by Lillian Duncan
All stories have a beginning, a middle, and end. If you want to get published you need to write the BEST BEGINNINGS, MARVELOUS MIDDLES, and EXPLOSIVE ENDINGS.
Succeed with those three easy steps and you’ll have a contract before you know it. OK-maybe they aren’t all that easy to master. It took me years to learn the writing craft and I still am! Once you do master these three steps, publication is only a matter of time.
The writer’s first task is to hook the reader. Starting with a murder is always good, but it’s not the only way, especially if you don’t write suspense novels. The key is to arouse the reader’s curiosity so they will want to turn the page to see what happens next. My soon-to-be released novel, BETRAYED, starts with a prologue but let’s see if it piques the readers’ curiosity:
No way off. No way to escape. No way to get to her daughter. Why had she ever thought a yacht was a good idea for a benefit? Maria Hammond pushed her way through the throngs of partygoers towards the exit. She had to get off this yacht and get to Layla before Raymond did.
So, is that enough to pique the reader’s curiosity?
BEST BEGINNINGS for any novel, but especially mystery/suspense starts with action-action-and more action! Today’s mystery/suspense readers don’t have time or patience for characters sitting and pondering life’s heavy questions. They want action!
The important thing is someone must be doing something interesting and it can’t be a dream or a nightmare. Why not? Two reasons-first, it’s tricking the reader into believing something is happening that’s not. And more importantly, many editors/publishers list novels starting with a dream as one of their pet peeves.
Why risk irritating them on the very first page?
Once you’ve written your best beginning, it’s time to tackle the hard part-avoiding the sagging middle syndrome. But how? Here’s a few ways to ensure MARVELOUS MIDDLES.
Introduce a new character. If they have a secret-even better! In BETRAYED, I have a police officer, who obviously has a secret, but I keep the reader guessing until the last third of the book what the secret is.
Add a ticking time bomb to the original problem. By a ticking time bomb, I mean add a time limit to whatever’s going on, such as not only is the child missing but she needs her medicine.
Add a red herring, give the reader several choices for the murderer. This one is crucial as far as I’m concerned for mystery/suspense readers. We love to figure out who the bad guy is. It makes us feel smart!
Avoid all that back story you are dying to write. No matter how much you love it-it doesn’t move the story forward. Readers want to know what’s happening now, not what happened in the past!
Whew! Now you’ve got your best beginning and a marvelous middle, so on to that EXPLOSIVE ENDING that will wow that editor and have them clamoring for your manuscript.
One of the keys to creating an explosive ending is to resolve all the story plots, not only the major one. Readers have invested time and emotion in your story. Don’t cheat them by leaving them hanging.
Many books actually have two endings-mine usually do. Often the crucial resolution scene (stopping the murderer-rescuing the damsel in distress) happens in the next to the last chapter and the final chapter is used to tie up all the other story lines in a happy little bow. Nothing wrong with that. It’s a good plan.
And there you have it, three steps to publication-guaranteed! BEST BEGINNINGS + MARVELOUS MIDDLES + EXPLOSIVE ENDINGS = Great Story (and a book contract). Now, get busy writing.
Lillian Duncan…Stories of faith mingled… with murder & mayhem.
Lillian is a multi-published writer who writes the type of books she loves to read-suspense with a touch of romance. Whether as an educator, a writer, or a speech pathologist, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.