This is Part 2 of my three-part installment on a recent talk and interview about my latest novel release.
As I mentioned last week, my local writers’ group—The San Antonio Writers Guild—invited me to be the guest speaker at their August meeting. They asked me to speak about the process of writing a novel, how I choose the plots for my novels, and what skills I needed to learn before starting that first novel. The focus of the talk was aimed at not only first time novelists but also those struggling with their works in progress (WIP).
Over these next couple of weeks, I’d like to share the remaining aspects of my talk about my journey from an aspiring writer to a published author with now four books on my author page at several publishing sites.
I began that talk by stating that there were several criteria, or skills, a writer should have before starting a novel.
In my humble opinion, there are six pillars of successful novel writing. These are 1) having confidence to express your innermost thoughts, 2) a familiarity with the subject matter of your plot, 3) researching your subject matter well, 4) consider attending seminars and classes to become a better writer, 5) seek the support and guidance of other writers, and finally, 6) become a habitual writer by writing often.
Last week, I wrote about “Confidence” and “Subject Matter Familiarity.” Today, I will address the next two pillars of successful writing, and next week the last two. These next two pillars are:
RESEARCH: As much as I wanted to write a thriller when I sat down at my computer that first day to start my first novel, I knew that I should write about something familiar. I knew all about investigational drug studies and clinical pharmacy—the science of intravenous drug therapy and the business of testing those innovative new drugs in clinical trials that was my profession—but I needed to add a sinister twist for entertainment value. The international drug trade and all the lethal happenings in that sinister world was my research.
I studied article upon article regarding how international drug trade happens and how the drug cartel bosses function and get caught. The marriage of clinical drug trials devolving into international drug trade and drug cartels became my first novel, Lethal Medicine.
These days, in addition to considerable online research, I seek out experts in the field I’m writing about. With that first novel, I didn’t want to find and interview a member of a drug cartel (might be way too dangerous for a pharmacist turned author), and I didn’t feel confident enough to seek out the guidance of a DEA agent. After four books, however, I’ve learned that experts in the subject matter you are writing about are happy to freely share their expertise with you.
In my latest novel, The Serial Chemist, which deals with the subject of a serial killer acting on uncontrollable impulses developed from childhood abuse, I sought out the expertise of two clinical psychologists, an expert in forensics, a legal expert and a past law enforcement officer. I assure you I knew little about serial killers before relying on these experts for guidance, but with their help and patience I became confident enough to tackle the subject, as long as I knew they could help me edit the finished manuscript for accuracy.
LEARN TO BE A BETTER WRITER: Just as in other life endeavors, education is the key to success. After I wrote my first draft of that first novel, I liked the basics of it, but I knew it lacked suspense and polish. I wrote too much about what I was comfortable with (clinical pharmacy) and less about the entertaining part (the drug culture and all the sinister, thrilling stuff that makes a plot pop for the reader).
So, I took classes and attended seminars—on how to make dialogue sound like normal speak, how to add backstories in an entertaining way, how to write narrative that is dynamic and moves the story forward with each sentence, how to integrate narrative and dialogue effectively, and how important that first sentence of the first paragraph of that first chapter is and the writing skill necessary to propel that initial impression and strength through that first chapter and into those that follow. It takes work to do that, and a successful author must put in the time to learn the skills of writing and practice those skills often to become a better writer.
More about my writing advice and those last two pillars of writing your bestseller will be coming next week.
If you want to read about my novel involving a sinister plot for an investigational drug study turned upside down that I mentioned earlier, pick up a copy of my international thriller Lethal Medicine HERE.
If you want to read about a serial killer that will break your heart in the process, pick up a copy of my novel The Serial Chemist HERE.
Both are available on Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes and Nobel, Kobo, Overdrive, Baker and Taylor and can be ordered from your local library.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!