Dramaquill's All Things Writing

December 11, 2013

Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine

Love writing a good mystery but not sure you want to write a novel?

Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine is a monthly digest filled with stories dripping with mystery and suspense in all its genres and sub-genres.  It’s been around since 1956 and continues to provide readers with page turning short stories, plus a book review, a puzzle and more.

If you’re not familiar with the magazine, I recommend reading a few issues or at the least, ordering a sample copy to get the feel for the style of the magazine and the types of stories included.

Writers’ guidelines can be found here:  http://www.themysteryplace.com/ahmm/guidelines/

 

May 20, 2010

Resources for writers of Suspense

  Arts Blogs - Blog Top Sites


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Just thought I’d publish a list of links for those of you writing in the genres of suspense, mystery, thriller or one of the sub genres.  There’s a wealth of good information online to help you with everything from plotting to characters to creating suspense.

http://www.writersdigest.com/article/nine-tricks-to-writing-suspense-fiction/
This is one of the BEST articles I’ve read online!

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brainstorm/200905/mary-higgins-clark-failure
for Mary Higgins Clark fans.

http://www.creative-writing-solutions.com/suspense-writing.html

http://www.writers.com/singer_classes.html#mystery

http://www.marisamontes.com/writing_tips.htm#top

http://www.writerswrite.com/fiction/michelemartinez.htm

http://www.peppersmithbooks.com/Writing%20Suspense–Pepper%20Smith.pdf

http://www.ehow.com/how_4893767_write-suspense-novel.html

http://www.imperfectclarity.net/?p=559

http://rayannecarr.wordpress.com/for-writers/

http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/2009/08/secret-to-writing-thriller.html

http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/genrefiction/tp/mysteryrules.htm

http://teacher.scholastic.com/writewit/mystery/

http://www.mysterynet.com/learn/lessonplans/

Hope you enjoyed the links.
Now…get back to that novel!

September 16, 2008

Writing Plays for kids – Look around, inspiration is everywhere.

Arts Blogs - Blog Top Sites

I love my job!  Part of what I do involves an aspect of writing that I thoroughly enjoy – writing plays for our drama department.  This means that during any given school year I’m likely creating 6-8 original scripts.

But after a while, coming up with new ideas that I know will appeal to our students can become a daunting task. 

So where do I turn for inspiration?

The kids, of course!

Just being around all the different ages of students who come through our doors can provide me with tons of new material.  Kids love to share and they have great stories from what they did on summer vacation to something that happened at school to their fears or their hopes and dreams.  That’s when I write a play about a subject they can relate to because it’s likely gone on in their world.

But the kids don’t always want to play kids.  They love to be creative and become something other than who they are and that’s when I turn to some other very accessible sources.

TV shows provide great fodder.  Reality TV is huge right now so writing a play about a type of “Survivor”, but with a twist, proved to be very successful with our intermediate class.  If the students know it from TV, they will relate to doing their version on the stage.

Who hasn’t read a great suspense novel or watched a mystery or ghost story movie?  Our teen class had a blast with a murder-mystery we wrote where one of the girls actually had to play twins and our juniors did a comical haunted house theme that had the audience mesmerized until the end.

Songs can also be a great source of inspiration.  I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with our littlest children in the “intro” class this semester and the song “Lollipop” just gave me a great idea.

We’ve all played board games.  Why not write a play where the kids are inside the game?

Hot topics of the day are also great choices, especially if you’re trying to write a play with a message that could be used to help kids deal with an issue, like bullying or self-esteem.

Look around!  Inspiration is everywhere – you just have to know where to look.

July 4, 2008

Why don’t you like me?

Revising my novel has become part of my daily routine.  Even when I’m not re-writing scenes or slicing chapters, I’m constantly thinking about Eleanor, my heroine, and Mel, my villain.  They’re inside my head and they won’t be silenced, each vying for my attention.

I don’t like Mel – that’s a given.  He’s controlling, abusive, deranged and unpredictable.  Now, considering he’s the villain in my suspense novel, I guess those are good qualities.

But the revelation I had while working on a chapter the other day was that I’m not sure I really like Eleanor, either.  My critique group has eluded to this once or twice saying things like:

  • Eleanor seems to cry too much
  • Although someone might actually react like this, it doesn’t seem to draw me into her (Eleanor) as the heroine of a book
  • Eleanor often lets someone else help her instead of facing things herself

And the more I re-write and revise, the more I’m beginning to see Eleanor as less than the strong woman I first envisioned her to be. 

So what do I do now?

How can I write passionately about someone I’m not sure I like?

Eleanor can’t help that she was a victim of serious verbal, physical and sexual abuse.  Eleanor can’t help that she’s terrified of Mel.  But, Eleanor can help herself.  She did it once before.  She got away from him.  She has to do it again, not only for herself, but for her readers.

