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How One Simple Trick Made My Novels Come Alive

by Sandra Orchard

From a young age, we’re taught to not be tardy. We’re told that punctuality is a virtue, and that being early is even better.

Not so in writing.

The trick that took my novels from good to published was this…

Start late. Leave early.

Think about that for a minute. Start late. Leave early.

Readers are intelligent people. They enjoy figuring things out. They like to imagine what might happen next. Applying this trick gives them the opportunity to do both.

It raises questions in their minds, compelling them to keep reading in search of the answers.

For example, in my newest release Shades of Truth, one of the scenes ends with:

Ethan needed to talk to them before the wrong cop got to them. Or to Kim.
Witnesses in this case had a bad habit of showing up dead.

The next scene goes on to something else, leaving the reader to wonder and worry. Then that same chapter ends with:
Ethan jerked the steering wheel right.
“Where are you going? I said turn left.” [heroine speaking]
“Not anywhere you’re going to be happy about.”

So once again, the reader is compelled to turn the page to find out where Ethan’s taking the heroine and why. This technique drives the reader forward, keeping them engaged.

My favorite letters from readers are the ones that complain that I kept them up reading half the night. Try this trick and your stories will too.

Sandra Orchard writes for Love Inspired Suspense. Shades of Truth, the second book in her Undercover Cops series, releases this month. For more writing tips, check out her website where she’s also compiled fun “novel extras” to enhance readers’ experience of her books (and to give writers insight into editing).

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3 Responses to How One Simple Trick Made My Novels Come Alive

  1. katy lee says:

    I like that. Start late. Leave early. Very simple and very profound.

    I actually love leaving the ends of my chapters like cliffhangers. Giving only necessary information but not the story away. I do though often ask if I am not giving enough information. If it’s too confusing. Because confusion can also make a person put the book down.

  2. Mary Allen says:

    This feels like a confirmation for cutting the opening scene in favor of the next major scene.

  3. Patti Mallett says:

    Thanks, Sandra! This is a very good reminder to hold back! I always like a story that doesn’t give too much away, too soon.