The End of the Beginning

Yee-ha!  Finished “HA-HA-HA-HA” . . . well, the first draft anyway.  For me, this has been—wow—over a year in the making.  Time to celebrate?  Maybe.  A little.

WPwineIf you’ve finished your manuscript, congrats.  Not an easy feat (not unless you’re a prolific writer who can put something together in a wink and a blink).  So, what now?  Have a celebratory glass of wine or cup of tea?  Why not?  Go for it.  Give yourself a [well-deserved] pat on the back?  For sure—you deserve it, so give yourself two.  Take a breather?  Most definitely!

“The End” truly isn’t the end, not when it’s only the first draft.  After that, you have to begin on the revamping, the refining.  You want your manuscript to be submission perfect, so make certain your “product” is good enough to send out to publishers, agents (if you’re planning on pursuing the traditional publishing route), acquisition editors, and the like.

I’ve undoubtedly touched upon the following in past, but a review is always worthwhile—for you and me.

Take the aforementioned breather—a few days isn’t enough, truly, so aim for a few weeks, even a month or, better yet, two.  I know, this seems like a forever when you’re excited about your manuscript and want to get it out there.  But you must step away to view/review your work with objectivity.  You’ve been living with the story for some time and need fresh eyes to see what’s what (what works and what doesn’t): you can only do that when you’ve stepped away for a decent period of time.

Once that breather has breathed enough, pick up that manuscript and read it all the way through before proofing/editing.  Get a feel for how it flows, what makes sense, what stands out (as in amiss or incorrect, or makes you scratch your head).  Now that you’ve got an idea of what requires doing, fix the critical items first—scenes that don’t work, plot holes, character inconsistencies.  Once you’ve got those smoothed over, begin the edit.  Take your time.

Second edit done?  Edit more—or refine, as the case may be.  Once completed, get feedback/input.  Receiving it from family and friends is okay (but how objective are they really going to be?).  Aim for writing communities and groups and beta readers.  See what others have to say but take their advice with a grain of salt; it may make [a lot of] sense, it may not.  Give the feedback serious—and non-subjective thought—and apply as you deem fit.

If you don’t yet have a social-media/on-line presence, create one.  You want people to know about your book and you, the writer.  How about a blog?  Promote your book—and yourself—there.  Spark interest.

I digressed a bit, because social media and the like is a whole other kettle of fish (and I’ve posted about this before).  Really, the whole point about “The End” is that there’s a beginning . . . which leads to it being final, faultless/flawless, and fabulous.

With that, I’m off to take a few breaths . . . hmm, just how many are there in a month?

The Long and Short of It – The Short Story

The gals at the Triple Threat Investigation Agency were chatting the other day over chai lattes and Rey thought she’d like to try penning a short story.  That gave Linda—also a blogger—an idea.  Why not provide tips on how to get started, seeing as she gave some to Rey?  (JJ thought she’d sit this one out, but might jump in later.)

So, this is a two-parter post.  The first part provides advice and the second will feature Rey’s short.  She’s thinking hers might revolve around an actress turned private eye.  Hmm.  Sounds vaguely familiar.  <LOL>

Over to you, Linda . . .

Hello all.   I’ve written a number of short stories over the years—a few were published, too—so I feel I’m qualified to provide guidelines (in case you were wondering).

If you’ve always wanted to be a writer, but haven’t yet written anything, a short story is a great place to start. 

Like a full-length book, you should present a conflict or complication, a quest or mission, create tension and interest.  Your aim: inspire the reader to read

Where will you get your idea (storyline)?  From the media, an author, a real-life situation, a recollection of something or someone—the channels, options, are numerous.  You don’t want to copy (steal) the idea outright, but you can certainly make it your own by adding the right twists and turns . . . and your personal touch of creativity and imagination. 

The length is up to you, but traditional short stories are 1500 to 5000 words in length (that’s 250 words to a double-spaced page, by the way).

Whether you’re writing short fiction or long, make sure you know it well—learn all you can about the genre by reading it.  Many, many times.  One can only become an expert through concentrated effort and application.

