06-23-18 Robin Weaver – My Crazy Road to Romantic Suspense Publishing

Thursday, May 4, 2017

WRITE FROM WITHIN by Michelle Somers

Just recently, a fellow author asked me to contribute to a book she's writing for beginner writers. She wanted one tip I believe newbie writers should keep in mind when they sit down to write. A small paragraph, no more.


Never mind the ‘short paragraph’, I could write an entire book.

So, what would I tell her?

The question got me thinking, and reflecting back to the beginning of my writing journey. And I asked myself what is the one thing I know now that I’d have liked to know back then. One thing to have made my journey more expedient, more fruitful. My writing more meaningful.


Ideas bombarded me from left, right and center.

Yet another book I could write.

So many things I’ve learned through trial and error, through more experienced writers sharing their expertise and knowledge; words of wisdom around finding like-minded writers, joining writing groups, forming critique circles; learning and practicing craft, and in those spare moments in between, reading to continually fill the well of creativity.

Then there’s the actual sitting down and writing part.

I wish I’d realized the importance of voice. From those first few moments when I began to write, I thought my story – and the tone of my story – should sound like other successful authors. After all, the way they wrote was what made them successful, right?

So, instead of writing in a way that was natural and reflective of me, I tempered my tone and tried to write like someone else. Tried to sound like someone else.

Big mistake.


Not only did my stories sound stilted and unnatural, but they lacked the edge and special something that would make them unique – the voice that would make them stand out and scream ‘Michelle Somers wrote this’ to anyone who read them.

Through a gradual progression, and five complete novels, I slowly found my voice, and I’m happy to say, I love it! Imagine how different those five – unpublished, unpublishable – stories would have been had I written and, dare I say, embraced my voice back when I first started writing?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

There are other lessons I wish I’d known – the ‘show don’t tell’ doctrine, how to thread in backstory, how to layer characters and give them depth, how to construct GMC (goal, motivation, conflict) and make those very same characters 3-dimensional and believable.

But above all these tips that I would have found exceptionally useful back in the beginning, there is one that stands out in my mind, one that I’ve found a lot of authors tend to overlook or forget to do…

Write from within your characters.

Okay, I can see you squinting and shooting me a wary ‘what is she on about?’ sideways stare.  What do you mean ‘write from within your characters’? you ask.

It’s simply this: when you write a scene, put yourself in the place of your characters. Don their skin, their mind, their thoughts, their experiences.

Walk the journey that is their story in their shoes.

If your character is trekking through blistering heat, their body dusty and sweat-slicked, their brand new, unbroken-in hiking boots rubbing their heels raw, step right inside and write from within their experience. And write from within yours.

In a situation just like theirs, what would you think? Feel? Say? Do?

Write as if their experience is your experience. If they hate trekking, fear it even, ask why? Maybe it’s because the last time they slipped into their hiking boots their best friend died after falling into a crevice. Feel what they would feel. Find a parallel in your life.

Then ask more questions. Why are they out there now? Why would they put themselves through that trauma? That pain? Maybe it’s because their child is lost and they must find them before they meet the same fate as their friend?

Now feel those emotions.

Find more parallels. When did you last feel scared? Stressed? Panicked even?

What thoughts battered through your mind at the time? What visceral reactions racked your body?

Write from a place of experience and understanding. Write from your character’s point of view but draw from your own life to give the writing depth.

If your character laughs, think of the last time you laughed.

If they cry, think about the last time you cried.

For my debut, Lethal in Love, my central character lost someone they loved. Someone who meant the world to them. Those moments when they felt that loss were some of the most challenging I’ve had to write. There was one scene in particular, just moments after the death. I have to admit, I struggled over this scene. I wrote draft after draft, until finally one made me cry.

And how?

I drew from experience. I remembered the day my father died. Remembered the shock, the pain, the utter and unbearable loss, and then I wrote.

Writing can be a painful business. It can dredge up memories and emotions that we’d rather leave buried deep beneath the surface of normalcy. But those memories, those emotions, are what makes a great writer. They allow us to write from a place of understanding, a place of empathy, a place so deep inside our characters, the line between us and them blurs.

They become real. Three-dimensional. They take us to a place where fact and fiction collide. And they make us feel with every fiber of our being.

So, what advice would I give to a budding writer above all other advice?

Write from within your characters.

Make your characters feel. Make them hurt, laugh and love.

Make them grab the attention and heart of the reader and never let go.