So Eleanor, you’ve challeneged me to review what I’ve revised.  If I don’t like you, how will my readers?

The revision process is a long and complicated one but on the other side of all this hard work a better novel will emerge!

June 30, 2008

Suspense/mystery links

Just thought I’d share some links that might be of interest to other suspense/mystery/thriller novelists.

http://www.hycyber.com/MYST/myst_writers.html
Alphabetical listing of mystery and suspense writers

http://www.writerswrite.com/fiction/michelemartinez.htm
Writing Suspense (article)

http://www.lisagardner.com/tricks/index.htm
Lisa Gardner’s site – articles, tips, tricks, etc.

http://www.hackman-adams.com/articles/index.htm
Lots of links about “thrillers”

http://ezinearticles.com/?Seven-Ways-to-Inject-Suspense-into-Your-Novel&id=177867
How to inject suspense into your novel (article)

http://www.mysterymentor.com/
Marilyn Henderson’s website (the author who did the professional critique of my
suspense novel)

http://www.thrillerwriters.org/thrillerfest/
ThrillerFest 2008

http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/genrefiction/tp/mysteryrules.htm
Ten rules of good mystery writing

http://www.poewar.com/mystery/
Ten tips for writing your mystery novel (but many of the tips just apply to good
novel writing in general)

http://www.writingclasses.com/CourseDescriptionPages/GenrePages.php/type/O/ClassGenreCode/MY
Mystery writing courses

June 19, 2008

I owe it all to Mary Higgins Clark

As you all know, I’m furiously working on my final (I say this “tongue-in-cheek”) revision of my adult suspense novel, “When Love Won’t Die”.  It’s been a lengthy project for a couple of reasons.  After writing and rewriting, I decided to put my novel through a critique group and professional critique, adding more time to the year or so I had previously spent writing my first draft.

Sometimes as I sit in front of my computer screen, wading through all the critiques and weighing in on the suggestions from my peers, I wonder why I continue to plod along on this project.  Look at the odds.  It’s harder than ever for a first-time author to get a book deal these days.  More and more publishers are closing their houses to unsolicited subs.  And then there’s the catch-22 of needing an agent to get published vs. being published to get an agent.

Sometimes, when I’m stuck (usually doing research), I enjoy a trip to a local bookstore.  Seeing all the books lining the shelves reminds me that each of those authors had to start somewhere and hey, if they can do it, why not me?  And then I meandor over to the fiction section where the suspense/mystery/thrillers are kept and see the plethora of titles by Mary Higgins Clark.

I’ve read Mary’s books for longer than I can remember and I continue to enjoy how she interweaves her characters and plot twists into stories that keep me guessing until the last pages.  She has twenty-six suspense novels to her credit and her next one, “Where are you now?” comes out later this year.

But Mary Higgins Clark didn’t have an easy time of things.  She grew up in a one parent family (after her father passed away) and sought out a more prolific career in an ad agency before trying her hand at her passion, writing.  In 1956, she sold her first short story.  Even after marrying, Mary faced a huge challenge when her husband died, leaving her alone to raise five children.

Every time I think about not having enough time to write or how life is getting in the way of my creativity, I immediately see this young woman, getting up at 5 a.m. every day so that she would have 2 hours to write before her children woke up and had to get ready for school. 

I guess I’d have to say that I owe it all to my inspiration, Mary Higgins Clark.  Her story, her books and her accomplishments are what help keep me motivated when it would be easier to give up.

For more news on Mary Higgins Clark, check out this site:

http://www.simonsays.com/content/destination.cfm?sid=33&pid=352932

So thank-you, Mary Higgins Clark. 

Who or what keeps you going?

April 15, 2008

Can you have too many ideas?

I’m still working on my final (I can hope, can’t I?) revision of my adult suspense novel.  I feel that the writing is quite strong now and I’m confident that I’m continuing to eliminate the unnecessary bits. 

But revising can be tedious.  I’ve written and rewritten so much that I have to keep flipping back to make sure the new chapters are consistent with this version.  My critique group continues to be my most valuable resource as they catch anything that doesn’t click from what I’ve subbed to them, making my job a little bit easier than if I had to rely just on my own memory of this newest version.

So I decide to work on one of my other projects before I am smothered by my novel revision.  After all, sometimes all it takes is a break from the same characters to jump start a whole new take on my revision.

But, here’s the catch.  Are you like me?  I didn’t realize how many projects I’ve started, only to leave them to get back to the revision task.

Do I finish the last couple chapters of my Ya shapeshifter novel?  Or do I scrap it all in 3rd person because now, 1st person might be a better way to write it?

Do I tackle the themes list from a group of kids’ magazines where I’ve sold a few pieces and try to write and submit something new before they forget who I am?