Start by jotting down ideas, characters, thoughts, actions—whatever comes to mind.  Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation.  Just get it on the page or screen.  Let it out.  Purge.

Throw your protagonist (main character) under the bus right away.  Figuratively speaking.  A short story is just that: short.  You have little time (or space) to get too flowery or descriptive.  Yank that reader in right away!  This is contingent on what you’re writing, of course, but whatever the genre, you want to intrigue your readers from the get-go

If you’re writing a romance, perhaps the hero isn’t interested in the heroine, or vice versa.  Maybe the hero’s lover is unfaithful (or so it appears).  Is the protagonist torn between love or comfort (l’amour or moolah)?  In a mystery, has the protagonist stumbled upon a body . . . and is accused of the heinous crime?  Or has he/she witnessed the murder, but no one believes his/her?  In a western, a nefarious thieving gang is on its way to pillage the town—and most of the frightened townspeople, as well as the deputies, have fled.  Rustlers are rumored to be in the vicinity of the Dalton farmstead.  How will the family deal with them?  In a mainstream story, perhaps the heroine strives to go to see the world before she succumbs to her illness, but there’s no money—or hope—to be had.  The possibilities for any genre are endless.  Let that imagination, truly, run wild. 

Short stories that work are those that appeal to readers through emotions, feelings, principles, values (romance/love, vengeance, justice, escape, and so forth).  Enter enough emotion to sadden, delight, frighten, worry, [verb-of-choice] readers.  Entice readers to pursue your protagonist throughout the dilemma or adventure.  How will the perplexing issue be resolved?  Is the ending a happy one or heartbreaking?  Has the protagonist learned a lesson or acquired new insight? 

That ending, like the beginning, has to happen 1-2-3.  Make certain you bring adequate [quick] closure to provide the reader with a sense of satisfaction.  An “it was a dark and stormy night” opening should have a “the sun appeared on the horizon” ending.  That’s not to say that the end is a happy one, just that something promises to transpire (and it could be equally grim, but that’s your choice).

I believe I’ve given you enough food for thought.  Let’s see if my BFF, Rey, applies my suggestions to her short story.  Hmm.  Curiosity’s got the better of me. I think I’ll take a peek . . .

Fried at Five on Friday

. . . otherwise known as being overcome by overwhelming circumstances.  People (demanding parents and partners, hellish colleagues and bosses, “well-meaning” friends) and/or events (jobs, caregiving, chores, commitments, expectations) can take their toll.  There are off days, challenging ones, frustrating ones, go-away! ones.  <LOL>  Par for the course.  It’s call l-i-f-e.

Being overwhelmed [overcome] does not mean:

♠ jumping up and down and ripping your hair out at the roots (this does not make for a very pretty fashion statement)

♠ hitting your head against a concrete wall (it hurts!)

♠ sucking back Canadian maple donuts (though they do hit that sweet spot so nicely) or treat(s) of choice

♠ chugging chardonnay (relaxes/numbs for a while but, ooooooh, the aftermath)

♠ screaming, cursing, swearing (though that does feel <bleeping> great)

♠ giving up (quitting or refusing to do something is okay for a day or two, but not the long run).

How about something more constructive?

♥ refocusing (tell yourself you got what it takes—you’re your own favorite—resilient—warrior)

♥ maintaining the faith (re-finding/redefining it, whatever faith may mean to you)

♥ believing in hope, dreams, and possibilities

♥ dancing / singing / listening to music

♥ exercising / walking / biking . . . swimming / surfing

♥watching fun (amusing) shows or inspirational programs

♥ reading something light/funny (comics work)

♥ breathing deeply—a lot!

No one said every day would be easy—and some may find many aren’t—but, again, that’s l-i-f-e.  But those type of days don’t have to be [that] overwhelming.  Face them straight on.  Laugh at them.  Do not let them take control.  You . . . are . . . a . . . trooper . . .  a . . . fighter.

