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Tag Archive: Writing tips

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Sharing writing secrets on Peter James TV

October 11, 2018

I always get so excited when I am about to start teaching a creative writing class. Not just because I want to encourage new authors, but because it also makes me question how I write. How could I do better? Have I picked up some bad habits? At the end of the course I feel I have learnt something too. Recently, I was particularly proud to present Sarah Bailey with a Ned Kelly Award for First Crime Fiction for The Dark Lake. Sarah attended one of my thriller writing courses and she was lovely enough to thank me for inspiring her. I wish her the very best of luck with her writing career.

The next creative writing course starts on October 15 and runs on Thursday evenings over five consecutive weeks. If you are in Sydney and have a burning desire to write a novel but you’re not sure where to start, then why not come along to Creative Writing Stage 1 at the Australian Writers Centre?

About a year ago, I was interviewed for Peter James’s YouTube channel, Peter James TV. I was asked questions about how I write, where I write, and the tricks and techniques I employ. These interviews are part of a series called The Authors’ Studio in which authors like Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, CJ Box, Sophie Hannah and more, share their writing secrets. And a few laughs. They are well worth visiting. Enjoy!

YouTube of L.A. Larkin talking about writing techniqes on Peter James TV

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Steve Berry’s twelve rules of fiction writing

September 19, 2018

As I prepare to teach a class of aspiring writers at the Australian Writers’ Centre in October, I’m reminded of the advice I received from the New York Times Bestselling Author, Steve Berry, recently. He shared with me his Twelve Rules of Fiction Writing and I’d like to share them with you, too. Here they are:

1. There are no rules. I love this rule, but I would like to add that there are reader expectations, especially genre specific expectations, and it’s a good idea to know what they are before you break them.
2. Don’t bore the reader – his list included a dull plot, not enough conflict in the story, long-winded paragraphs, and words the reader has to look up because they jolt a reader from the the world of the book.
3. Don’t confuse the reader, such as whose point of view is the reader following.
4. Don’t get caught writing. Don’t be an intrusive author. His example was this. A young kid is in danger, then his parents save him, they drive away. The kid looks back at the house where he almost died. Where his best friend lives. He’d never see that house again, is author intrusion. Better to say, he had a bad feeling he would never see that house again.
5. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you promise shock value, you’re setting high expectations. Steve doesn’t like to build up to the shock, he just gives it to the reader.
6. Don’t lie to the reader. But you can mislead if it’s in character. For instance, you can have a delusional character. The author chooses what goes on in that character’s head.
7. Don’t annoy the reader. For example, don’t overdo an accent. Or keep using a particular word all the time. Or be predictable.
8. Writing is rewriting. Steve says he goes through his manuscripts 70 times. He does his own copy edits.
9. Writing is rhythm. Getting into the nuances of the characters’ voices.
10. Short is always better. Steve is not a fan of the more British style of writing with parentheses and complex sentences. I’m a believer that succinct and punchy is best, especially in times of action. But there are times when longer sentences can be very powerful. John Le Carre is a master of the longer sentence that reveals so much.
11. Story never takes a holiday. Don’t stop the momentum of the story to explain. Show don’t tell.
12. Tell a good story. Good story trumps good writing every time. Although I would add, always strive to write well and with impact.

You can find more about Steve Berry here.
You can find details of how to enroll in Creative Writing Stage 1 with the Australian Writers Centre here. It starts Monday October 15, 2018.

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Chance favours only the prepared mind

July 17, 2018

At ThrillerFest 2018 the wonderful Karin Slaughter used a quote from Louis Pasteur which really sums up what this writers’ festival is all about: preparing authors to be great authors.

I’m lucky enough to have had four books published: three with Hachette and one with Harper Collins. I have two new manuscripts. I’ve attended many writers’ festival in the UK and Australia. This was my first time at ThrillerFest and I have never felt so inspired. I learnt a lot, not just about how to make my writing better, but how to manage the business of being an author. I met new authors I hope will remain friends for life. I met best selling authors like Lee Child, Meg Gardiner, Steve Berry and James Rollins. All, without exception, were generous with their time and advice, and above all, inclusive and welcoming. Being an author can be a lonely business, and it’s great to be reminded that we are part of a warm and friendly author community.

Over the next few blog posts, I’d like to share with you some of the insights I gained from this experience and also some of the funny stories.

I’m going to start with the mega authors panel of Lee Child, Robert Dugoni, Peter James, Lynda La Plante and Karin Slaughter. This had to be one of the funniest panel discussions I attended. Why? Because they are consummate entertainers. Let me give some examples. Lee Child has an hilarious dry wit. The panel was asked about literary authors and whether they looked down on thriller authors. Lee jumped straight in. Thrillers keep publishers solvent. Sales from thrillers enable literary authors to do what they love. Literary authors are, he said with a wry smile on his face, ‘the barnacles on our boat.’ The audience loved it. Peter James was asked about how he went from a few thousand copies sold to millions. He replied, ‘You have to live a long time,’ then went on to tell us the ups and downs of his writing career.

The panelists’ stories of rejection and near-disaster reminded us all that the path to success as a writer is rocky, even for the best sellers. Robert Dugoni talked about his early career. His first few books didn’t do well. In fact, he was at ThrillerFest some years ago when his publisher told him he was being dropped. Robert had to reinvent himself as an author. It wasn’t until My Sister’s Grave that he got his big break.

Lynda La Plante stressed that ‘rejection does not mean no.’ Her first Jane Tennison novel was rejected many times because there was a female central character. But she kept going. Peter James’ first book, Dead Letter Drop, only sold 1800 copies in the UK. He switched from action thrillers to detective stories after he was burgled and the police officer who investigated the crime offered Peter help with police procedural information. This led to Peter’s hugely successful DSI Roy Grace series.

My final take-out from this panel is to pay attention to how the great thriller authors write but don’t be afraid to do what your heart is telling you to do. As Lee Child said, ‘a book needs the author’s personal integrity.’ He said, ‘the spark and life can be beaten out of it if you listen to everyone. We are all waiting for the next big thing, not the same thing reinvented.’

If you have any thoughts or questions on this post, please post them on my Facebook or Twitter sites. I’d love to help.

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