29 Dec Richard Blomberg’s Top 10 Writing Secrets to Becoming a Successful Author
- Fiction or Nonfiction? I chose fiction because I knew a group of U.S. Navy SEALs, whose real story could not be told, before the normally secretive x-SEALs started writing compelling nonfiction books like American Sniper and Lone Survivor. I created Warpath to honor SEALs and the unbelievable challenges they faced in the Middle East.If you have a vivid imagination and a story to tell, start writing. Have I ever traveled to Afghanistan or Pakistan or Dubai? No. Have I ever scoped the forehead of the enemy and pulled the trigger? No. Have I ever left my family behind and go to sea on a Navy ship as a hospital corpsman? Yes. Have I ever carried the body of a dead shipmate? Yes. Have I ever watched someone take their last breath? Many times.
- Haven’t been there, haven’t done that. Just because you haven’t been someplace or experienced something, doesn’t mean you can’t write about it. With the internet at your fingertips, research has never been easier. What’s harder is developing characters with a voice and personality that captures the reader’s imagination and takes them on a journey. This is where your own life experiences come in—and a vivid imagination.
- Be brave! Fear not! You want people to love your story? You have to lay it all on the line. Bare you soul, your inner most thoughts and emotions. Hold back nothing. When you feel like you’re bleeding onto the page, then you’re writing what people want to read.
- Slow down, you move too fast. One of the things that I’ve been taught about writing thrillers is that something unexpected should happen on every page. Another is that if I write more than two consecutive paragraphs of side-story that don’t move the plot forward but sideways, my editors will cut it. Thrillers are all about action. But in all of this action, the writer needs to resist the temptation to rush. Slow down and explore the characters’ feeling and actions to make the story a more satisfying experience to the reader. It may amount to nothing more than a single word here or a sentence there, but I have learned how to slow down my writing process while maintaining a frantic plot pace.
- Paper or plastic? When I began writing the first draft of my first book, I wrote on paper. The full-sized, yellow pads from Costco. I left every other line blank to leave space for revisions, which there were plenty. Eventually, I transcribed everything onto my laptop—the same old beater that I use today. Its disc player hasn’t worked in years. It takes five minutes to startup and randomly shuts down. It’s like an old friend though. We have history. My first book took four years, three editors, and many revisions. Somewhere in the midst of it all, I switched to writing on my laptop and have been ever since.
- Start in the middle of the action. At least for an action-packed thriller, each chapter should start in the middle of the action. It took a while to get the hang of this, but it is a very important concept. As an example, I don’t start a chapter by writing about Jack getting up in the morning, eating breakfast, cleaning his assault rifle, getting on a helicopter, etc. I start the chapter with him bashing down the door and wreaking havoc. Watch any good movie in the thriller genre and you’ll find that each scene starts in the middle of the action. That’s how you have to write.
- Is your story unique? In my first drafts of Warpath, about two years into the project, an editor suggested that my characters needed something more. Something that made my story different from other Navy SEAL thrillers. That’s when brothers Jack and Travis Gunn became Native Americans who were blood relatives of Sitting Bull and were raised by a secret sect of Sioux Indian elders after the boy’s parents died in a fiery car crash. That gave me license to give Jack Gunn, Navy SEAL extraordinaire, some special skills not possessed by any other SEAL. That’s when my story became unique.
- Do you believe in time travel? That is what the process of writing Jack Gunn thrillers is like to me. When I am writing, I start at five in the morning with a cup of coffee and sitting in my favorite chair. I write in the wee hours because I’ve always been a morning person and it’s quiet. I usually plan to write a chapter in four to six hours and have it be 1500-2000 words long. I begin with notes of important plot points that should be included in the chapter and spend the first hour or two letting myself be mentally and emotionally transported to that time and place, writing and deleting, until the scene begins unfolding like a movie. Once I reach that point, I merely document what I see and hear. Yes, the characters do come to life. Then, I focus on slowing down, digging in and making sure that I don’t miss anything, because once I leave that place, it’s hard to return.
- One space or two? When did they decide to put one space and not two, after periods, question marks and exclamation marks? Nobody seems to know. That, along with learning about point-of-view, character development and all of the neat little time-saving tricks that Microsoft Word can do for you; if you want to get started on the right foot, attend a writer’s conference. The couple of conferences that I attended laid a foundation of rules and techniques which got me started on the right foot.
- “I’m done!” When you say those words, it’s time to get an editor. Editors help you transform what you think is a completed work into something people may want to read. Over my six years of writing, I have paid for the services of at least six different editors. There are developmental editors, copy editors, proof reading editors. I had no idea. You get the idea. I’d be happy to help! As a beginning writer, when you find yourself saying, “I’m done,” find an editor; you’re only just beginning. If you need references to some good developmental editors, email me at Richard@RichardBlomberg.com or follow me at www.RichardBlomberg.com.
Coming Soon: A Personal Interview with Navy SEAL Jack Gunn & Richard Blomberg’s Top 10 Marketing Secrets to becoming a Successful Author