You . . . got . . . this!

Primo Promo

As you’ve noticed, there have been a few promotional posts about books being avail for 99 cents.  A great, appealing price indeed.

But is it so great to [constantly] promote?  It can’t hurt.  If you’re not with a publisher who sets the promo dates, that’s okay.  Do it on your own.

Why would you do it?  To . . .

♦  launch your new book (this will generate interest and spark sales)  ♦  increase sales (dropping the price of your book for a wee while can boost numbers and this looks good on you)  ♦  entice book “sales” shoppers (lots of folks love the bargain price tag of 99 cents).

There are free sites to promote your book, but you’ll pay fees for others (some are quite affordable).  I won’t list them here but suggest you Google when you’re ready.  This way you’ll find the most current sites.

It’s recommended that before you do any sort of promoting you have some good reviews on your side.  That makes sense.  Potential buyers might be more inclined to purchase your book if others have provided accolades.

Have a good synopsis (blurb) handy—you’ll need it for the promotion.  Make sure there are no typos, which goes without saying.

Let’s see.  Ah yes.  Make certain your book is live . . . available.  Ensure that retailers have the same price and promo dates (we don’t want to create any confusion now, do we?).

And it goes without saying . . . promote the <bleep> out of your, uh, promotion.  Tell friends, family, neighbors.  Communicate the great news—stupendous price—on social media and via writing/author communities (everywhere and anywhere you can think of).

Happy promoting (and selling)!

So, Ya Wanna E-Publish?

Hey, it’s Rey posting today.  A former client gave me the idea of tackling e-publishing.  Given a lot of people Linda, JJ and I know have signed up with e-publishers, it seemed a great idea to “chat” a bit about them.

From what I’ve researched, they say it can be a bit more difficult finding one of these as opposed to a traditional one (I’d have thought the opposite, but what do I know, he-he).  Why?  Because different e-publishers have different approaches.

All right, you’ve written your book and now you want to get it out there.  Bravo!  But who do you go with?  You should start by checking out books (genres) like yours and see who’s handling them.  Research the companies so you know who you’re dealing with, what they’re about, and what they’re looking for, and expect from you.

Other important questions to consider:

♦  What are their contracts like?  ♦    What are their formatting requirements?  ♦   Is there a print-on-demand option?  ♦     Will they design your book cover?  ♦     Who’s responsible for editing?  ♦     Where are they selling?  ♦     Who are their retail partners?  ♦     Will they help promote you?

There’s a lot (!) to know—and understand—before you sign up.

Don’t forget to check their standing.  Are there any complaints or “writer beware” statements and grievances?  Look closely and carefully.  Sure, it’ll take time and effort—but you put that into your book, didn’t you?  Make the best (wisest) choice.

Create a list of those e-publishers that look promising—are right for you and your book—and start submitting.  Another way to get a feel for who’s who: join on-line writing communities.  Get input from them.  Check, check, check.  Ask, ask, ask.  Make a list and start submitting.

E-publishers are more willing to take a chance on new writers, even if their books don’t necessarily fall within a traditional category/genre.  So, if you’ve just written a sci-fi-fantasy romance, hey, you may stand a good chance of being snapped up.

Being e-published offers the opportunity of developing a fanbase—whether you’re doing it on your own behalf and/or have your e-publisher’s assistance (chances are it’ll be on you to do, but never say never, as Cousin Jilly likes to say).  So, once you’ve got a book you’re your name is on it, recognize that that can lead to something exciting—with the right approach(es).

Sure, there are downsides to e-publishing, as with pretty much anything out there, but there’s no need to state them here; you’ll learn about them as you’re researching [the right] e-publishers to contact.

As private eyes, the three of us have ascertained (my new word) that the more thoroughly you investigate, the more you have a handle on how to resolve an issue or learn the reality of a situation.  Like a P.I., follow clues and examine evidence to solve your baffling case: which e-publisher would serve you best?

Doncha love short and sweet?

Stay in Touch!

