Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Writer's Puzzle by Lynette Eason

There are lots of how-to-plot books, handouts and lectures out there. This is a how-NOT-to-plot. Lynette Eason is a gifted suspense writer who uses a puzzle motif when she writes. Learn her secrets of the Writer's Puzzle here. ~ Angie

Lately it seems I’ve been asked asked to write on the secrets of writing suspense. As I started thinking about it, I decided there weren’t really any secrets, just different ways of doing things. I know different authors have different way of writing. We’re all individuals. What works for one writer may not work for another.

I’m a SOTP writer. Meaning, SEAT OF THE PANTS. I write what comes to me. I write in sequential order and I edit as I go. If I get a brilliant idea halfway through the manuscript, I go back and add, but basically by the time I get done with the story, I’m done. However, that’s not to say that I don’t do some very basic plotting. And I think this is because I approach writing a story like doing a puzzle.

Step 1: Sort out all of the side pieces and frame your puzzle – This is the brief synopsis stage. A short summary of how I want the story to go.  There are not any real details here, but I have a beginning, a few scenes for the middle and the way the story will end.

Step 2: Find the dominant color and put all of the pieces together in one section -  Here is where I do my character development. Even though I’m a SOTP writer, I really need to know my characters before I can write anything worth keeping. I have a character worksheet I start filling in. Details are important here, like family, best friends, educational backgrounds, biggest fear, biggest secret, love interest, even what’s in the wallet or the purse.

Step 3: Find where the dominant color belongs in the puzzle and place in the approximate section within the frame. The few scenes I’ve sketched out need to go in the right place. I do use a writing software called Scrivener. It helps me keep my scenes organized. I love the ability to jot down an idea and store it later. When I come back to the software, I can move the scenes around to see which order works best—where they best fit into the puzzle—er story.

Step 4: Start filling in the gaps.  At this point, I have a pretty good outline of the story. Now I just need to go through one last time and make sure I’ve put in all the details, all the red herrings, explained all of the clues and not left anything dangling. Now, here is a little tip: As I’m writing the story, I’ve got to keep all this “stuff” in my head. However, there are times when I’m going along that I’ll come to a stop because I need to research something, or I can’t remember the name of a certain character, or what time of day it is. Whatever the detail is that I need to put in, I simply stop writing, insert a comment at that point using track changes and then later, go through all of the comments I made and insert the necessary information.

Step 5: The last piece of the puzzle = the last read through. Go through the whole story cleaning it up and doing one last edit. By the time you get to the end, you should be done.

So, as you see, writing suspense isn’t so much about secrets as it is about hard work and paying attention to details, taking your time and being creative. Putting the puzzle together one piece at a time until you have the big picture.


Lynette Eason grew up in Greenville, SC. Her home church, Northgate Baptist, had a tremendous influence on her during her early years. She credits dedicated Sunday School teachers and Christian parents for her acceptance of Christ at the tender age of eight. Even as a young girl, she knew she wanted her life to reflect the love of Jesus Christ.

She is the author of ten Inspirational Romantic Suspense books, two of which finaled in the Maggies Contest and one was nominated for Reviewer’s Choice Best Series Romance Novel of the year for the Love Inspired Suspense line. She writes for the Love Inspired Suspense line and Revell. Her newest book, When the Smoke Clears, released this month. 

Connect with Lynette through her website and through her Ladies of Suspense blog.


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