I'm delighted to feature novelist Sandra Orchard today! You guys may remember the lovely and talented Jennifer Orchard, who was on Go Teen Writers back in April talking about writing articles. Sandra is her mom.
Aside from raising a very talented daughter, Sandra Orchard won the 2009 Daphne DuMaurier Award in the unpublished category and sold to Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense the following year. Her newly released debut novel, Deep Cover, is the first book in her Undercover Cops series: Fighting for justice puts their lives—and hearts—on the line. Sandra hails from Southern Ontario, Canada, and is an active member of ACFW, The Word Guild, and several RWA chapters.
Today she's here to talk to us about her writing process. In addition to that, she's offering a 3-page critique to one commenter. Which - hooray! - means this is not limited to US residents! To get entered to win, you may either ask Ms. Orchard a question about her writing process or share something you found interesting from her post. Please, please, please make my life easier by leaving your email address. (Contest closes Thursday, September 15th)
And, this isn't a requirement, but I thought it'd be fun: If you don't mind, would you tell us where you live? I don't want your street address, obviously, just like "California" or "Tanzania" or wherever. Thought it could be fun.
Enough of me talking, let's hear from Sandra Orchard!
I’m delighted to share with you how I write my romantic suspense novels. The idea for my newest book came when I was visiting a friend at the same time her homecare nurse, a really good-looking guy, came to check on her. I decided he’d be the hero of my next book and so the process of writing a new story began.
1) First I brainstorm the plot with friends. I write down every idea that’s proposed and weed through them later. The key to brainstorming is to shout out everything you think of no matter how off the wall it sounds. Others in the group often play off your ideas and they grow into full-fledged scenes.
2) Next, I wade through the ideas and sequence a suspense plot: What throws the couple together? What’s going to keep them together? What will change the course of action? What will be the big black moment when all seems lost?
3) Next, I work on my character plots. There are 3 main aspects:
- I decide what the occupations of main characters will be, their character types/personalities, their backgrounds, and their looks etc.
- I decide what they value, what they fear, what they’d never do. And then I figure out what would make them do it.
- I determine their external goals and the internal need/goal they may not be aware of. Then I ask why? Why? Why? Getting to the root of each character’s motivations is essential to building multi-layered characters.
4) Next, I set up the conflict. The conflict is in the back of my mind through steps one to three. My choices are calculated to maximize conflict between the heroine and heroine and villain. There are three layers of conflict to consider in a romantic suspense. The romantic conflict-why can’t this couple be together? The external conflict-related to the suspense plot. And the internal/spiritual conflict, which is ideally woven into the other two conflicts. For example, the hero must overcome his character flaw to save the girl and win her love.
5) Finally, I start writing. I try to turn off my internal editor and write as much as I can until I get stuck. Then I go back and ensure I have the elements I need for the opening chapter such as starting in the middle of the action, and setting up the stakes. By the time I get to the third chapter, I make sure I have some sort of ticking bomb to drive the story forward.
6) At this point, I usually write the synopsis, because my editor wants to see proposals with a synopsis and the first three chapters.
7) Then I keep writing. I send a few chapters off to my critique partners to ensure the story is working. We’ll brainstorm new ideas to raise the tension when things start to sag.
8) Although, I’d prefer to finish the first draft before stopping to revise, I tend to do some revising as I go along, because earlier scenes often have to change as the story veers in a new direction.
9) Once I’m done the first draft, I put the story away for a couple of weeks.
10) Then I revise. I do this in stages. First I look at the pacing and rearrange or delete/add scenes as needed. Then I layer in more emotion and tension, and make sure I’m showing not telling.
11) In the last rewrite, I polish. Check for use of the five senses. Choose strong verbs and nouns to convey the character’s mood etc.
12) Finally, I send my chapters off to my critique partner for copyediting.