As writers and bloggers, it’s imperative to stay in touch—to acquire followers, visitors, friends.  Sure, there’s a sense of satisfaction in writing for oneself—the process, the completion—but [personally] I’d like to know that people are reviewing what I’m writing and posting.  As such, social media is our best friend . . . most of the time.  <he-he>

First and foremost, social media puts our stuff out there in the “real” world.  Folks can read it, comment on it, like it.  The one problem?  There are so many platforms!  I myself can barely keep up with the basics—the oldies but goodies—like Facebook and Twitter.  I’m particularly fond of Facebook because not only do I have my personal page, I have an author page.  I belong to several writing communities, which help me network and “advertise” my books (as well as encourage and back fellow writers and bloggers). 

There’s an amazing amount of support out there.  Other useful platforms include YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Goodreads, Pinterest, and Tumblr.  (We’re talking “free advertising” as opposed to paying someone to advertise and network for us.)  Each one will have pros and cons; you determine which will work best for you and begin building that audience and driving traffic.

Brand yourself.  Tell the social media world who you are, what makes you different, why they should read/follow you.  Garner interest.  Having a presence is really rather necessary in this day and age, and social media platforms can serve as great promotional tools.  And the more of an audience (followers) you develop, the better you look to potential agents and publishers; they love numbers (but, then, so do we).  

Part of the presence is your integrity.  Ensure your work is typo-free and follows grammar and punctuation basics—depending on what you’re writing, of course (perhaps you’re into poetry or more eclectic stuff).  Be sincere and non-critical, unless you’re a reviewer but, even then, you want to offer constructive criticism. 

Give thought to your About page, your bio . . . you.  Be honest.  Be creative, funny, intriguing—whatever you believe reflects who you are and what you’re about.  Do keep it short and sweet, though; you want to maintain (pique) interest, not lose it.

Be consistent, too.  If you decide to engage several platforms, ensure the content is similar across the board: remember your brand, your identity.  You want it to be uniform, to reflect who and what you are.  And speaking of consistency, make sure you use those platforms regularly—remember “integrity”.  Consistency = constancy.  Ensure your audience can depend on you to be there regularly.

Something else to consider: how about streaming live?  If it fits your purpose (and personality), go for it. 

Final food for thought: your post/article or story/book may be completed.  But that’s not “the end”.  Well, it could be.  You could simply leave it and hope people find it and read it.  And maybe writing isn’t about sales for you (though, to be perfectly frank, I’d love to make some serious $$$ from my writing), but chances are you want to be read and recognized.  So, being a blogger/author doesn’t stop there; it means being a promoter and networker, and collaborator too.  We wear many hats . . . and that can prove challenging . . . but it can also be fun.

Can We All Get Along?

I always liked Rodney King’s question.  It’s as simple as the answer should be: yes.  It’s also a simple lead into a simple post . . . about manners, kindness, respect.

“Can we all get along” comes to mind whenever something disturbing flashes on the screen.  But it also popped into my head when something trifling transpired recently.

We bloggers regularly receive spam comments.  Par for the course.  Most are innocuous, a few are annoying, and the odd one can be outright rude or nasty.  I got one the other day that read something like this (I’m sorry I trashed it, to be honest, because I’d like to have featured it):

I thought I’d check out your site for some informative posts but found them of no value-add and boring.  What a waste of my time.

A watered-down version, but you get the idea.  Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion.  I didn’t really let it bother me . . . well, kind of . . . maybe a little.  It did prompt me to consider how ill-mannered or impolite—and hurtful—people can be.  Everyone sports different levels of sensitivity and self-worth, and a comment like that could prove depressing, if not devastating, to someone.

Does being rude or hateful provide some strange thrill?  Stoke the ego?  Fuel a need to be spiteful because it’s been a bad day, week, life?  Offer constructive criticism, not destructive.  Or, even better, as the maxim goes, if you have nothing good to say, don’t say it.

