Successful Writing with Jean Saunders

This week we published our first crime novel by Jean Saunders, Thicker Than Water. Until now, we’ve only dipped our toes in to the Saunders world of romance and historical fiction. But Jean is our author of many names and genres — she wrote over 100 titles between her real name and the pseudonyms Sally Blake, Jean Innes, Rachel Moore, Jodi Nicol and Rowena Summers — and our crime-writing obsession is already obvious, so it only made sense to introduce ourselves to Private Investigator Alexandra Best.

Jean is a woman of many names, many stories, and, also, many tips and tricks gained through years of writing. We were delighted to find that her several ‘how to’ books on the topic of novel writing are full of quirky pieces of advice and more metaphors than we thought any one person was capable of creating. So, to celebrate the diversity of Jean Saunders‘ writing repertoire and our branching into her world of mystery, we wanted to share some of her advice on successful novel plotting:

1. Planning

‘It’s sensible to know where you’re going. You wouldn’t board a train without knowing your destination, and writing a novel without at least some idea of the end as well as the beginning makes no sense.’

2. Characters

‘When you make your character profile, write it out in the first person, as if you are Jane Doe. It will make her all the more real to you, because while you are describing her, you are her.’

3. Plot

‘[Plot] can be likened to a chain, where every link must be joined in some way to the events that have gone before, and are going to influence the ones that come next.’

4. Construction

‘It’s a bit like moving house. After the initial horror of finding unnumbered packing cases and the hopeless task of ever getting the rooms straight and deciding you really don’t need half of it any more, and you didn’t really want to move anyway, you finally start to get your house in order. Even then, you can still find bits of junk you don’t want, or find something you had forgotten, and give it pride of place.’

5. Research

‘But the key to writing good fiction in which you are involving factual information is to choose an important or significant event – one that has legs, to use the weirdest term in know – and then fictionalise it with your own strong characters.

6. Transitions

‘A plot transition is no more than a shifting of emphasis from one angle to another, from one character’s viewpoint to another, or from a change in time or location or mood. But, as in all things, variety makes for interest, and the plot that meanders along the same old winding road without any humps or bumps in its path can be pretty boring.’

7. Pace

‘Since variety means added vitality… always try to vary the pace in whatever plot you are devising. Think of pace as something selective that you can use to your advantage; sometimes it will be racing ahead, sometimes it will be less aggressive and more thought-provoking.’

8. Thinking Commercially

‘The best way to promote yourself is to write a novel that has a solid and well-constructed plot that is visually pleasing and logically sound. A plot that involves characters who leap off the pages and into readers’ hearts, because they are believable and realistic, with human faults and virtues.’

All excerpts were pulled from Successful Novel Plotting by Jean Saunders.


As always, thank you for reading, and be sure to tweet us @AgoraBooksLDN with your favourite piece of advice from a writer you admire!