Tips on Writing Fiction from Joel Fox, Author of 'The Mark on Eve'

One can find hundreds of writing rules and tips in books and the Internet and many conclude, after listing the rules, that you can break the rules if necessary. Basically, the author is saying you must be aware of writing standards but first and foremost you must be true to yourself.

Still, it is helpful to hear what other authors have to say about how they compose their works. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Building Suspense

I think one of the best writing tips I ever heard was an example offered on how you build suspense. The example used the legend of Damocles, who was permitted to sit on the king’s throne. To show the stress the king is always under, the king arranged to have a sword hanging over Damocles head held to a ceiling beam by a single hair of a horse’s tail. That is suspense. Now, said the instructor, image a mouse gnawing on the hair. That is how you ratchet up suspense. Don’t merely have obstacles for your characters to overcome, turn up the danger.

Picking Up the Next Day

Getting started on your writing each day is often a tough chore. Staring at a blank monitor is a common experience for writers. What I try to do, if possible, is stop the previous day’s writing in the middle of a chapter. That usually gives me momentum as I start fresh the next day. I usually know where the chapter is going and that allows me to push ahead quickly when I sit down to write.

Cliff Hanger Chapter Endings

To tie the first two tips together, I think cliff hanging chapter endings are important to keep the reader’s interest. It also allows you to dive into the next chapter as you resolve the situation in the previous chapter’s ending and move into that next chapter -- but not finish it so as to pick up your work quickly the next day. Creating a cliff hanger, of course, also builds suspense, especially, if you have that mouse gnawing at the hair holding the sword at the end of the chapter.

Write Something you Want to Read

Don’t try to guess what the market wants – write something you want to read. Yes, there may seem to be an endless production of Zombie stories that sell well, for example, but if you don’t enjoy reading about Zombies the odds are you won’t be producing a story those who follow such tales will enjoy. Write what you want to read. You’ll enjoy the experience and have more fun.

No Perfect Time to Start

There is always some last minute research or plot development that can keep you from starting to write. Waiting for the perfect moment is a classic case of procrastination. Sure you can start way to early and get twisted into knots as the story progresses, but you can also lose a lot of time by waiting for the perfect moment when you anticipate everything will be in place to begin. If you are generally comfortable with the story and characters, begin. The characters will often take you in a direction you didn’t expect and that is a rewarding and thrilling experience.

Writing Time

I’m sure this last tip won’t work for everybody. Writers know when they are most productive. For me, that time is early morning. Writing between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. means there is no distraction from family or phone calls. Even the dogs are still asleep. I find that I am fresh in the morning and that ideas I had been working on in my head often get sorted out when I’m sleeping.

 Title: The Mark on Eve
Genre: Suspense
Author: Joel Fox
Publisher: Bronze Circle Books
Purchase on Amazon  
Joel FoxJoel Fox has spent over 30 years in California politics, serving on numerous state commissions, working on many ballot issue campaigns, and advising candidates. An adjunct professor at the School of Public Policy, Pepperdine University, Fox has authored hundreds of opinion pieces for numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal,Washington Post, USA Todayand Los Angeles Times. Joel Fox is also the author of the Zane Rigby mystery series—Lincoln’s Hand and FDR’s Treasure— in which an FBI Special Agent must solve a puzzle from the past of an American president to solve modern day murders.  A native of the Boston area, Joel Fox lives in Los Angeles.

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