino

The Cure For Perfectionism: @woodwardkaren

Don't Hide Your Harlequins: In Defense Of Romance: @howtowriteshop @npr

The Importance of Knowing Your Ending: @yahighway

Retellings vs. fanfiction -- where do you draw the line? @wordforteens

5 Ways Writers Should Approach Criticism: @cerebralgrump

Tips for running a blog tour: @beth_barany