Write to please yourself. It’s a daunting undertaking to write a book you think will reach thousands of readers, that will be called “one of the good books to read.” You want your story to be universal, to thrill and inspire people all over the country or the world, to write one of the good books to read. How do you go about doing that? I figured out the only way for me to write a really good book was to please myself, because I’m the only person I really know. If, when I read one of my thriller novels, I am completely taken away by it, then I’m guessing other people will feel the same way.
Of course, you have to be honest with yourself. Does it REALLY keep you reading?
There are ways to figure out if your book is working, or not working.
- Print it out and read what you have so far. It’s like a magic trick, but it works. If you FIND YOUR MIND WANDERING, if it’s hard for you to read the words on the page, your story is not effective. You need to go back to the drawing board and write it until it takes you out of where you are–and becomes a story.
- Read your story This is a lot like reading the printed version, but gets at the story in a slightly different way.
- Try to figure out where the story goes wrong. In other words—where YOU lose interest. The moment you lose interest, mark that spot.
On the other hand, if it feels right to you, if you find yourself following the story and getting involved in it, that’s a very good sign.
A word about critique groups. For some people, a mystery critique group is a very good thing. For others, it is not. How do you tell if it’s helping or hurting your writing?
If you’re writing up a storm and feel a ton of energy after a session with your critique group, that’s good. A critique group can keep you honest and keep you writing. You have to produce something for them, if it’s a weekly meeting.
I had that experience with my writers group while writing Darkness on the Edge of Town, the first in the Laura Cardinal series of crime thriller books. I had “gone back to the woodshed” to retool my writing and when I was ready, I tried out the new material with my group and got affirmation I was on the right track.
If, though, you feel that you’re losing hold of your book—that your book is now being engineered by committee—if you feel even a little bothered by that, you should trust your instincts.
Everybody is different. Some people profit greatly from a good, strong critique group. But don’t feel you should feel a certain way, pro or con.
There’s only one writer who matters when it comes to writing your thriller novels (or any other kind of story you choose to write): You.
You call the shots. You can take criticism, take advice, use that advice or discard it, benefit from the help you receive, embrace new and exciting ideas generated for your story by your group. But if it feels forced or you start to lose your confidence, my advice is to go off on your own. Either way, you’ve set yourself on the path to writing one of the good books to read.