Monday, January 16, 2006

Susan Elizabeth Phillips advice

Busy trying to reconstruct my story Storm Warning. I'm not happy with the level of conflict or the structure of the end. I also need to write more (about 70 pages more!!) as I'm aiming for single title now. I can develop my characters further and up the tension by making my villain nastier/scarier.

So I have been going over some of my notes from Reno and got caught up in SEP's talk on writing the Bestseller (yes please). Thought I'd share the bones of my notes with you :)

Advice from the wonderfully funny and high-energy SEP.


Tip1—Master good craft

  • No long boring paragraphs of description.
  • Boring sentence length/structure.
  • Clunky use of research.
  • Awkward POV shifts.

Tip 2—Dazzling characters.

Love or hate them, they must be sympathetic, but not perfect

  • Flaws, but heart pure—heroes can get away with doing crappy things
  • Larger than life but realistic—need to identify with them
  • Well motivated, no manipulation of characters to move plot—instead play on strengths and weaknesses of characters to move the plot forward—the internal conflict
  • Let characters develop and grow throughout story—let them be capable of doing something at the end they couldn’t have done at the beginning.

Million dollar tip—when bogged down,

  • Read scenes for the hero—look at thoughts, feelings, love story continuity.
  • Then read heroine scenes.
  • Their relationship—fix when they fall in love and get scenes consistent.
  • Character arc throughout book. Scenes consistent throughout book

Tip 3—Plotting

  • Fast moving—leave out boring stuff
  • Flashbacks. Bog a book down
  • Prologues not so great.
  • If you need to insert information don’t start with a flashback—instead keep scenes short and start at point of highest action.
  • Too much internal dialogue bogs down reader.
  • Show don’t tell
  • Lengthy descriptions are not emotions.
  • Make every word count.
  • End chapters in cliffhangers
  • Subplots…don’t leave main plot at point of major action, else reader will skip subplot.

Tip 4—Write to strengths.


  1. Great tips! Will print and study. Thanks for sharing, Toni.

  2. My pleasure Peggy. SEP is an incredible woman, so funny, runs rings around Jenny Crusie who is one of the smartest women I have met (and I've met lots!!).

  3. Too tired and dizzy to sit and read/absorb at the moment, so I'll print it out and look at it later.

  4. SEP. Jenny. Suz. What great heroines they are. Just who I want to be when I grow up. :D