"Just Say You're a Writer"

One of the Saturday sessions at HNS-2017 resonated strongly with me. Susanna Kearsley spoke about "Twin-Stranded Storylines", a subject I needed to hear about, since I tend to enjoy books that employ this technique. And I thoroughly enjoy her novels.

However, before I get to the guidance she offered, one thing she said made the entire room laugh, then go quiet, as each person processed her simple piece of wisdom. Susanna said that when you're researching a project, just tell people you're a writer. Don't hedge around why you're asking nosy questions, or trying to find weird details (my words) from someone. In her experience, that admission--I'm a writer--breaks the ice, and then people bend over backwards to help. She acknowledged those words are difficult to say (and I would add, even more difficult to process if you've never allowed yourself to believe it).

Her presentation was professional, well-organized, and thoughtful. The advice she offered that particularly resonated with me included:
  • Think of your twin strands as "a river and a boat." The river is the main story and the boat is your secondary one. The boat is removable and you may need to gussy it up; it's more flexible and can go off into different directions.
  • Your reader will find one of your story strands more enjoyable. Don't forget that.
  • Either start in the present or with your most sympathetic character(s). You'll draw readers in, orient them, and get them on your side. If you don't hit them in the heart, it won't work.
  • End where you begin and resolve both stories. You can end with tears, but give the reader hope.

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