Do I finish the 2nd half of that play I began writing three years ago?  I already know the answer to this one…nope!  It’s a pretty heavy subject and not something that would make a good diversion at this point.

How about the chicklit type YA novel that I actually think I could really get into?  It’s quirky and I can really relate to my main character. 

I could go on and list about ten other projects but I think you see where I’m going with this.  Just wading through everything I’ve got going tells me that I need to get back to the novel revision and stick it out and get it done.  I do have high hopes for this book and the only way it’s ever going to get out there is if I finish this revision.

So I ask all of you?  Can you have too many ideas?

Some people with for an extra day in the week.  I think I need an extra month in the year!  Of course wouldn’t that just give me another 30 days worth of ideas to generate?

Maybe blogging is the best diversion from this revision.  I think I’m ready to get back at it.  And hey, I’m on chapter 22 so I’ve made great progress.

Do you have too many ideas?

 

January 14, 2008

Paying attention to your characters

Every writer has their own methods of developing their stories.  For some, they plot and plan everything out on paper before tackling the writing.  For others, they write freely and worry about making it all fit together once they begin their rewrite.

For me, it’s as simple as listening to my characters.

What does my heroine fear most?  What does she want?  What is she willing to do to get it? 

Why is my villain acting and reacting as he does?  How is his life intertwined with my heroine?  What drives him?

I spent a lot of time developing the characters for my suspense novel.  I researched the type of crime I felt inclined to write about and I poured over information about victims of such crimes.  I spoke to counselors and the authorities.  I interviewed someone who’s life situation had similar circumstances to what I had planned for my heroine.

Then, I listened.  As I wrote each chapter, distinct voices emerged.  My heroine shared her innermost fears and desires with me and her story began to take shape in a whole new light.  My villain, who still scares me, took on a dimension of a human person, rather than a stereotypical “bad guy”.  I still really don’t like him, but I’m beginning to understand why he does some of the things he does. 

My characters have been instrumental in helping me create a much stronger manuscript in this final revision.  I feel like I could meet these people on the street and I would instantly know them.  I can see their worlds so visually clear inside my head.  I hear their voices as if we’ve already met.  They aren’t just characters inside my head – they are real.

So what are your characters trying to say to you?  Are you paying attention?

January 11, 2008

Feeling uneasy – my heroine speaks out

Filed under: Creative writing,mysteries,Novels,Writing — dramaquill @ 10:12 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Michael and I haven’t spent any time together in weeks.  We’re both so busy with work right now, which is good for our careers, but it’s putting a real strain on our relationship.

I don’t like these odd phone calls I’ve been getting the last couple of days.  I know someone’s on the other end – breathing – but no one talks.  Michael thinks I’m being silly.  “Just hang up, honey.”  That’s his advice.

I used to love living out here on this quiet country road.  The fall colors are splendid right now and looking out of my office window used to inspire all sorts of creativity.  But the past few days, I haven’t been able to put two intelligent thoughts together. 

Michael’s probably right.  I’m just being silly.

I think I’ll unwind with a game of solitaire.  It’s after 9:00.  Michael should be home soon.

Oh no – the phone again! 

Eleanor

Something fun to try

Blogs are a great way for a writer, published or unpublished, to create a web presence.  Some are very pointed and specific while others run carefree. 

 I recently read somewhere (I know, as a writer I should have written down so I could cite it properly for all my readers) that some authors use blogs to allow their characters to speak out.

And I thought – HEY, what a cool idea!

When I first started this blog, I talked a lot about my adult suspense novel.  I’m still hot and heavy into the final (yeah, right) revision and I wondered if my heroine, and my villain, might have some things to get off their minds.

So, don’t be surprised if they start making an appearance here shortly.

November 26, 2007

What do you do when?

Drat!  As luck would have it, just when I was finding a real rhythm to surge ahead with my Nano novel, I got sick.  Having spent the past few days fighting a fever and eventually succumbing to much needed bed rest, I have missed three days of writing opportunity on my nano book.

I already knew the last week of November was going to be tough with a drama presentation to prepare for and some other writing projects, all with “end of November” deadlines.

It looks bleak that I’ll make the 50,000 now, but I’m not giving up.  Whatever happens, I’ve written a ton this month on a project I doubt would have ever gotten off the ground because something else always come up and gets in the way.

I’m inspired by those who managed the 50,000, whether for the first time or who continue to do so annually. 

I’m definitely doing nano next year.  In fact, I already have the novel picked out from my book of ideas and scribbles of inspiration that I keep on hand to jot down moments of creativity.

So next year I’ll be writing “Quick!  Pass the Chips.” 

But for now, cheer me on as I try to sprint ahead even a little more on my suspense novel, “Losing Charlotte.” 

I wish all the Nano participants great, long episodes of creativity this week and the stamina to write…write…write…

 Yay, Nanowrimo!

