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 Dumps

Prose that comes out of nowhere and does nothing but describe, is known as a ‘narrative dump’. 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

Balancing Dialogue and Narrative

dialogue-bullesYou have to find the right balance between dialogue and narrative, especially in the first chapter of your novel. While slow to start openings with a lot of narrative were popular at one time, these days, readers prefer a faster-paced opening.

One way to pick up the pace is to add dialogue. If dialogue just doesn’t work for a particular scene, consider throwing in a line or two of internal thought.

I’m not trying to minimize the importance of narrative. It is very important and necessary for the success of your story. Narrative is used to establish background details, setting, tone, and to set up scenes. However, narrative, by its very nature,  will slow the pace of the story and halt the active momentum.  Too many long sections of narrative will eventually bore the reader.

A quick tip for judging if your novel needs more dialogue is to print out the first chapter. If you see long paragraphs with little white space. You need to add dialogue.

If an agent or publisher sees long paragraphs and no white space, odds are, they are going to toss your work to the side. If a potential customer sees long paragraphs and little to no white space while they skim the pages, odds are, that book is going back on the shelf.  Give your reader some action, get the story moving.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

Balancing Dialogue and Narrative

Create Suspense!!!

suspense-headerI’m trying a little experiment this morning. I wrote what I thought was a really good blog on suspense, and I got very few hits. I decided the issue was the title. So for those who read this blog under the ineffective title, I apologize. For those who are reading this blog for the first time, I hope it helps. The title does matter, but that discussion is for another day.

If you want your reader to continue reading, you have to give them a reason why. Draw them in and keep them guessing. The number one weapon in your arsenal to accomplish this feat is the use of suspense.

If you’ve done a good job of developing a character your reader cares about, they are going to hang on to make sure things work out in the end.

There are four main ways to create suspense.

  1. Put the outcome in doubt. Keep your reader guessing. It could end one way, but it could end another. This works best if your reader has a strong connection with the main character.
  2. Make them wait. Don’t show your hand up front. Don’t resolve issues right away. Present the conflict and then take your time presenting a resolution.
  3. Foreshadowing. Hint at what’s to come without sharing the details. Twilight used this technique by opening with the end minus all the details of how and why.
  4. Use a clock. The main character has a limited amount of time to accomplish a task. Will he/she find succeed or fail.

You can mix and match these techniques. You are not limited in your choice. An example would be opening with foreshadowing in the first paragraph and then adding the use of a clock at the end.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Create Suspense!!!

That Word Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does

imagesL95NB2TU There are so many misused words out there I couldn’t possibly list them all, so I concentrated on the ones that I have problems with

I’m sure you have words that would make the list as well 🙂

a lot, alot, allot: There is no such word as alot.  A great number is a lot. If you mean allocate, you use allot.

advice, advise: Advice is what you get, advise is what you do.

aggravate, annoy: If you mean pester or irritate, use annoy. Aggravate means to make worse.

all ready, already: If you mean all is ready, use all ready; if you mean in the past, use already. It already happened.

all right, alright: All right is always two words.

all together, altogether: All together means simultaneously. Altogether means entirely or wholly.

among, between: If only two people are dividing something use between. If more than two people are dividing something use among.

appraise, apprise: Appraise is to give value; apprise is to inform.

bazaar, bizarre: Bazaar is a marketplace; bizarre is strange, weird.

cavalry, Calvary: Cavalry are soldiers; Calvary is the place Christ was crucified.

can, may: Can-physically able to do something; may-you have permission.

climactic, climatic: Climactic refers to a climax; climatic is related to the weather.

council, counsel: Council is an official group or committee; counsel is to give advice.

elicit, illicit: Elicit something is to extract it, bring it out; illicit is illegal.

fewer, less: Fewer means not as many, it is used with countable nouns (cookies, gallons of gas, cars); less means not as much and is used with uncountable nouns (gasoline, money, cake).

forego, forgo: Forego is used for something that has gone before (a foregone conclusion); forgo to do without.

imply, infer: A speaker implies something; a listener infers.

lead, led: Led means in charge of or guided; otherwise use lead.

literally, figuratively: Literally means precisely as described; figuratively means in a symbolic or metaphoric way.

nauseated, nauseous: Nauseous means disgusting; nauseated means sick to your stomach.

set, sit: Set is to place something – there has to be an object; sit is going from standing to sitting in a chair.

Stationery, stationary: Stationery is paper you write on; stationary is something that lacks motion.

supposed to: I included this one because people incorrectly omit the d.

than, then: If you mean next, therefore, or at that time, use then; if you want the word that shows a comparison, use than.

that, which: For clauses that don’t need commas, use that. For nonrestrictive clauses, which need commas, use which.

your, you’re: Your means belonging to. You’re is short for you are.

What words do you misuse?

-Jan R

 

 

 

 

That Word Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does

Don’t Let Words Get In The Way

text-sign-showing-keep-it-simple-motivational-call-conceptual-photo-simplify-things-easy-clear-concise-ideas-written-yellow-sticky-note-p.jpgWrite with your reader in mind. You want to keep things simple: no over the top flowery sentences that belong in poetry not in a novel, no run on sentences that are a paragraph long, or clumsy writing that is hard to understand. When you write this way, you are making your reader aware.