Sure, we all have bad days and there are times we experience a need to be vengeful/vindictive because we feel we’ve been wronged.  When there is a pressing need to right that wrong, do it the right way, in a positive way: be encouraging.  And if you feel you’re lacking in the positivity department these days, tuck into an article, course, or vid for a recap.  There are countless ones to be found.

We should never forget about maintaining good manners, providing kindness, and displaying respect but, particularly during these trying (worrying) times, maybe we should make an extra effort.  Kindness goes so much farther than callousness.

Let’s all [endeavor to] get along.  Life’s short—show a little love.

Perhaps Al and Annie express it best . . .

The Definitive Detective

Given the Triple Threat Investigation gals reviewed various mystery genres, I thought it might be a good “The End” to the series if we simply reconsidered what makes for a good detective/sleuth.

When you set out to write your first mystery, you may wonder which components would help your protagonist resonate with readers.  You’ve decided on your genre . . . right?  And how you’ll approach it . . . yes?

The main elements of your mystery: the crime(s), the victim(s), the search for clues that reveal who the culprit is, the tension and friction as said search progresses and intensifies . . . and the ta-da! moment that unveils the perp and shares the details (such as the why).

Now, what about your detective?  How will you define her (I’m going with “she” for this post).  Will she be witty, eccentric, stand-up-comedian funny, logical, philosophical, giddily happy . . . glum, frosty, la-di-da highbrow, cool, arrogant?  You probably wouldn’t want to go with a negative main character for most genres, though she could have one or two less likable traits (as we all do in real life).  Think of it this way: readers enjoy the thrill of accompanying a detective during the clue-searching quest, so make sure they want to spend that time with your detective.

Consider your favorite sleuths.  Why do you like them?  What traits are appealing?  Why do you keep reading mysteries that feature him or her?  There’s obviously a draw.  List details (attributes, peculiarities/habits, features, and so forth), as well the pros and the cons.

Think about these components in terms of the detective you’re creating.  What would you like to see in yours?  Make sure you include a couple of failings, too, because no one is perfect.  What about speech/narration (is there an accent, does she use certain favorite expressions)?  Does she have a traumatic past, a painful memory, or harrowing experience(s)?  Was she born with a silver spoon in her mouth?

Don’t forget to build a visual image.  Is this detective tall, short, blubbery, slim, attractive?  Any scars?  Where (and from what)?  What about eye color, and lip and face shapes?  Is the body/physique toned or fleshy?  Is she a lover of salsa dancing?  A coin collector (numismatic)?  A chess player?

And what about the other characters?  How will yours react to them in various situations?  What will she feel/believe about them?  Does she have certain values and beliefs that may have her respond in a certain manner?

Chances are you won’t use all the details of your character sketch, but you may, particularly if you write a series.  (I build my sketches as I actually write the first draft, but that’s me and that may not work for you).

Your detective should seem real to readers, so give her everything you’ve got—make her come alive!  Make her dance across the pages!

Tucking the Thrill into a Thriller

Hey—yay—it’s Rey again.  Linda accepted an invitation to go surfing on Maui for a few days, so I’m taking over the last genre/sub-genre review post: the thriller.

Thrillers are popular page-turners—and, like mysteries, provide a lot of curving trails, and curveballs.  The POV can come from different characters, like the protagonist or even the villain.  They can be written in different styles and be dark or droll.  Types of thrillers: mystery, psychological, crime, romantic, action, political, military, legal, and even supernatural, paranormal and sci-fi, to name a few.

Okay, so we know there are various types, but what is a thriller?  In a nutshell, it’s a story that’s full of action, moves quickly, has friction and conflict and tension, contains suspense and sudden, surprising turns and kinks.  Scenes push the plot forward and place readers on that proverbial exciting but tense roller-coaster ride.  You know something else?  It may not necessarily revolve around the protagonist solving a crime but him or her preventing one from happening.  Or readers learn the nasty, ugly secret (crime, mystery, event, action) right off.  Sweet twists, huh?

