2-Sentence Hook?

Can you actually hook a reader in two sentences? I have problems with my elevator speech and that’s a lot longer than two sentences. However, the answer is yes, and I know from experience, you had better hook your reader, or literary agent, right away if you want to make a sell.

The next question for me, is how do I write a 2-sentence hook? My story is complicated, and I don’t even know where to begin.

A 2-story hook has three components. These not only provide the gist of your story, but also an abbreviated outline of what you are trying to accomplish.

  1. Character –  Who is your hero or heroine? You don’t want to give that character a name in your 2-sentence write up. Give them an identity.                     Not Anne, but a young orphan girl.                                                                                Not James, but a young boy born into slavery.
  2. Core Desire – What does your character really want? To be loved, respected? To become famous or rich? What is motivating your characters actions? This is something I’ve discussed in previous blogs. It has to be relatable.
  3. Obstacle – The inciting incident threatening the core identity of your hero/heroine. It doesn’t have to be a big problem, but it does have to be big in your character’s mind.

You can embellish your hook by adding more description or upping the stakes (the clock is ticking).

A young corpsman involved in an IED explosion in Afghanistan loses his memory and struggles to regain his identity.  He is misidentified and placed in the home of total strangers.

My first attempt at a 2-sentence hook. It leaves a lot of questions, but I guess that is the hook. Hopefully your reader will want to know more.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

2-Sentence Hook?

Avoid Speed Bumps

1490400252235When you’re writing a novel, you want your story to keep moving forward from beginning to end. If your reader stops at any point while reading, you have set up a speed bump and created an opportunity for your reader to slip out of their suspension of disbelief.

You want them to continue at a nice, smooth pace until the end, accepting every coincidence and slightly questionable story line. They should be lost in the story not in your words.

Common Speed Bumps of Aspiring Authors

Beautified Prose/Written-eese

“The firedrop from the pommel of Tambre’s sword shot past the shimmering silver mist of her involuntary dispersal.”

Now that was a pretty sentence, but you can’t tell me it didn’t slow you down and make you think about what the author was actually trying to say. If you’re like me, you had to read it several times

Trying to impress others with your words is not the way to go. Be natural, be yourself, and it would probably help if you closed the thesaurus as well.

On-The-Nose Writing

Prose that mirrors real life without advancing your story.

Paige’s phone chirped, telling her she had a call. She slid her bag off her shoulder, opened it, pulled out her cell, hit the Accept Call button and put it to her ear.       

“This is Paige,” she said.

“Hey, Paige.”

She recognized her fiancé’s voice. “Jim, darling! Hello!”

We don’t need to be told that the chirp told her she had a call, that her phone is in her purse, that her purse is over her shoulder, that she has to open it to get her phone, push a button to take the call, identify herself to the caller, be informed who it is.  I think you’re getting the point.

Narrative lumps

Prose that comes out of nowhere and does nothing but describe, is known as a ‘narrative lump’. It can bring your story to a stand still and pull your reader out of the action. Instead of progressing through your storyline, they find themselves on the outside looking in.

I’m not saying you can’t use description. Description is good and helps your reader visualize characters, settings, and much more. But it should be used sparingly. It should add to and enhance your sentence, not distract and overtake it.

One word of caution when using research material to make your story more authentic, remember your research and detail are the seasoning for the story. Don’t make them centerstage. You don’t want to overwhelm your readers with unnecessary information.

Head Hopping

If you switch POV characters to quickly or dive into the heads of too many characters at once, it can Jar the reader and break the intimacy with the scenes main character. In other words, going back and forth between POV characters, can give a reader whiplash. You should never have more than one POV character per scene.

You should also avoid run-on sentences, close the thesaurus (I think you know what I’m getting at), and purchase a copy of ‘The Elements of Style’ by Strunk and White-I’m just saying 🙂

 

-Jan R

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avoid Speed Bumps

The First Five Pages

HeaderCreativeExercisesI’ve written before about the importance of the first five pages of your manuscript. If you ever decide to go the traditional route of publishing, the agent usually asks for the first five pages. That’s all he/she needs to evaluate your writing and premise. In those first five pages, they know if they want to continue reading or not. It’s the same with the person who buys your book.

