OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
I am just so lucky this week because I had the brilliant Mur Lafferty AND the fantastic J.C. Hutchins to interview! Since it is NaNoWriMo, I am asking these authors for their tips for writing. As I am writing a thriller, J.C. had some great tips for me (and for you too!)
J.C. Hutchins is an award-winning novelist best known for his 7th Son technothriller trilogy released as free podcasts in 2006-2007. With around 100,000 downloads still occurring each month, 7th Son is the most popular podcast novel series in history. The first novel in the series, 7th Son: Descent is out now in print on Amazon.com from St Martin's Press.
On this podcast you will learn:
- How J.C. started writing 7th Son back in 2002 spurred on by NaNoWriMo. He queried 60 agents and publishers and was universally rejected. Demoralized and depressed, he wondered what to do next with his story.
- The ray of hope was podcasting and J.C. started to podcast 7th Son. Authors were releasing unpublished manuscripts as podcast novels at the time and it was a way to get the story out and test the market. The podcast was an amazing hit which eventually led to a publishing deal. The first book in the series, 7th Son: Descent is now out in paperback
- How brilliant fan support can be, based on a relationship built on podcasting
- A bit about the plot of 7th Son: Descent – The President of the United States is dead, killed by a 4-year-old boy…. (cue thriller music)
- J.C.'s top 3 tips for thriller writing
- Thrillers need to quicken the pulse and be relentless in pace. Start the story with a bang.
- Start when the heroes life is immediately changed. No day job, no domesticity. Grab your character and throw them into a van straight away!
- Always end scenes/ chapters with cliff-hangers, narrative plot twists or evocative dialogue. Make the reader want to read on.
- Be conscious of pacing. You do need the ‘grout' to glue the story together but keep the characters moving. Keeping chapters short with cliff-hanger endings keeps the pace going.
- Recommends Jeffrey Deaver as a great thriller writer, particularly Lincoln Rhyme series e.g. The Coffin Dancer
- Remember to just write. Write without fear and ignore that inner voice. Enjoy the process.
- Movement is important, especially if there is a lot of talking. Keep the story physically moving, or cut to the villains. This also helps with cinematic visual cues (7th Son has been optioned for a movie!)
- Describing physical location grounds people in the event and also helps with the visual cues. Describing things with tangible items helps people relate to the physicality.
- Writing violence in thriller vs horror. The difference between graphic description of violence/horror or leaving more to the imagination. Conveying it in words that aren't gory even though there is still violence.
- On the inspiration for conspiracy theories – late-night radio show Coast to Coast AM. Grounding conspiracy theories in truth or historical events to make them seem more real.
- How J.C. is marketing 7th Son and why authors have to pull out all the stops to market their books, whether they are published or self-publishing. Attention is hard to get as TV and radio cut book segments. Giving away content for free online gets customers who would never have heard of the book otherwise. They get to test drive the story. Empowers people to make an informed purchasing decision. You can get it in audio form, PDF chapters, prequel short story anthology and serialised on BoingBoing.
- Authors need to be responsible for their own marketing. You are the best person to sell your story. Building your platform will definitely attract more opportunities.
- Podcasting has helped J.C. with self-belief and confidence as well as building a platform and relationships with listeners and fans. It is an incredible amount of work though so you may want to try traditional publishing first! Try everything!
You can find all the free content and more about J.C. Hutchins at JCHutchins.net
You can also follow J.C. on Twitter @jchutchins