It goes without saying that you need a strong protagonist, as well as robust characters, and a believably bad villain . . . or, maybe not (depends on your storyline and what the villain is all about).  Bring those characters to life.  Make certain you include some [important] history, likes and dislikes and idiosyncrasies; what makes these folks tick?  Consider what’s at stake—for all characters.  What motivates them?  Why would they pursue one specific action/response over another?  What’s in it for them?

Throw in a few monkey wrenches.  Don’t make anything overly easy for your main character(s).  Let them vigorously track solutions and ways out.  Conflict, tension and friction are vital—you want those unsettling twists and turns, but not so many (or so minor) that you muddy the storyline or have readers scratching their heads and going “huh?”.

Settings and backgrounds, missions/quests, must be detailed enough that readers can visualize them.  In fact, every component should be crisp and clear; again, you want to avoid any head-scratching (but, then, this holds for any book/genre you decide to write).  And part of this is pacing—keep it swift and uncluttered with unnecessary information.

Research, too.  Get a feel for events that would work in a thriller (espionage comes to mind) and use them, fictionalize them.  With thrillers, there’s that extra layer of excitement (events and actions) that goes beyond simply following clues to corner that crafty culprit.

WP111thrillerClipartdotEmailGrab readers from the get-go.  Start with a sinister or shocking—riveting—act.  Add action regularly, but don’t just shove it in there for the sake of it.  Make sure it makes sense, that it moves the plot along, and that it isn’t so fantastic or abundant that it becomes a bit of a bore.  And don’t forget to insert some suspense; hint at upcoming threats and risks.  Create anxiety.  This builds on that layer of excitement, which urges readers to keep—you got it—reading!

Add questions along the way—through narration or dialogue—so readers are as curious as the main character(s) and yearn to learn the answers.

Lastly, make that ending dynamic and convincing; it’s a crucial moment in your book.  It shouldn’t be limp or expected (and, if it were, your readers likely gave up reading long before they reached this pivotal point).  This is where can tie all your loose ends together or, if you’re planning a sequel, leave some things open to the imagination . . . and the sale of your follow-up book.

Putting Suspense in Suspense

It’s JJ providing the next-to-last post re reviewing mystery sub-genres and related genres.  Suspense seemed a primo one to add to the list.  You can’t really have a good, riveting mystery novel if you don’t have suspense.  And, of course, you can’t have a spellbinding suspense novel if you don’t have thrills and chills either.  Suspense creates anticipation, tension, excitement—components that keep your readers roused and reading.

Suspense, as a genre, is related to the mystery and thriller, but the main difference: how much suspense you create for your readers.  Are you playing with their emotions [enough]?  Making them feel anxious, thrilled, enthused, eager to learn what’s going to transpire?

Generally speaking, a suspense novel makes readers aware of things that your protagonist isn’t.  Additionally, the crime and/or challenge occur almost immediately.  And points-of-view aren’t necessarily limited to just the protagonist; the perpetrator’s may be provided as well.

The unknown elements, the sought-after answers help create suspense—who committed the despicable crime, why was it perpetrated, what will go down when the perp or an associate reveals the truth, when will the protagonist know he’s about to plunge over the cliff.  But you’ll also want to infuse some edginess in the characters, dialogue/narration, scenes and action to draw readers into the conundrum.

Try something like:

  • A shrill, ear-stinging sound emanated from the top of the dilapidated dwelling.
  • Apprehensive, Henrietta hastily scanned the shadowy laneway, hoping to catch sight of the long-limbed, one-eyed robber.
  • “It couldn’t have been Tom—he was with Libby in the Seaside Bar last night,” Larry explained nervously, scratching his heavily scarred cheek with calloused fingers.  “I’m sure I saw them laughing over martinis around eight.”
  • Detective Mauer glanced up from the mangled body just as the heavy metal door clanged shut and thrust him into darkness.
  • The killer peered around the decaying fence and scanned the vacant shack; had that irritating jackass of a lieutenant discovered the gym bag with the evidence?

