Category Archives: Writing Craft

How to Write and Sell Your Romantic Suspense

By Angela Ruth Strong

I have three friends here in Idaho who all sold books to Love Inspired Suspense. We’d get together to write every week, and they’d be talking about their editor or sharing covers, and I’d feel a little left out. So I decided to try to write for their publisher. I wrote two manuscripts. The first one was rejected, the second they bought. Presumed Dead came out last month.

So, just in case you’ve ever read a romantic suspense novel and thought, “Hey, I could do that!” but you don’t have friends like mine to show you how, I’ll give you some pointers.

  • Find a great setting. The first book I ever sold was to the Love Finds You line of books, which were all set in real towns, so now I’m a sucker for picking a real place and researching the heck out of it. Sometimes authors make up towns of their own, and that can be fun too (I’ve heard), but when you pick an actual place like Lake Tahoe, you discover there’s a secret tunnel built by an eccentric millionaire for his baby elephant, and there’s an island with a cliff for jumping off, and then there’s my grandest discovery—the Tahoe Keys, a neighborhood of inland waterways. PERFECT for a suspense novel. Another benefit of picking a real location is that when the characters are running for their lives, you can MapQuest the location and know exactly which direction they need to go and what might get in their way.
  • Pick a plot. Again, I like to find inspiration from real life. The plot for Presumed Dead came from a real failed operation and conspiracy theory. Remember the Iran Hostage Crisis? Their first rescue attempt failed and helicopters crashed because the pilots were not trained to fly under such circumstances. Thus, the military created SOAR—Special Operations Aviation Regiment. I made Preston a pilot for SOAR. He was presumed dead in a helicopter crash much like the real one. I can’t tell you more about the conspiracy theory because that would give away too much, but I’ll just say that in my story, it was much more than a theory—it was going to get him killed for real.
  • Create characters with chemistry. My biggest pet peeve in romance is when the characters don’t have chemistry. Their energy has to feed off each other. They are so obviously better when they are together. However, a romance novel isn’t about getting two characters together—it’s about keeping them apart until the very end. Though they are working as one, they have different goals. And here’s the part I love: They, and they alone, possess the perfect strengths and weaknesses required for them to overcome their challenges. Absolutely nobody else could survive what they survive. Not because they are better than anybody else, but because they are unwittingly prepared. For example, if Preston needs to escape, there’s going to be a tourist helicopter on a platform above the dock, and he alone has what it takes to fly that chopper.
  • Know the rules. Some publishing houses have more rules than others. To write for LIS, I had to have the characters meet in the first chapter, they couldn’t already be in love, and they both had to have reasons not to be together. Also, I couldn’t have used the word “heck” like I did above. As a writer, you may not agree with all the rules (I’ve said worse things than heck before…shh), but the publishing company is a business with buyers/readers, and it’s their job to know exactly what those buyers/readers want.
  • Be flexible. For my novel Presumed Dead, I had to change the whole ending. Twice. I didn’t want to at first, but now I’m glad I did. Editors make our stories better.
  • Be diligent. What was really cool about selling my book to LIS was that I sold it through a contest that required diligence. It was kind of like the television show The Voice. Hundreds of writers entered the first page of the manuscript. If the judges/editors liked it, you moved onto the next round where you had a deadline for submitting a synopsis. On and on until finished manuscripts were turned in. This might be the best way EVER in the history of writing to finish a novel. But if you don’t want to take part in a contest, then set deadlines for yourself. Or participate in National Novel Writing Month in November. Which brings me to my last point…
  • Have fun. Some parts of writing are not fun. You may even contemplate tossing your laptop out the window. Here’s a better idea: Find a way to make it fun again. Sometimes I will skip to the parts I’m inspired to write and go back to fill in the gaps later. Or you can take yourself on a field trip to get back into the story. Once I called a friend to ask if I could visit her farm because I was writing about a ranch, and I wanted to be around horses. Also try brainstorming with friends. It was my stepdaughter Ashley who gave me the brilliant idea for the end of Presumed Dead. She saved my laptop’s life.

Now that you’re ready to write a romantic suspense, find some other people who want to write books. You can encourage each other to go farther and do more. Just like my writing friends did for me.