Aware of what you might ask? Your writing. You don’t want your reader cognizant of the fact that they are reading a book. You want them focused on the story to the point that they are walking beside the characters and experiencing their every move.

You want them to continue reading until the end accepting every coincidence and slightly questionable storyline written. We often refer to this as the suspension of disbelief. If the reader is focused on the story and not the writing, they will accept most of what you throw at them without stopping to question its plausibility.

 Remember: Clumsy writing that’s hard to understand makes readers aware. Don’t let the words get in the way of a great story.

-Jan R

Don’t Let Words Get In The Way

Edit, Edit, or Edit – Revisited

imagesI know I’ve posted this before, but it’s been a while, and I thought it was worth being revisited. When you’re a newbie like I was, you don’t even think you have to edit-much. The publishing company has people that will go through and correct your work, making you look like a pro, right?
A few years ago, I ran into an article in Writers Digest that talked about the different types of editing. Yes, there are different types, can you believe that? As a novelist, you need to know what they are.

Developmental Edit – better known as content editing, story editing, structural editing, or substantive editing. This edit looks at the big picture of your novel and focuses on:

  • character arcs/development
  • pacing
  • story structure
  • plot holes or inconsistencies
  • strong beginning, middle, and end
  • plausibility/believability
  • clear transitions
  • point of view
  • showing vs. telling
  • dialogue

Copy Edit – is the one most of us think of when we hear edit. It is completed after the developmental edit and cleans things up. This edit is the line by line with a focus on:

  • grammar
  • punctuation
  • spelling
  • redundant words
  • inconsistencies/continuity errors
  • awkward sentence structure

The proofread- I never thought of a proofreader as an editor, but in all reality he is. The proofreader checks your manuscript for lingering errors, missed commas, and typos. It may be tempting to skip this step or do it yourself. Keep in mind, you’ve read the book so many times you will be blind to any lingering errors. You need an unfamiliar eye.

I’m not sure where you are in the writing process, but you do need to know the proper steps to take before submitting your work. Remember as stated above, you don’t see the errors. You are so familiar with your work the errors become invisible. Your brain actually fills in the holes as you read.

I didn’t have this information and submitted my work to several different agencies after I ‘edited’ it and had a few friends read through it. Needless to say, I got nothing but rejections. I followed up on suggestions, and that’s when I realized just how bad the manuscript was. I couldn’t believe I sent such shoddy work to an agent. I was embarrassed and glad I hadn’t met the agents in person.

Hope this helped!

-Jan R

Edit, Edit, or Edit – Revisited

Find A Good Critique Partner

imagesFHQ2HXNTI’ve talked about critiques and critique partners in the past. If you are a new writer or want to be an author, it is important to have others review your work. Not just for the feel-good effect, but for honesty and constructive criticism.

We don’t always see our mistakes, and as a new writer, you probably don’t know a lot of things that a been around the block a few times writer knows. You are going to make the common mistakes that most newbies make.

One of the issues I ran into was finding critique partners. I have great friends but none of them are writers. Sure they could and were willing to read my work, and I had a few do just that. What they were able to do was comment on my premise and point out plot holes and areas of confusion.

What they weren’t able to do, was say hey, you have POV inconsistencies, dragging dialogue, pacing issues, info dumps…… They knew something wasn’t quite right, but they couldn’t identify the problems.

Another issue you run into is friends and family who want to encourage you and not hurt your feelings. They will tell you your work is great, even when it is lacking and you have broken every rule in the book.

So where do you go to find a true critique partner who isn’t afraid to hurt your feelings and knows what they’re looking for? I use scribophile.com. I enjoy the site. They have many published and unpublished authors working together to help each other prepare their work for publication. You do critiques for others and they critique your work. While it’s a large community, you will more than likely develop a following of two or three people who show an interest in what you are doing and follow you through to completion.

There are other sites out there, but I can’t speak for them as I have not joined their groups. You may also find critique partners in your area through organizations like Romance Writers of America, or Christian Romance Writers of America. Have you checked at your local library? Have you tried googling critique groups in your area, or online?

One caution I would offer. Remember it’s your story, a critique partner should help you catch mistakes, improve your writing,  and may occasionally make suggestions, but they should not be writing your story for you. If they are trying to change your work into something it wasn’t meant to be, you are probably working with the wrong person.

Something else to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

Find A Good Critique Partner

Keep Them Guessing

suspense-headerIf you want your reader to continue reading, you have to give them a reason why. Draw them in and keep them guessing. The number one weapon in your arsenal to accomplish this feat is the use of suspense.

If you’ve done a good job of developing a character your reader cares about, they are going to hang on to make sure things work out in the end.

There are four main ways to create suspense.

  1. Put the outcome in doubt. Keep your reader guessing. It could end one way, but it could end another. This works best if your reader has a strong connection with the main character.
  2. Make them wait. Don’t show your hand up front. Don’t resolve issues right away. Present the conflict and then take your time presenting a resolution.
  3. Foreshadowing. Hint at what’s to come without sharing the details. Twilight used this technique by opening with the end minus all the details of how and why.
  4. Use a clock. The main character has a limited amount of time to accomplish a task. Will he/she find succeed or fail.

You can mix and match these techniques. You are not limited in your choice. An example would be opening with foreshadowing in the first paragraph and then adding the use of a clock at the end.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Keep Them Guessing