Some editors claim to know whether they are likely to reject the manuscript after reading the opening. Make it count. Make sure the first five pages are rejection-proof.

Using this checklist should help:

Do your first five pages…

  • Have a great opening line that launches your plot?
  • Introduce the hero, heroine, or villain?
  • Introduce your main plot or major subplot?
  • Hint at your main character’s internal conflicts?
  • Have a sense of time and place?
  • Have little or no introspection? Stay out of your character’s mind-focus on the here and now.
  • Have more dialogue than narrative? Don’t start with backstory or information dumps.
  • Leave the reader wondering what will happen next? What’s the hook?
  • Have structurally and grammatically sound sentences?

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

The First Five Pages

Don’t Let Your Sentences Put Them To Sleep!

untitledHave you ever read a paragraph or two of a novel and found yourself yawning, your eyes getting heavy? You probably didn’t get past much more than a few paragraphs before putting it down.

It could be that it was just a boring story with zero conflict and no reason to go on, but it also could have been a very good story with one major problem-Monotony.

Good writers have tricks they use to break up the monotony of their writing. They change subject-verb patterns and sentence length. By mixing things up, they control the pace, add suspense, and keep the story moving forward. It also doesn’t hurt to throw in a hook 🙂

Suzie went to the grocery store. She purchased watermelon and soda pop. She knew her friends were waiting at the park. She would surprise them with a little treat.

Now that paragraph was about as boring as they come. But who’s to say she doesn’t get to the park to find her first love sitting on a bench with a bouquet of flowers and expectations that she will reunite with him, despite the fact that her new love is at the park as well. I guess you will have to hope your reader sticks around to get to the good stuff.

Suzie stopped by the grocery store on the way to the park. She had planned a little surprise for her friends. What she didn’t know, was a little surprise waited for her.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

Don’t Let Your Sentences Put Them To Sleep!

Dialogue Don’ts

images-2I’m still working on the dialogue dos, but I suppose a part of mastering this element is learning what not to do 🙂

  • Don’t use a lot of dialect. It can be really hard to follow and frustrate your reader. Choose one or two words to give the tone and flavor of the dialect you’re going for instead.
  • Don’t repeat in dialogue, what you’ve just said in internal thought. Give your reader a break. Who wants to hear the same thing twice.
  • Don’t let a character explain to another character what they already know. Delete any lines of dialogue that start with “I know you already know this…
  • Don’t allow your character to tell the entire story again to another character when the reader already knows it. Opt to fade out of the conversation. “I went to the gym….” Jason told Marsha the entire story.
  • Don’t us million dollar words or avoid contractions, unless it is a character trait.
  • Don’t repeat names in dialogue. It’s annoying. Once the reader knows you are talking to Marsha, don’t use her name again.
  • Don’t allow your character to give a speech. You have to break it up. use internal thought, other people’s dialogue, or action.
  • Don’t allow everyone to sound the same. Use different speech patterns and word choices to make your characters unique.
  • The biggest don’t- Don’t be boring!

Remember your dialogue should be exciting and provoking. It should keep the story moving forward. Don’t stall out with the everyday humdrum. You don’t have time for pleasantries, and you will lose your reader.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Dialogue Don’ts

Mistakes In Word Choice

untitled.pngI was reading comments from a copy editors’ camp this week, and I thought I would share what was identified as the most common error they cite: mistakes in word choice.

