Monday, May 27, 2013

Creative Writing - Building Suspense

It was Miss the study...with the candlestick.  CLUE - I think we've all played it.  And who hasn't daydreamed about being a super sleuth?  Red herrings are key components in any mystery.  False leads, multiple suspects - these are the things a good writer is strategically placing throughout the story.  Debra H Goldstein and Nancy Curteman both had really informative posts regarding the use of red herrings. 

I write YA fiction.  While OF DREAMS AND SHADOW isn't a mystery, it does have elements of suspense. So, how do I build the suspense necessary to hold my reader's attention?  One of my characters was purposely written in a way to cause the reader to question the character's sincerity and motives.  By doing this, I was able to add a sense of mystery.  The uncertainty helped propel the story to a pivotal moment.  Location was another element I used.  By having my villain stalking a certain area, I was able to place my unsuspecting heroine in harm's way.  I also used a shared experience.  While the experience affected my characters in different ways, they were bound together.   

Suspense is necessary in any story.  It compels the reader to turn the page.  I found a great post at Divine Secrets of the Writing Sisterhood titled Ten Tips for Building Suspense in a Novel.  It is so worth checking out! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Self Publishing - Self Promotion

Self publishing isn't for the faint of heart.  Far from it - if you choose to self publish you are choosing to be responsible for every aspect of your project.  You decide whether you will create your own imprint or not.  You choose the company who will print your novel.  You create both public relations and marketing plans. That all sounds simple, right?  But when it comes to the actual implementation, it takes time and effort - more than I realized.

So what have I been doing?  Working my blog, setting up my website - just trying to get my name out there. I've been fortunate to have some guidance from my son.  He just graduated from college with a degree in journalism and communications with an emphasis on corporate communications - which basically means he's learned how to use social media to promote a business.  Being his mom has its advantages...he's been helping me with self promotion ( Honestly, the idea of screaming "Here I am! Look at me!" really makes me uncomfortable.  But there are ways to promote yourself without having to appear like an attention grabbing schmuck. For example, I recently posted an image of my book cover to my blog, making sure to credit the graphic designer and including links to her sites.  Next, I went to the graphic designer's facebook page and I posted a "Thank You" along with a hyperlink to my blog.  Finally, I posted the book cover image to my facebook page.  I got the exposure I needed while thanking my graphic designer (Cathy Jackson).

Self promotion is a necessary evil.  As an indie writer and self publisher, I am my own PR team.  If I don't promote my work, how can I expect to succeed?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Of Dreams and Shadow - Sneak Peak of the Cover

It's getting closer - the release of my debut novel - thought I'd give a   sneak peak of the cover which was designed by Cathy Jackson.  Check out her work at JaxonSigns on Facebook and

Keep checking back for the announcement 
of the official release day.

-DS McKnight 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Creative Writing Tip - Watch a Movie

On Tuesday evening, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi of The Bookshelf Muse hosted a webinar focusing on how to show character emotion by using non-verbal communication.  It was well worth my time. While much of what they covered I had learned in my creative writing class, refreshers are always appreciated.   One thing they advised really caught my attention.  It was to watch a movie - taking notes on how the actors react in emotional scenes.   Does the actor/actress lean in? Where are their hands? What are they doing with their lower body?  Are they tense?  Relaxed?  

Actors have the ability to bring the written word to life.  I think about Nicholas Sparks' THE NOTEBOOK.  I enjoyed the book.  But the movie...what can I say?  I've watched it countless times and still cry.  The scenes between Gena Rowlands and  James Garner are so moving - both beautiful and heartbreaking.  It's like having permission to witness someone's most intimate moments.

And that's the great thing about watching a movie, you are free to watch for as long as you like and  - unlike people watching - you can press rewind.  You can focus on the little details without having to worry about a real life someone thinking you are a creeper.

-DS McKnight

Monday, May 13, 2013

Creative Writing Tip - Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is one of the most valuable tools in a writer's tool box.  It can be used to propel a story forward by hinting at possible outcomes, by offering tidbits regarding characters, and by building suspense.  As the writer, you are in control of your story and your characters.   By placing hints/clues to your story's outcome, you can manipulate your reader.  You may choose to make your foreshadowing obvious.  For example, if you wanted to show that your hero/heroine is headed for danger - you might put your character alone in an empty parking garage or having car trouble on a dark highway.  But if you wanted to subtly hint at the oncoming danger, then you might mention a storm on the horizon or draw attention to an antique pistol on display. Either way works - it's up to you to decide which works best.

-DS McKnight

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Creative Writing Tip - Timelines

Some writers use outlines.  I guess my outline is more of a brainstorming session.  I know where I want my story to go but I am open to change.  I do, however, use a timeline.  A timeline is a wonderful tool - allowing for easy reference.  I believe there are timeline programs available but I'm "old school."  I like drawing my timeline and filling in the information.  The events of my story are listed in chronological order.  I add my characters as they appear - along with the chapter/page number.  Off to the side, I add notes giving a detailed explanation of events such as the day of the week the event occurred.  I also add other information that I can access at a glance.  When writing OF DREAMS AND SHADOW, I found it necessary to create Jenna's school schedule.  I had to know her class periods and the teachers as much of Jenna's activities were happening during school hours.  It is important a story stays true to the "facts" that the writer assigns to it. A timeline helps achieve this.

-DS McKnight