Dramaquill's All Things Writing

March 19, 2009

Suspense novels – are they really so easy to write?

Filed under: Writing — dramaquill @ 10:50 PM

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As I sat working on my second suspense novel, I got bogged down verifying some of the details.  Whenever I hit a hump during my creative writing time, I surf other blogs and articles related to what I’m writing.

I found an interesting, yet over simplified article written by a man who claims that suspense novels are the easiest type to write because they just follow a simple formula:

1:   Decide on your topic

2:    Start at the end, rather than the beginning

3:    Wait as long as possible to reveal the bad guy/killer

Although these ideas are all good ones, I don’t believe that just by doing these three things a writer is guaranteed a great suspense novel without too much trouble.  In fact, I think this is a major oversimplification of the entire process.

Yes, you have to decide on the type of suspense novel you want to write, ie “woman in peril”, “a whodunnit”, “psychological thriller”, “the killer is someone you know and you don’t suspect” etc. etc. etc. 

And yes, knowing how everything should end can be helpful when putting together your plot points and ensuring that you dangle tidbits of evidence throughout the chapters to entice the reader to continue turning the pages.

I had trouble with number three.  Some of the best suspense novels begin with us already knowing the killer.

But I had the most trouble believing that by doing these three things, it would be easy to create suspense novels.

What about the characters?  We have to have a reason to care what happens to the protagonist and we won’t care if that character doesn’t engage us in some way.  We also have to believe that the antagonist is really a source of danger to the protagonist.

Then there’s the matter of the plot.  Just by choosing the type of suspense novel, we do not have a well thought out plot that dangles bits of information cleverly throughout the chapters so that the smart reader can perhaps guess the identity of the antagonist even before we’ve revealed it.  And we do not have a series of events that all move our plot forward.

Anyone who’s ever attempted to write a suspense novel knows that they must research any relevant procedures, ie police, medical, legal etc.  Readers aren’t stupid.  They won’t fall for plots with holes in them because the writer didn’t do the research.

Then, there’s the setting.  Having someone follow your protagonist is suspenseful, however, if it’s in a department store in broad daylight while surrounded by other shoppers it’s not nearly as frightening as if it’s down a dark alley at 2:00 a.m. during a rain storm.

So my advice is this:  Don’t believe everything you read and don’t think that writing a novel of any kind is going to be easy.

But, with hard work, dedication and a great deal of revising, you could be the next Mary Higgins Clark.

If you’d like to read the article to which I refer, here’s the link:
You be the judge!

March 6, 2009

TAX TIME – don’t forget your writing income

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With income tax returns due in North America in the month of April, March is a good time to go over your writing records and see if you have income to claim.

If you freelance full time, then your writing is a business and you claim all income and expenses from it.  But did you know that even if you only earn a small amount from your writing, you must not only claim that income in your tax return but that you can also claim a portion of many of your household expenses?

Many writers, probably the vast majority, write around their actual full-time job.  Or perhaps you’re a stay-at-home parent who writes to supplement your household’s income.

You definitely need to keep records of all “writing related” income and expenses.  And remember, the simpler, the better.

I keep two  files:

INCOME (cheque stubs, paid invoices,deposit slips and any other record of monies I’ve received from writing)

EXPENSES (paper, printer ink, long distance phone calls, postage and mailing supplies, computer/internet costs, and even mileage)

Whenever I receive a cheque from having sold a piece of writing, I tear off the bottom portion, write what the money was from, and pop it into my INCOME file.  After I deposit the cheque, I staple the deposit slip to my cheque stub as a confirmation.  If I’ve done a freelance job that requires invoicing my client, then I staple the payment info. to the invoice.

Expenses are harder to calculate because if you don’t work full-time as a writer, then you can only claim a portion of the items mentioned above.  For example, if you are using your home computer, you can’t claim all of the paper, ink, internet fees etc. because you are only using the computer part of the time for your writing.  Figure out what percentage of your time is actual “working writing” time.  Knowing an accountant or bookkeeper is an asset as they can help you calculate these expense percentages.

All postal expenses you incur for mailing out queries, manuscripts, returning contracts, etc. can be claimed.

Keep a log book in your vehicle.  If you are driving to go interview someone for an article, you can claim that portion of your vehicle expenses. 

I’m not an accountant, nor am I an expert in this field so before you claim any expense related to writing, check with your internal revenue department to make sure that it’s an allowable expense, or better yet, have an accountant do your taxes for you.

Above all, keep impeccable records so that you can defend any inquiries regarding your freelance income or expenses.

Now I’m off to get out my files and take stock of my 2008 writing income and expenses.

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