The most common mistakes in word choice are as follows:

  • using which for that and vice versa
  • using affect for effect and vice versa
  • confusing they’re, their, and there
  • confusing your with you’re
  • overusing utilize
  • using between you and I instead of between you and me
  • using compare to when compare with is correct
  • using convince someone to  instead of persuade someone to
  • using its for it’s and vice versa (by far the most common mistake)

There you have it, something else to look for during that revision 🙂

-Jan R

Mistakes In Word Choice

5 Common Mistakes New Authors Make In Their Opening.

  1. Unknown1Leading with the setup. If you’re like me, you thought you needed to give your reader some information up front so they would understand what was going on. I guess it was a little boring, but my reader was well prepared for the good stuff they never got to 🙂 Setup, regardless of how well written, is boring.
  2. Telling too much. Yes, I’m guilty of this one too. Remember backstory and passive voice distance the reader from the action. If your reader’s sense of immediacy is lost, meaning she can’t visualize the events as they occur, you may lose her.
  3. Scenes that lack conflict. You probably guessed I was guilty of this one too 🙂 I had scenes that were nothing but backstory and setup. I really feel bad for the family members and friends I asked to read my finished manuscript.
  4. Writing unsympathetic characters.  Yes, I got this one right 🙂 Readers want to connect emotionally with the heroine and hero. They want to root for them, laugh with them, cry with them. Clearly establish the character’s motivation for behaving in any manner that might make them appear unsympathetic.
  5. Giving the reader a reason to stop reading. Don’t allow a chapter or scene to end on an anticlimactic moment. Always end scenes/chapters with a hook. And yes, I’m guilty of this one too 🙂

Something to think about.

-Jan R

5 Common Mistakes New Authors Make In Their Opening.

Misused Phrases

d4d6ee1756f63c3e26588969cfe33815.jpgWe have all heard phrases that stuck with us. We use them in our writing and speech. Problems arise when we either misheard or remembered the phrases incorrectly. The results  range from humorous to downright confusing.

The Correct Phrase                                           What You’ll Sometimes See or Hear

all it entails                                                            all it in tails

by and large                                                         buy in large

chock full of                                                          chaulked full of

in cahoots with                                                     in cohorts with

amusing anecdotes                                              amusing antidotes

beck and call                                                         beckon call

bated breath                                                         baited breath

beside the point                                                   besides the point

can’t fathom it                                                     can’t phantom it

down the pike                                                      down the pipe

far be it from me                                                 far be it for me

for all intents and purposes                             or all intensive purposes

home in on                                                          hone in on

got my dander up                                              got my dandruff up

had the wherewithal                                        had the where with all

I couldn’t care less                                             I could care less

in like Flynn                                                      in like Flint

moot point                                                         mute point

whet my appetite                                             wet my appetite

up and at ’em                                                   up and adam

tough row to hoe                                            tough road to hoe

supposedly                                                       supposably

shoo -in to win                                                shoe-in to win

over the airwaves                                          over the airways

of utmost importance                                   of upmost importance

recent poll                                                      recent pole

dyed in the wool                                            died in the wool

en route                                                          in route

I think you’re getting the picture.  Before you use those all too common phrases, make sure you have them down. I know I’m guilty of using several of the phrases listed above in the ‘what you’ll sometimes see or hear‘ list.

Something else to check during the revision process 🙂

-Jan R

Misused Phrases

Ask Questions!

imageI have to be honest, I just want an agent to say yes, I will represent you. I’ve had my fill of rejections, but I know, just like anything else in life, you need to do your homework.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions of a potential agent. Knowing the agents expectations in advance of agreeing to work together will help you avoid a nasty breakup.

Find someone who believes in your work, who loves your voice, and whose vision for your future matches your own.

Questions to ask:

  1. Does the agent require a signed agent-author agreement? If so, ask for a copy in advance and review it carefully. Also ask for a copy of the agency clause they will place in the publishing contract.
  2. How does the agent prefer to keep authors informed of submissions?
  3. What happens in the event of the agents death? Verify that the agent has provisions in place to protect your rights.
  4. How many authors does the agent and agency represent?
  5. Does the agent offer editorial feedback? Some authors like for the agent to critique their work.
  6. Does the agent offer career planning?
  7.  Does the agent handle sub-rights, ancillary rights and/or movie rights?
  8. What novels has the agent or agency sold in the past year?
  9. What is the agents normal turnaround time for responding to e-mails and phone calls?
  10. How can the agent-author contract be severed.

There’s no right or wrong answer to these questions with the exception of question 8. The purpose of asking questions is to provide you with the information you need to make  an informed decision and to clarify expectations for yourself and your agent.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Ask Questions!