Learning from our mentors helps us to improve and evolve in our chosen field, and I still recall the advice given to me at the start of my writing journey.
To help the next generation of writers’ young and old, I started a Top 10 Writing Tips feature whereby established authors shared their words of wisdom and favourite writing tips. Back by popular demand, I’m delighted to share more inspiration and insights for season two.
Meet Sandy Manning
S. LEE MANNING spent two years as the managing editor of Law Enforcement Communications before realizing that lawyers make a lot more money. A subsequent career as an attorney spanned from a first-tier New York law firm—Cravath, Swaine & Moore—to working for the State of New Jersey, to solo practice. An award-winning writer, Manning is the author of international thrillers. Her life-long interests in Russia and espionage are reflected in her Kolya Petrov thrillers, Trojan Horse—the winner of the 2020 Phoenix Kops-Fetherling International Book Award for New Action/ Thriller Fiction—and Nerve Attack, book two in the series (Encircle Publications, 2020 and 2021). Manning is currently working on the third Kolya Petrov Thriller. Manning lives in Vermont with her husband and two cats, but frequently visits her daughter in California and her son in New Jersey.
Sandy’s Top 10 Writing Tips
1. Read what you’d like to write. If you want to write cozy mysteries, read cozy mysteries. If you don’t read and don’t like to read, consider doing something other than writing.
2. Read other stuff. Read as much as you can, novels, non-fiction. Pay attention to structure and content. Analyze style. Become an intelligent reader.
3. Character, character, character. If you don’t have great characters, it doesn’t matter how good the plot is – no one will care. If you do have great characters, you can (sometimes) get away with a less than perfect plot.
4. But you do need a good plot. Figure out at least the basic plot before you start writing. You don’t want to get 100 pages in and realize you’ve painted yourself into a corner, figuratively speaking. You may prefer to work off a complete and detailed outline or you may prefer to panse it – go with your gut – but you should at leave have some idea of the beginning, middle, and end.
5. Sometimes you have to make yourself write when you don’t feel like it. There will be times you have to force it. Then other days when you can’t wait to get started. Make yourself do it – but
6. Forgive yourself when you procrastinate or fall behind schedule or aren’t meeting whatever writing goals you set for yourself. It happens to everyone. Don’t kick yourself.
7. Have some other means of earning a living. Or be retired. Just don’t rely on writing for your income. You may be one of the lucky ones who hits it. Odds are you won’t be. So many really really good writers never make much money.
8. Have some damn fun writing. If you’re not having fun, do something else.
9. Have respect for what you’re doing even if no one else cares. You’re creating a universe. Do you know how powerful that is? If one person – even just one – enters into your vision or your universe – you’ve done something incredible. In a very tiny way, you’re playing God.
10. Get up every hour or two and do a dance step – walk outside – clear your head. Just stay away from the frig and leftover Halloween chocolate.
Nerve Attack Blurb
Former U.S. intelligence operative Kolya Petrov, struggling with the physical and psychological aftereffects of kidnapping and torture, is drawn back into the game when he learns that Dmitri, his childhood best friend, holds the key to stopping an attack by terrorists armed with a deadly nerve agent. Working with Dmitri, however, is complicated. While their friendship had been forged during their years in an abusive Russian boys’ home, the two men’s lives took very different paths. Dmitri had headed the North American branch of a Russian gang until Kolya, working undercover, put him in prison. Ten years later, Dmitri’s cooperation is essential to finding the smuggler of the nerve agent, and he refuses to work with anyone but Kolya. Kolya reluctantly agrees to undertake one more mission, but to succeed, he must come to terms with the past. Can he trust Dmitri not to take revenge for the betrayal of their friendship? Can he rely on his own judgment and abilities, despite a leg injury and ongoing PTSD, to survive an elaborate plot that threatens his life and that of his fiancee, as well as the lives of hundreds of innocent people?
Trojan Horse Blurb
American operative Kolya Petrov is tracking Mihai Cuza, a direct descendant of Vlad the Impaler. Kolya suspects him of planning meltdowns of nuclear power plants around the world, but every time Kolya gets close, a member of his teamdies in agony. Margaret Bradford, the head of Kolya’s agency, seizes upon a devious plan to place a “Trojan horse”—a digital virus—on Cuza’s computer. But for the plan to succeed, she must betray one of her own agents. Margaret chooses Kolya Petrov—a Russian-Jewish immigrant with no family—for the honor. Kolya is initially unaware that he’s been set up for kidnapping and torture. When he realizes the truth, he must choose between stopping a plot that could kill thousands, and protecting his own life and the life of the woman he loves.
Connect with Sandy here