Years ago some author gave me the most succinct advice ever on how to write good action/adventure fiction. He or she, I’ve forgotten which, said, “If your hero is happy at the end of a chapter, your reader won’t be.”
Think how simple and true that is? People read adventure fiction to escape, if only briefly, the hum drum routine of their regular lives. And you, as an author, want to give them that kind of pleasure. And it is really not that difficult is it? You are a professional writer. If you have a scene where something dramatic happens, and you have written three or four pages – stop that chapter where the drama sort of hangs there. That holds the reader’s interest and also keeps him or her turning the page to see what happens next. “And then…the hurricane struck.”
As an aside, I’ve often had people ask me a simple question. “How do you write your novels?” And, try as I will, I cannot give them a cogent answer. As I look back at my work and think about it, I believe that I write “scenes” and then put them in some order. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have the plot firmly in mind. In fact, sometimes, as I look back thru some old notes, I find that occasionally I write the final chapter first. Knowing how the book will end gives me something to shoot for. If I have several characters I will write a scene with one of them and then stick it in the right place in order to make sense. That’s not a satisfactory answer, I know, but it’s true. I know that I don’t write in a linear fashion. That is, I don’t start at Chapter One and then proceed with Chapter Two and on and on in sequence. I have often, after the first draft, find a “two page” chapter, I will just expand the idea that chapter proposes and make it longer. It’s not “filling” just to make more pages; it simply illuminates more fully the original idea.
I guess you could say that I am a hap-hazard writer. And when I go back and look at something I finished some years, or even just months earlier, I read it and wonder where the hell did that come from? So, if I can’t explain it to myself I can’t explain it to anyone else. In a book that I am currently having edited, one night I wrote a couple of free-form pages and since they didn’t have a direct connection to my novel, I thought “Well, I’ll just save them and maybe use them in a later work.” The next morning in the shower, it came to me where I could use them quite effectively in my current novel. Is that weird enough for you? I know that I am often stymied by something I’ve written and don’t know where to go next. I’ll tell my wife about it. She always says the same thing. “It’ll come to you,” she says, and she is always right. If I don’t rush it, and let my subconscious and my imagination run freely it always does – eventually. That’s why all my books are “Dedicated to Deborah, always my inspiration.”