About Angela Ruth Strong

Angela Ruth Strong studied journalism at the University of Oregon and published her first novel, Love Finds You in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2010. With movie producers interested in her book, she’s re-released it as part of a new series titled Resort to Love, and she’s excited to be writing for Love Inspired Suspense, as well. This Idaho Top Author and Cascade Award winner also started IDAhope Writers to encourage other aspiring authors. She currently lives in Idaho with her husband and three teenagers where she teaches yoga and works as a ticket agent for an airline when not writing.

For a chance to win a free copy of Angela’s new book, Presumed Dead, subscribe to this blog in the top right hand corner.  The winner will be announced March 18th.

Framed for a sabotaged military operation, Preston Tyler has allowed everyone to believe he’s dead—until he witnesses someone planting a bomb in his childhood sweetheart’s cabin. To save Holly Fontaine’s life, he must blow his cover. Holly is shaken…both by the explosion and the sudden appearance of a man she thought she’d lost forever. But their reunion is short-lived when the bomb planter returns, forcing their escape into Lake Tahoe’s wilderness. As they struggle to survive, memories of their shared past reignite old feelings. Holly refuses to lose Preston again, but with their pursuer closing in, will the ultimate betrayal tear them apart for good?

Unexpected Blessings on the Road to Publication

Next week, I’ll be attending a writer’s conference in Monterey, California. The road to publication is difficult, but for me, it’s also filled with wonder and blessings.  I don’t think I’ll ever believe that I’m a good writer. Even after three years of blogging, I have to summon my courage to tell people I write stories.  Worthy Publishing  purchased ten of my devotions to be included in a book that will release later this year, and I’ve signed a contract to write an additional ten devotions for another book to be released next spring. I’ll finally be a published author. I hadn’t planned to write devotions, but it’s been an unexpected path on the writing  journey.

photo-3It’s exciting to sign a contract, but the best gift on this odyssey is the friendships I’ve developed with others who share the same passion. I’m looking forward to being able to take a whale watch tour next week with a new friend, and I anticipate meeting other conference attendees and teachers. photo Two years ago, at a conference, I sat next to one of my favorite authors, Lauraine Snelling. She is so generous and encouraging. I hope we can reconnect next week.  At that same workshop, God arranged a divine appointment for me with a former Kenyan missionary just when I was planning to lead a team to Kenya. We were in St. Louis and I discovered she lived about twenty miles from my home in Kentucky.

Another blessing on the writing journey is that as a Christian writer, writing means spending time delving His word. I have a difficult time concentrating when reading the Bible a chapter at a time, but when I’m crafting stories,  I’m sent to study the scriptures.  Perhaps God’s intent is to change me more than those who might read my stories. Writers are encouraged to write what they know, and I certainly know about sin.  Thank goodness, I also know about Jesus’s love and forgiveness.

dollarphotoclub_51694407Whatever your hobby or passion, I pray it gives you as much joy as writing does for me. God gives each of us special talents. I pray you too will discover the unexpected blessings when you use your skills to the best of your abilities. I’m trying to focus on enjoying every minute of the journey and to stop worrying about signing a contract. God will decide who needs to read my stories and he’ll take care of the details of getting those words to the person He wants to read them.   I’ll never be good enough to deserve the Master’s praise, but I when I reach heaven and approach the His throne, I hope to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  May He say the same of you.

Three Words

I’ve been working on my “Brand” and let me tell you, this is not an easy assignment. The task is to identify three words that will distinguish my writing from other writers. Three words or less that will give my audience an impression or expectation of how my stories will meet their needs.

Brand Branding Marketing Commercial Name Concept

This exercise prompted me to consider my mission. What do I want to accomplish through my writing? Who is my target audience? How will the reader benefit? What expectations have my readers already formed?

I write because I want to share God’s plan for salvation with sensitivity and grace, in a friendly, non-threatening manner. It’s my desire that everyone have hope because they have Christ.

I want my readers to feel as if they’ve spent time with friends.

Two girls are enjoying living room.

The setting for my stories will always be a rural community in the South because that’s what I know.

Coffee table with teacups and tasty pie in garden

What three words would you use to describe my stories and blogs? Why do you read my blog? What is your expectation?


I’m anxious to see your opinions.

Until I post again,