What about you?
For the writers out there, I’d love to know the one tip you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started writing.
And for readers, what is it about characters and an author’s style that drags you into their story so you don’t want to stop until the very last page. I’d love to know!
Thanks so much for reading and commenting and general awesomeness! I look forward to seeing you all back here again the first Thursday of next month 😄

Until then, have a fabulous month, and MAY THE FORTH BE WITH YOU 😊

Michelle Somers is a bookworm from way back. An ex-Kiwi who now calls Australia home, she’s a professional killer and matchmaker, a storyteller and a romantic. Words are her power and her passion. Her heroes and heroines always get their happy ever after, but she’ll put them through one hell of a journey to get there.

Michelle lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her real life hero and three little heroes in the making. And a cheeky, furry feline called Emerald. Her debut novel,
Lethal in Love won the Romance Writers of Australia’s 2016 Romantic Book of the Year (RuBY) and the 2013 Valerie Parv Award. Her second book, Murder Most Unusual was released February this year.
I love hearing from readers, and I’d love you to visit my website www.michelle-somers.com, but it’s currently under construction, soon to be filled with awesomeness 😊 So, if you’d like to stay in touch, find and follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or email me at michelle-somers@bigpond.com to sign up for my newsletter and a FREE copy of my novelette, Cold Case, Warm Heart.

Three deaths, one clue, and twenty-four hours before it's too late...

Homicide detective Calamity Dresden has twenty-four hours to catch a killer before he kills and disappears underground. Estranged lover Sebastian Rourke wants justice for his father and every other victim of Melbourne’s sadistic Trifecta Terror.

But can the pair overcome past hurts and catch the killer before he catches them?


Judith Ashley said...

Great post Michelle! When asked, my first advice is always to find your own writing process. We each have a process that works for us. I write start to finish. If there is something I don't like, I may spend a few minutes seeing if I can make it better but I'm more likely to highlight or make a note and go on. It took me Years to write the first novel in my series because I wrote each chapter so many times trying to get it right...Now I can write a full length novel in as little as 6 weeks. If I wrote shorter novels I could write one in less than a month.

Sarah Raplee said...

Wonderful advice, Michelle! And Judith is spot on about finding one's process.

My advice is to persevere. It is not a writer's talent alone, but talent combined with her ability to persevere in the face of obstacles, to return to writing after life disruptions, that will make her successful.

Michelle Somers said...

That's fabulous advice, Judith.
It's so tempting as a new writer to try and write like someone more experienced. Yet we all have styles that will work better for us. It can take a long tim to discover this if we don't realise.
For example, So many new writers spend days, months even, perfecting thaose first few chapters, so much so that they never move on to finish the rest.
Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your writing tip!
Michelle xx

Michelle Somers said...

Yes! Fabulous advice, Sarah!
I wonder how many aspiring authors give up just moments before they hit success.
It's such a tough business, writing. Yet so rewarding if only we persevere and throw everything we have into it.
Thanks so much for sharing your tip and stopping by!
Michelle xxx

Barbara Strickland said...

Beautifully said. It is the heart of writing, it makes us believe

Maggie Lynch said...

Excellent advice, Michelle! I believe you have hit on the two most important things for every new writer to explore.

I remember, when I started writing 30+ years ago, someone made a comment about my "voice" being commercial. I had no idea what they were talking about. I thought they were saying it was typical or should sell books. Then I couldn't tell how voice changed from one writer to the next or perhaps didn't exist because the voice was borrowed or edited out.

I wrote a lot of short stories before I started writing novels. I think it was about my 10th sale that I finally believed I had a unique voice.

The second part of your post about "Write from within your characters" is what I believe helps you to define your voice. Though there are universal experiences of love, death, frustration, anger, bliss and all emotional journeys. The way each writer approaches that is ultimately from a place inside themselves. And when they do tap into that core experience and express it from their unique perspective readers cry, laugh, and love with the journey in the story.

And that becomes voice. Thank you VERY much for sharing these two things with others.

Michelle Somers said...

Thanks Barbara! I'm so glad this post resonated with you.
Thanks so much for stopping ny and commenting.
Michelle xx

Michelle Somers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle Somers said...

Hi Maggie
I totally get what you mean! When I first started out, I had no idea about voices in writing, or even what my voice was like.
I love the way you linked voice with writing from within. That's so true.
Thanks do much for sharing your story and experiences.
Michelle xx