In mysteries—as with suspense—the protagonist is usually searching for a killer or culprit . . . that mysterious entity who won’t be revealed until the right, exciting moment.  By not disclosing a vital identity too readily in the story, you’re keeping readers guessing.  This can hold true of the protagonist, too.  You don’t have to, all at once, give up a lot of information about his or her personal and professional background, what makes him/her tick, or what might make him/her react and respond (and not necessarily in a positive way).  Think of it like building a LEGO® house—add one interlocking brick at a time.

Also remember: every character—no matter if major or minor—has a quest, purpose, and/or motive.  How big a part he/she plays in the storyline determines how much information you [need to] provide.

Do make sure readers care about main character(s) or feel some empathy.  This way they’ll get caught up in the suspense as hazards and threats present themselves; they’ll want your character(s) to overcome the dangers, resolve the issues, trump the challenges.

Instead of:

  • Theo turned from the crime scene upon hearing something and saw a tall man slip into the darkness.  Was he the murderer?

Try something like:

  • Hearing a harsh scraping sound, Theo whirled from the bloody crime scene and saw a heavyset tall man, sporting an old-world fedora, slip into the darkness of an alleyway.  Where had he recently seen that same hat?  And what about the man?  Was he responsible for this vile deed?  Theo drew a deep breath, quashing outrage as he considered how Jackson Marlboro must have suffered at the hands of his maniacal killer.

Dialogue/narration can also help keep readers guessing.  If it’s first-person, you’re restricted to expressing what the protagonist sees, senses, and undergoes; if it’s third-person, you have a wider range, but you may want to limit what is revealed by describing only what the character of the moment—or page/scene—is undergoing.  Give a little, but not a lot.  Dangle clues, tuck in a red herring or two, and offer tidbits like the proverbial carrot: think of them like the pieces of a puzzle.  And offer questions within the dialogue to give readers “food for thought”.

Instead of:

  • Jerry looked at the dog.  “Yeah, he seems like a nice fella,” Jerry said, looking at the dog that Roger was petting.

Try something like:

  • Jerry eyed the ash-gray poodle curiously.  “Yeah, he’s well-behaved.  I wonder who he belongs to and why he’s out here in the middle of nowhere?”
  • With a pensive brow, Roger peered thoughtfully at the pooch he was petting, as if hoping he might offer an answer.

Instead of:

  • Maria entered the dim bar, her gun tucked inside her coat.  She looked around and noticed five people at the bar and six seated at various tables around the bar.  They all looked like they wanted to be elsewhere.

Try something like:

  • Maria concealed the Luger and strolled into the dim waterfront bar.  A middle-aged bartender was keeping a watchful eye on the five glassy-eyed people seated at the curved, scratched bar.  Six others were seated at various tables near the dingy windows.  All appeared as if they wished to be elsewhere—lounging in lottery-won mansions maybe.

Scenes and actions should advance the storyline, so don’t add “filler” for the sake of padding the story.  And always bear in mind: show, don’t tell.  If you add description and details, make them interesting, not instructive; otherwise, all we’re reading is “she blah, blah, blah, blah”.

Instead of:

  • John walked into the forest to see what he could find regarding the killer.

Try something like:

  • Determinedly, John plunged into the dense, shadowed forest to ascertain if the conniving killer had wended his way through in an effort to throw off any followers.

WP11clipartDOTemailIn a suspense story, you want the same components as a mystery: a grim event or crime (that motivates your protagonist to take action), conflict, friction and tension (prompting readers to want to discover what happens and how the character deals with the situation), pacing (smooth and swift action and narration so as not to provoke yawns), misleading clues (those twists and turns that keep readers—and the protagonist—guessing), and ambiance (setting and feeling/mood).

Give thought to what readers may want (or not want) in terms of the plot and characters.  Give them a sample.  Yank it back.  Give another.  Jerk it around.  Just for the record: you don’t need a lot of violence to make it “suspenseful”.  Hint at it.  Build on it.  Allow readers to anticipate and visualize it.

There’s much say about suspense novels and what makes them work/successful but, hopefully, I’ve provided enough to get you started.