November 23, 2007

I may not finish but I’m giving it my all

Despite a couple of bumps in my Nanowrimo road, I’m back on track again and churning out a new section of my suspense novel.

At close to 30,000 words, I’m feeling pumped.  Has there ever been another month when I’ve written 30,000 words on the same project?  On multiple projects?  Until Nanowrimo, I never really thought about it but I suspect this is a record for my 3 week participation.

Will I finish the 50,000 goal?  

I hope to.

Will I be disappointed if I fall short?

Well, maybe a little bit.

But I can’t say enough how great the Nanowrimo PUSH feels.  And I haven’t spent nearly as much time as I would like to writing this book.  Imagine, if I can get to 30,000 words with an hour or two of writing time each day, what I could accomplish if I continue this disciplined focus on writing from now on.

I can’t wait to get back to revising my first suspense novel that’s getting ready to go out the door but now I have a new project to keep me busy once I’ve subbed it out.

So thank you Nanowrimo, for giving me the jumpstart to realize how many words I can get down on paper if I just believe I can do it.

Anybody finished yet?

Let’s hear from all those Nano hopefuls and those cruising through the final stretch.

November 19, 2007

You never know who might be watching

I just heard a fascinating story from an online writer friend who has a blog that I’d love to share with my readers.

There are a ton of blog spots online and blogs on everything from soup to nuts.  So do you ever wonder why you bother?  Do you ever questions whether or not anyone even cares to read what you write?

Well this might make you all get inspired to keep up with your blog and to remember that anyone, and I do mean anyone, could be reading…

An agent, in the same genre as my writer friend’s unpublished novel, contacted her with a request to read the manuscript – all based on reading her blog.

So remember as you post comments, entries and interact in blogdom, you never know who might be out there checking you out.

Anyone interested in a suspense novel?????

Hey, it was worth a shot.

November 9, 2007

Another way to get unstuck

Working on a full length novel can seem like a daunting project, especially when the creativity train stalls on the track mid point.  If you’re like me, it’s time to get away from the computer (or notebook, which I still prefer because when I write by hand my brain and my handwriting speed are usually about the same) and get some perspective.

Sometimes I walk away to get away from the story, the characters and the plot.  But avoidance has never been my favorite tactic when stuck on any task. 

Because I have a background in theatre and music, I have enjoyed performing in numerous plays and musicals and find that the most fun for me, even when singing a song, is asking myself “who is this character”?  What’s she like?  Why is she saying this?  How does she feel at the moment?

So I tried it with my Nanowrimo book and guess what?  Charlotte, my main character, had lots to say to me and through me.  Yesterday 3000 words poured out because I put myself in her shoes.  It wasn’t something I’d call fun, because Charlotte’s character faces challenges and events that are somewhat unnerving.  But I found my connection to her – the connection that made me want to go on.

In my suspense thriller novel that I’m revising, I had to figure out my villain.  My mentor, Marilyn Henderson http://www.mysterymentor.com/ said that my villain needed to be more nasty.

Now, because I’m not a stalker, I’m not crazy (at least I don’t think so) and I’m not a man, writing him was already presenting its share of challenges.  But back to my first way to get unstuck:  WHAT IF?

What if I was this person?  What would motivate me to act and what would the result be?  So, not one to shy away from a challenge, I jumped into his mind, body and soul with both feet.  I don’t know if I should be happy or worried telling you that he is now far scarier than ever before and a whole new, demented side of his personality has shown up. 

But shaking off the characters can be a difficult thing to do.  Sometimes my heroine gets inside my head and she won’t leave me alone until I address something in the book.  I’m a little better keeping my villain at bay until I’m ready for him, but once I get inside either of them, new plot twists and ideas seem to run rampant at times.

So even if you don’t have a theatrical background, try living in the shoes of one of your characters for 24 hours and see where it takes your writing.  It may surprise you.

November 7, 2007

I’m not making excuses but…

Okay, so it’s been 6 days of Nanowrimo and I’m supposed to have written approx. 6000 words by now.  I’ve done half of that.  So why did I sign up for this arduous task of creating an entire novel in a month if I wasn’t going to put nose to grindstone????

 Whatever you think of my explanation (or excuse), Nanowrimo has made me write more than I would have if I hadn’t joined. 

Today I worked for 3 hours on a totally new chapter of my adult suspense revision and guess what????  That was another couple thousand words, so really, I’m only 1000 words behind if you count what I’ve actually written.

But wait…

What about the zillion emails I’ve answered, the correspondence I’ve written for work and of course, my blog posts.  If you add it all up, then I’m right on schedule with my Nanowrimo word count.

Too bad the words are spread around and not all on my novel.

And yes…I’m still thinking of switching to the other book.

What would you do?????????????

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