Saturday, August 27, 2011

Tips to Create Suspense/Tension

I’ve just spent the whole summer writing and revising my newest novel. Through my efforts to create a great story I’ve used the following advice, which I garnered from editor’s critiques, agent’s blogs and my own writing partners. These ten easy steps helped me. I hope they will help you too.

Tips to create suspense/tension to keep your readers turning those pages!

1. Show, don't tell! The fewer blocks of description or passive writing, the better.
2. Avoid "info dumps." That brings your story to a screeching halt.
3. Use realistic dialogue and action scenes.
4. Make your danger believable.
5. Include the unexpected.
6. Shorten words and sentences.
7. Vary the mood from suspenseful to relaxed in order to keep the tension higher.
8. Scenes which take place in a short amount of time (one night, an hour) are more suspenseful than scenes which take place over several days or weeks.
9. Get MC’s problems out of their head and into dialog.
10. End each chapter with a “hook.”

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Go With the Flow

First drafts percolate in my head for weeks, 
beckoning to be released. 
When I finally sit at the computer, 
they gush out like a broken water main, 
flooding the pages. 
Voice automatically surfaces through the words.

--Gayle C. Krause

Monday, August 1, 2011


Pretty Pirate!

We’ve all heard about how we should polish our manuscripts until they shine. Are they made of silver? And it has been said that editors are seeking the precious gem, so we should revise our manuscripts until they sparkle.

I’d like to propose an analogy of my own, “patchwork words.”
Since I’m also a quilter, as well as an author, this makes sense to me. Maybe it will be an easy way for you to revise to make your story stronger.

Your story is finished. You’ve read it and reread it a million times. Friends and critique partners have read it and given comment. You fixed the sagging middle, tied the loose ends, and cut out the unnecessary words. Now, it’s ready to submit to agents or editors.

Right?         Wrong!

I’m suggesting one last exercise before you hit the send button or seal that manila envelope. This is where the “patchwork words” come in.


  1. Take the first and last page of each chapter.
  2. Highlight the verbs you have used.
  3. List them separately on a different page.
  4. Use a thesaurus to find a stronger verb. (This may not always happen if you already have a strong verb)
  5. Replace the weak verb and continue down the list.

ie:  original phrase – pushed forcefully against the wall.
      new phrase – slammed against the wall

      original phrase – cut deep into his shoulder
      new phrase – pierced his shoulder


1.     Repeat step one above.
2.     Highlight adjectives and adverbs with a different color from above exercise.
3.     Where you have two adjectives, cut one.
4.     Where you had adverbs, your new stronger verb should eliminate the need for the tricky adverb.

ie:  original phrase - cold, blue eyes stared
      new phrase – icy eyes stared

      original phrase – the long, twisted, cobblestone road
      new phrase – the winding road


1.     Repeat step one above.
2.     Check for your analogies. Are they cliché? If so, change them to something more original. (The first thing you think of is usually the first thing ever other writer thinks of, so stretch your imagination to come up with something more original.)
3.     Don’t overuse analogies. (No more than one on each page, it that)
Pint-Sized Pirate!

Now go back and reread your manuscript. The new words you slipped in there should make a difference. You can tell when you get to the “patched” area because it should sound stronger.

Patchwork your way to perfection! J

Energized to Write for the New Year

 So happy to be attending the SCBWI National Conference this week. My peer critiques went well two nights ago, and energized me to see the p...