My writing – going back to basics 3)

fantasy booksAt the risk of repeating myself I decided that a little help from an author than has sold millions of books world-wide couldn’t do any harm.  So I signed up for his masterclass and committed in my first blog on this subject to keep you posted as to how it goes and what I think of it.  So is it inspiring – yes it is.  Is it helping – yes.  Or at least I think it is.  It is certainly making me think about every aspect of my story telling.  Not so much perhaps the writing, but the story telling.

I think my writing is OK, actually I think my writing is pretty good (as an author you have to think that).  But the story telling?  It’s one thing having a good story and it’s another telling it in such a way as to engage the reader so they keep wanting to turn that next page, move on to that next chapter.  It’s also understanding more of what the audience for my books want to see.  To Illustrate:  The masterclass is by James Patterson (I’ve avoided using his name in the last couple of blogs), the thriller writer.  So I’ve read a couple of his books.  They are not my normal genre (I mainly read science fiction with a little historical fiction thrown in).  It’s something of a bonus that I’m really enjoying them and part of that is the way they’re written.  It would be hard not to.

Bottom line, they are enjoyable, fun books to read with short punchy chapters that bear out everything he’s telling you in the master class.  You plough through one and think that was fun, where’s the next (which is what you want if you’re trying to sell books).  I wouldn’t want to read them all the time, sometimes it’s good to have something a little more challenging.  However, in the past I have also read Le Carre’s, ‘Tinker, Taylor, soldier, spy’ – very good and much acclaimed.  However, maybe it’s just me, but I found it hard work.  So these days with so much more competition for readers, and especially if you are a self-published author trying to establish a following and have some commercial payback, it’s not difficult to see where you have to try and position yourself.

Young man readingSo now following his advice I’m setting about my latest story making shorter chapters that end in a way that makes you want to move on to the next one.  I’m trying to build in more questions that the reader has to have answered.  I’m trying to keep the suspense going, building in more twists without making it seemed contrived.  To use a phrase that he uses a number of times I’m trying to “raise the stakes” and thereby to use other phrases “build in a wow factor” and the “I didn’t see that coming” moments.

I’m also looking more critically at my characters.  I’m questioning my books opening lines and paragraphs, does it grab you, make you want to read on?  As a self-published author it is easy to lose readers before they’ve finished the first page.  I know I’ve done it myself, read the first few paragraphs on Amazon and decided it’s not for me.

On a personally positive note – at the writing group I attend, this week someone who had read my latest book, Bleak – The story of a shape shifter, said they had really enjoyed my book, thought it a good story well written.  As a self-published author those are the sort of comments that keep you going.  So maybe, with the help of James Patterson and his Master Class I might be able to persuade more people to carry on past that first, line, paragraph, page, to take chance and buy the book.

As always thoughts and comments are welcome.

Ian Martyn

Author: Ian Martyn

Science Fiction Writer

4 thoughts on “My writing – going back to basics 3)”

  1. At the end of the day, I think it’s all down to the gift, that you either possess or you don’t – can you write sentences that make people want to keep reading them, or can’t you? You can help it on by knowing about suspense building, etc… yes, I think you can learn this not only from reading, but also from watching good television. And, if you’ve written a good one, by understanding how to make it appeal to readers. Amazon visibility is all – and intelligent marketing :). I’ve come across several great books that aren’t selling at all, and damn well should be. Try building relationships with book bloggers.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I know that something like this is not ‘the answer’, although I do think his insights into what makes commercial fiction work are interesting. As for the marketing at the moment I’m at best a D-, must try harder.

  2. I have always been a story-teller, since I could talk. If we drove past the woods, I could tell you about the family of bears there and how many people they devoured. I didn’t start writing books as an author until 2011. I never once sat down and wrote a story line or drafted chapters so I could see where it was going and in so doing, would sometimes get lost and off the beaten path. I’m going to give your new method a try now. This will be something very new for me, but who knows, it may help me to write a great book. Thank you for your posts. I look forward to trying this 🙂

    1. Theresa – thank for both comments. I wasn’t a planner either and there have been times I have come to halt and then had to do some planning and as I’ve said most recently I have written my self into a corner. If you have $90 to spare, try James Patterson’s masterclass, this is ‘his method’ as much as it is anyone’s and he takes you through it in some detail and much more besides of course.

If you have a view on this, let me know: