Writers who have an idea for a suspense novel but aren't sure where to begin.
Suspense novelists who want to improve their craft.
What you’ll learn
Nailing down the perfect idea.
Starting your suspense novel off right.
Plotting and outlining your suspense novel.
Driving the story with effective narrative.
Adding suspense through use of devices.
Tropes, and elements.
Creating the perfect, twisted ending.
Expand all sections
Lesson Name & What’s Included
Section 1 – What to do before you write your novel
approximately 3 hours
Lesson 1: Determine your genre and subgenre
In this lesson, we'll discuss the genre of suspense and all the crucial elements a suspense novel must contain. This is crucial because of reader expectations. Avid readers of suspense will be looking for these elements when they pick up your book, and we don't want to disappoint them. We'll also break down the many different subgenres of suspense and the key elements that make up each one.
Lesson 2: Nail down your story idea
Maybe you already have a story idea. But maybe you don’t or you’re struggling with landing on the right one. The concept for your story is the foundation upon which your story will be built, so it’s best to make sure you’ve chosen the right idea upfront. In this lesson, we’ll examine ways to think of and choose the right story idea so you can focus on that one idea rather than bouncing around between projects.
Lesson 3: Ask yourself these three questions
There are three essential questions any good author will ask themselves before they even begin writing their novel. These decisions will help provide the framework for your novel, as well as guide you during the writing process. In this lesson, I will give you these three essential questions and help you decide the best choices to make for your suspense novel.
Lesson 4: Do your research
Even though you’re writing suspense fiction, there may still be some aspects of your novel you will need to research in order to ensure your story, though made up, is rooted in reality and believable for your readers. In this lesson, I’ll explain how you can research important aspects of your suspense novel, including your setting, your character’s background, and their emotional wound.
Lesson 5: Develop three-dimensional characters
Suspense novels are often character-driven, so it’s important with suspense, as with any great novel, to create your characters in advance and make sure they are fully developed, three-dimensional, relatable, and likeable (except for villain). In this lesson, I’ll walk you through all the steps you should take to create memorable characters that will drive your suspense novel.
Lesson 6: Create the perfect setting
One element of suspense novels often overlooked by new authors is the setting. It's not enough to simply decide your novel is set in New York City or London, England. You must consider the right setting for your suspense novel. You must also create a visceral, realistic experience that will transport readers wherever you want them to go. In this lesson, you'll learn how to choose the perfect setting and how to create a transporting experience for readers.
Lesson 7: Plot and outline your novel
Even if you’re a pantser, you might want to consider doing at least some level of plotting when writing your suspense novel, especially since this genre involves so many twists and turns, as well as plot elements to mislead your readers. To keep all plotlines straight and to create a compelling story that will grip readers and keep them from being confused or lost, consider using plotting methods such as Three Act and Hero’s Journey.
Section 2 – What to do while you write your novel
approximately 4 hours
Lesson 1: Write a compelling opening chapter
In any great suspense novel, the author has figured out a way to grab the reader’s attention from the very first page and hang on to it throughout the entire novel. That first line, that first scene, and that first chapter are essential as they will set the stage for the rest of your story. In this lesson, I’ll help you come up with the best way to start your novel in a way that grabs the reader and forces them to pay attention!
Lesson 2: Nail down your narrative
The way you choose to write your narrative and the style you use to do this will set the tone for your entire story. There are many things to consider when choosing your narrative style, and in this lesson, we’ll discuss all the things you need to achieve, as well as those you must avoid, such as passive voice, slow pacing, head-hopping, and more.
Lesson 3: Write compelling dialogue
In conjunction with your narrative, you must also make sure your dialogue shares equal “screen time” and that it’s written in a believable, natural way. In this lesson, I’ll not only walk you through the rules of writing proper dialogue but also ways you can write each character’s unique and distinctive voice in a believable way that will grip readers and even add intensity to your suspense novel.
Lesson 4: Use subplots to weave a more complex story
Subplots are essential to a twisted, compelling suspense novel. If chosen and written properly, your subplots will work with (not against) your main plot and even work to help develop your characters’ story arcs further. In this lesson, I’ll guide you through defining subplots, why we need them, different types of subplots, and how to weave them into your story.
Lesson 5: Implement suspense elements, devices, and tropes
There are many different devices you can implement in your suspense novel which will add more intrigue and deepen the level of suspense. In this lesson, we’ll talk about different tropes and devices you can choose from to include in your novel, including red herrings, withholding information, misdirecting the reader, and more.
Lesson 6: Writing the hero’s journey
The Hero’s Journey is crucial to a great suspense novel, since you can apply every step of this plotting device to your protagonist’s investigation into the crime at hand. In this lesson, I’ll teach you how to actually implement this plotting method and make sure your protagonist’s journey is filled with intrigue, suspense, and all the necessary emotions your reader must experience from beginning to end.
Lesson 7: Handling the conflict and climactic scenes
As you draw toward the end of the second act and early third act, you’ll need to prepare to write the final confrontation with the villain (the climactic scene). In this lesson, we’ll discuss different approaches to addressing the conflict and final confrontation, as well as how to write the perfect fight scene between the hero and the villain, as well as how to address reader expectation when it comes to this important moment.
Lesson 8: Nailing the twist/surprise reveal
These days, most readers of suspense novels pick up a new book, fully expecting to be taken on a suspenseful ride that ends with a final surprise reveal or plot twist. In this lesson, we’ll talk about how to create a unique and effective plot twist that will shock and satisfy readers but stay true to your storyline and your protagonist’s journey.
Lesson 9: Wrap it up with the perfect, most satisfying ending
Many authors make the mistake of thinking the plot twist is the end of their story. It’s not. In fact, it’s only typically found at the beginning of act one. In this lesson, I’ll teach you how to end your novel properly and to do and not do in order for your readers to be satisfied and for the story to stick with them long after they close the book.
Section 3 – What to do after you write your novel
approximately 3 hours
Lesson 1: Edit and revise your first draft
Now that you’ve finished your manuscript, your job is not quite done. You can’t just slap your book up on Amazon and wait for readers to magically find and purchase your book. And the very first step to take after you finish is self-editing. In this lesson, I’ll explain how you can self-edit your manuscript so you can present the best possible version to ARC reviewers, editors, etc.
Lesson 2: Seek and implement helpful feedback
Especially if you’re self-publishing, getting feedback on your edited manuscript is essential to your publishing journey. In this lesson, we’ll talk about how you can find, submit to, and work with beta readers, as well as what to do with the feedback they provide you.
Lesson 3: Write your book’s blurb, Amazon description, etc.
While you’re waiting on feedback, you can start working on all the other copy you’ll need to write both for the inside of your book as well as promotions before and after you publish. In this lesson, I’ll show you how you can write a compelling blurb you can repurpose for Amazon descriptions and the back cover, as well as how to write intriguing copy for promotional purposes and your acknowledgement page.
Lesson 4: Find and work with a professional editor
After you have decided what feedback you want to implement into your manuscript, and you are confident in your final draft, it’s time to work with an editor to make sure your suspense novel is as good as it can be. In this lesson, I’ll walk you through the process of finding and working with professional editors you can trust and afford and we’ll discuss why editing with a pro is crucial to your book’s success.
Lesson 5: Create the perfect cover design for your book
Just like with editing, it’s crucial that you find and work with a cover designer to come up with a professional looking, quality book cover that will grab readers’ attention and stand out from the herd. In this lesson, I’ll show you how you can find and work with the right professional editor you can trust and afford, and we’ll discuss why you absolutely cannot skimp on this step.
Lesson 6: Decide the right publishing path and prepare for it
If you haven’t already decided how you want to publish your novel, it’s a decision you must make at this point for sure. In this lesson, we’ll talk about the different paths you can take to publish your novel, and we’ll discuss why self-publishing may be the way to go, as well as why you should never be ashamed of or afraid of self-publishing.
approximately 2 hours
Bonus Lesson 1: Discussions about inspiration, motivation, and procrastination
In this lesson, we’ll discuss ways to get and remain inspired, how to stay motivated through the entire process, and how to avoid and deal with procrastination.
In this short but fun-filled discussion with Self-Publishing expert, Shayla Raquel, she and I sat down for a frank discussion about the top five things all self-published authors must know before they take the leap and become an indie author.
Bonus Lesson 3: Prepare for and plan your book launch
Before you upload your book on publishing platforms of your choice, you’ll want to plan your book’s launch in advance in order to have a successful launch week. In this lesson, we’ll go over every step you must take before and after your book is published to increase the odds of selling well and finding success as an indie (or even trad published) author.
Bonus Lesson 4: Learn how to market your book from the experts
The most common question I am asked by authors is how they should market their books. I know a few tricks, but I freely admit I’m not the go-to expert for book marketing. So, I’ve compiled several of my top interviews with book marketing gurus for you to learn all you can about the best ways to market your suspense novel before and after your book launch.
Christina Kaye is an author coach, book editor, public speaker, and writing instructor, as well as host of the podcast for authors, Write Your Best Book. Through her business, also called Write Your Best Book, Christina and her team of editors help authors on their writing journey through a wide range of book editing and author coaching services, as well downloadable resources to help them write their best book and become their own book boss. Christina Kaye is also an award-winning, bestselling suspense novelist in her own right.