After the release of The Doctor’s Lady, I’m beginning to realize readers are branding my stories as page-turners. I’m always flattered when a reader classifies one of my books that way. I like knowing readers had a hard time putting one of my books down (as opposed to being unable to pick it back up!).
That doesn’t mean my books are better than another author whose voice and story is slower and more flowing. Because there are stories you savor and read languidly much the same way you sip a rich creamy mug of hot cocoa.
However, my stories are more like an iced coffee that you guzzle on a hot summer day.
One reader, Christy Janes said this about The Doctor’s Lady: “Wagon train stories are not my thing as there are usually several portions that lag and I find my attention drifting. That is definitely not the case with this one! The action is continuous, the hardships believable, and the romance new and exciting. I have already carved out a place on my keeper shelf for this gem of a novel, and you better believe that it's there to stay.”
Another reader, Jill Kemerer said: “I had no idea this (The Doctor’s Lady) was going to be such an adventure. From the opening chapters to the final page, this book doesn't let up, and I loved it. Fast-paced, high-tension, and a bird's-eye-view of traveling across America before the West had been settled--each chapter kept me riveted. Indeed, I read it in less than 24 hours. It was THAT good.”
As I thought about how Christy, Jill and others have described my books, I’ve realized, that although I never set out intentionally to be a page-turning (iced-coffee guzzling) type of author, I have perhaps evolved into that.
Not every writer will want or need to have an iced-coffee story. But for those who are interested in a fast-moving, higher-caffeinated story, here are some of the ingredients I use in mine:
1. Continuous, yet purposeful action.
As I write scenes, I look for ways to keep them from being static. In other words, I want to have my characters DOING things that relate to the plot as much as possible, rather than just sitting around and talking or contemplating.
2. Plenty of new and interesting adventure.
During my research phase (before I start my first draft), I keep a running list of all the weird, crazy, or interesting events/situations that I could use in my story. Then as I’m writing, I try to weave in as much adventure as I can.
3. Tightening the noose of the danger and dilemmas.
As the story progresses, I’m always thinking in the back of my mind, “How can I continue to make things worse for my hero and heroine? And how can I make the danger more threatening?” I want to keep tightening the noose around their necks so that the situation looks utterly hopeless. Sometimes I get my characters into so much trouble, even I begin to wonder how they’ll ever get out!
4. Make every scene count.
Granted not every scene will be a knife-fight, dangerous river-crossing, or attack by a mountain lion. But even those scenes that are less action-oriented can be loaded with emotional or relational tension and conflict. If there’s nothing tense in the scene, then we need to ask if it’s really needed. Perhaps we can skip it and just jump to the next conflict-laden scene.
Those are just a few of my techniques for keeping my stories moving. What about you? Which do you prefer reading—a hot cocoa book or an iced coffee? And if you’re a writer, which do you prefer writing?
Blog tour stops and GIVEAWAYS!
Wednesday 10/19: I'm doing a guest post on Jenny Hansen's blog about how to organize plot ideas into a novel.
Wednesday 10/19: I'm over at Margaret Hansen's blog and sharing whether I've ever been tempted to write a sequel to either of my books.