It Works For Me. Linda Huber Shares Her Personal Writing Rules.

Posted on 20th May, 2016

Have you ever read a book that you subsequently gave copies of as presents to fellow readers? For me, one of these books is The Cold Cold Sea by Linda Huber. It is a novel of psychological suspense that is quite simply superb, not least because it is that very rare thing in the world of fiction - it is unpredictable. It was the first of Linda's books that I read and although I can also recommend the others, The Cold Cold Sea remains my favourite. So I am delighted to welcome Linda to my website this week to talk about her personal writing rules.


Thank you, Susanna, for inviting me to your website – my first visit to sunny Wales! And I see I’m in great company in your ‘writing rules’ feature. It’s lovely to learn how other authors work.

I think writing is very much a ‘learn as you go’ process, and the person I’ve learned most from since being published is my editor, who I ‘met’ in 2011 when I sent The Cold Cold Sea to the Writer’s Workshop. We’ve now worked together on four books (all except my first), and I’m getting ready to hit her with another later this summer. So I guess that’s my rule number one: Find someone whose input helps you grow in the direction you need to grow in.


A completely different ‘rule’, but it works for me: Have something at hand to suck while you’re writing.
My favourites are Aldi Yoghurt and Fruit sucky sweeties. They’re not calorie-free so I don’t eat millions, but five or six a day help get the creative juices flowing. I’m sure I read somewhere that our brains work better when our jaws are active…


Rule three would be: Keep a list of over-used words and expressions.
You know, things like: just, that, really, only, actually, surely etc etc. My characters also have a terrible habit of wincing, frowning, sighing, raising their eyebrows, and gripping each other’s elbows… They pull faces quite a lot too. I don’t worry about this while I’m writing, but when the first draft is finished I go back and check through the list – easy with the ‘find’ function on Word.

Rule four: Love your characters, even the bad guys.
Or maybe
that should be, especially the bad guys – because if the author doesn’t love them, nobody else is going to take them seriously. I think it’s true that if a ‘bad’ character is given something to make them seem human, people will find them more realistic, and that’s what we want. No one is all bad. For instance, in The Cold Cold Sea, my character Phillip does a truly terrible thing, but I hope no one hates him for it. I howled writing the end of that book because I really care what happened to him especially.


My first two books are trade published, so my publisher organised the cover images. Then I switched to self-publishing, so my last rule is about this: Find a great cover designer.
It’s so hard to get noticed amongst the millions of books out there, and it doesn’t help if your book cover disappears in the middle of all the others. I found fabulous covers for my first two self-published books (The Attic Room, and Chosen Child), and as they were pre-made, they didn’t cost the earth. And I’ll let you into a secret – I made minor changes to the books to fit in with these covers. In The Attic Room, the door handle originally played a part in the story, but the handle on the image was quite different. So I changed the focus in my text to the wooden ‘T-Bar’ on the door. Easily done. And that butterfly on Chosen Child… it wasn’t a butterfly in the early drafts of my book, it was an angel – but in fact, a butterfly works even better!

Linda Huber's links:


Linda's website

Her Twitter page   

Her Amazon author page  


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Comments (9)

Great tips, Linda. I especially like the suggestion of keeping a list of over-used words then doing the find to check exactly how much you've over-used them. Must do that one!

Absolutely love the covers of your indie books. Look forward to reading these.
Best wishes
I'm delighted (or should that be really delighted) you feel you are gaining from this series, Jen. It is interesting to see how many similar ideas come up - I think that makes us all feel better! But also, various writers have produced "rules" that are different to anything anyone else has come up with, and that gives us all something to think about. Thanks as always for dropping by.
Hi, Cinthia. Like you, I am hugely impressed that Linda made changes to her novels because of the cover illustrations - it shows how much she loves her covers and trusts the designer. Thanks for commenting.
This is a wonderful series, Susanna, and I'm learning from all your guests. Thanks, Linda, for sharing this week. The point you made about learning from your editor "really, really" (note one of my over-used words!) resonated with me. Thanks to my editor's input, I've grown a huge amount as a writer, and I've only been working with her for less than a year.

As for exercising my jaws while writing? I eat almonds!
Nice post, Linda! Love that you made minor changes to your books to fit the cover. (What's that old expression, Don't judge a book by its cover? Well, maybe one should, eh?) Cheers and take care.
Oops! Sorry blog not quite ready to be published yet but will be tomorrow morning after a bit more work. I, too, love the blue of the cover on 'Chosen Child', Sue. Thank you, Linda, for recommending Cover Collection. :-)
Thanks, Sue and Jan! I love doing the covers - I work with the fabulous Cover Collection. It feels like the really fun bit after all the editing. I was afraid the Chosen Child cover was going to be a hard act to follow, but we've just completed the next one and while it's very different, it's striking, too, and that's what you need. I'll go now and have a look at your book covers post, Jan!
I think Chosen Child has a beautiful cover - that shade of blue is just perfect. Covers are so important. Thanks for your comments, Jan. It's always good to hear from you. I'll pop over to your blog and see what your thoughts are on book covers.
Thank you for a great post, Sue and Linda. I love the sound of your psychological thrillers, Linda, and found I could relate to your writing rules, too. I like the idea of the 'learning as you go' process and I'm fortunate to be part of a very supportive critique group which meets locally. Your last point about finding a great cover designer is particularly interesting as my blog post this week is all about cover designs.