Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Guest Writer Author Susan Kaye Quinn

Hi all. Today I'm happy to welcome author Susan Kaye Quinn! Take it away Susan!

Striking Gold With Your Stories
by Susan Kaye Quinn

“Vein of Gold” is a term I’ve borrowed from Kat Falls, author of the outstanding MG SF novel, Dark Life, and an instructor in screenwriting at Northwestern University. She was referring to stories that resonate with you – the ones you would watch again and again when they come on late-night cable. Buried deep in those stories are the themes, characters, and concepts that resonate with you – and can give you insight into the type of stories you should be writing.

To find your vein of gold, try this exercise:
  • List your top 10 favorite books or movies
  • Ask someone else to find the common thread(s)
  • That’s your vein of gold; write stories there
You can try analyzing these stories yourself, but someone else will look at them fresh, with an unbiased eye, and can better uncover the less obvious common threads—the deeply buried tropes, storylines, or concepts— that are drawing you in. You can repeat this exercise for different genres or for plot elements.
Writer Susan Kaye Quinn

I recently did a vein of gold exercise for my top 10 favorite romance plotlines (as suggested by Alexandra Sokoloff in her book Writing Love), which included such non-obvious choices as Hunger Games, as well as more conventional ones like The Proposal. 

Turns Out: I like romances where the hero and heroine are forced together by circumstances, then grow to love each other through trials and tribulations. Identifying that romance trope as one that resonated with me helped to flesh out key elements of my steampunk fantasy romance.

I also performed this exercise with three writer friends during a creativity retreat, and it was fascinating to see the common elements in each other’s lists. Every one of us was surprised what others found, and more importantly, those insights shone a spotlight on areas in each of our manuscripts that needed to be more fully developed.

“Go where the pain is; go where the pleasure is.” – Anne Rice
Anne was talking about your vein of gold. If you dig deep, you might be surprised what you find there. And tapping into the stories that resonate most deeply with you will bring out your best writingand your most fervent fans.

Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling YA SF Mindjack series. Her more grown-up, future-noir Debt Collector serial is a vein-of-gold story if she's ever seen one. Now that Season One of Debt Collector is complete, she can return her attentions to her steampunk fantasy romance, which has been pouting in the corner. And play even more on Facebook

Susan has a lot of degrees in engineering, which come in handy when dreaming up dangerous mind powers, future dystopias, and slightly plausible steampunk inventions. Mostly she sits around in her pajamas in awe that she gets make stuff up full-time. You can find her at www.susankayequinn.com 

What's your life worth on the open market? A debt collector can tell you precisely. The first episode of Debt Collector, Delirium, is FREE

Finally: Oh, before we leave, I read susan’s book Open Mind. You can read my review by CLICKING HERE


  1. Interesting exercise. Would've been helpful before I wrote my series, but I think that turned out all right.

  2. Thanks Susan for stopping by and sharing your Vein Of gold exercise! And good luck with the release and everything!

  3. VERY cool, Susan! I need to do this! We should've done it on that retreat weekend w/Magan instead of talking about Klezmer music and Vonnegut... #nerds ;o) j/k it was a BLAST~ <3

  4. Ooo... I love Susan's thoughts on discovering one's Vein of Gold... what a cool concept. And GREAT quote by Anne Rice. <3

  5. What a great way of framing our passions. I went through that a bit last year and the beginning of this year as I dug to truly find my writing passion, but I wish I'd had that paradigm to guide my exploration. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You'd be surprised how often I use this - for a new story, or even a subplot within a story. It's great for overall guidance as well - as you note - but don't restrict yourself to that! It's a great general brainstorming tool. :)

  6. Great point! i've realized this as well with old sitcoms that were my fave. Pinpointed what thrills me about certain characters and settings.

  7. I'm going to try this with my wife. I'll pick a few different genres and who knows maybe I'll come u with a.concept for a.few new books.

    1. Sounds awesome! Plus, she knows you, so she'll have insights into your choices as well. :)

  8. That's a cool experiment.


  9. Hi, Susan! That's an interesting exercise. I'll definitely give it a try.

  10. sounds like susan has many ways to take her vein! and i have more to read! i love noir!

    and stephen, thanks for all your positive comments everywhere!

  11. I think the Vein of Gold exercise seems a really worthwhile idea to pursue. I just downloaded Delirium, will see how I get on with it. Thanks.