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

Manuscript Formatting

images2K2CCF4GYour manuscript needs to be perfect. There is no place for misspellings, grammar errors, poor formatting, or plain sloppy writing. Once you’ve corrected the problems, present your manuscript in the standard industry format.

Those of you who have been around for a while know what I’m talking about. Newbies, not so much. So here’s the deal.

  • Double-space.
  • Use a 12-point, Times New Roman font.
  • Use 1-inch margins at the top, bottom, and both sides of the page.
  • Use white paper; do not bind it (if you’re submitting a physical copy).
  • Make sure your last name and the page number are on each page.
  • Do not include illustrations.
  • Put the name of your novel, your name, and your contact information (phone number and email address are sufficient) on the title page.
  • Don’t bother with a copyright notice–it’s meaningless and the mark of an amateur.
  • Submit your manuscript electronically as a PDF, not a word document.

While this is the standard format, you should read the submission requirements carefully whenever you present your work to a publisher or agent to ensure it is formatted per their specifications.  Don’t give them a reason to toss your work to the side.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Manuscript Formatting

Your Mind Is A Battlefield!

BrotherWord-Power-of-the-Mind.jpgIf you are constantly looking over your shoulder, you may not finish your novel. You will be too busy battling the thoughts of it not being good enough. No one wants to be humiliated or rejected. Your inner critic will paralyze you by telling you just how bad it really is (even if it’s not).  This is an obstacle that I have had to overcome. It hasn’t gone away, I’ve just learned to deal with it.

I remember doing a Bible study on the battlefield of the mind. Though it’s primary purpose was dealing with spiritual warfare, it also related to many of the issues that we deal with in our everyday lives. Our mind is a battlefield. In writing, for example, all of us worry about looking dumb and never getting published. Fiction writers make a business out of being scared, and not just looking dumb.

It took me six months from the time I started writing my novel, to tell my husband what I was doing. When I finally told him, I was a mess. I knew he would be excited for me and encourage me in my endeavor, and I didn’t want to let him down.

For the longest time, I treated my novel as a hobby. That’s not a mindset that will get you published. When I finished and sent it out to the first few agents, I was more than a little anxious. The first few rejections confirmed my beliefs. I just wasn’t good enough.

Note that I said, “I wasn’t good enough.” Well, that’s not exactly true. The truth is the novel wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t ready. The fact is, it was filled with grammatical and structural errors, there was some serious head hopping going on, and my on-the-nose writing was all but bringing the story to a complete halt. If you are not familiar with these terms you should be. Go back and read the posts I have written or surf the web.

I don’t know that the inner critic will ever go away. So how do you combat it? You keep moving forward and growing in your craft. Don’t stop writing. I still question my novel, but I know, that I know, that I know, that it’s a lot better than it was after the unofficial first draft. I’ve learned the hard way and hope you avoid some of my pitfalls.

-Jan R

Your Mind Is A Battlefield!

Do’s And Don’ts of Dialogue

images-2People Do:

  • People interrupt each other a lot.
  • People Rarely complete a sentence at all.
  • People exaggerate, prevaricate, and lie.
  • People pause. Conversations aren’t continuous, silence is important.
  • People use slang words. They also say uh, um, and yeah a lot.
  • People use profanity.
  • People pair verbal communication with body language.

In real conversations, people also chatter endlessly about nothing, but that’s not something you want to include in your novel. Remember dialogue has to move the story forward.

People Don’t:

  • People don’t make long speeches unless of course, they are making a speech. Conversation involves a lot of back and forth, in very short phrases.
  • People don’t talk in long complex sentences.
  • People rarely talk about things they already know unless a question is asked.
  • People rarely say the name of the person they are conversing with and almost never more than once.
  • People don’t use proper grammar during day to day conversations.

Eavesdrop on conversations at the mall, restaurant, church social, coffee house… I think you’re getting the picture. You can pick up some great examples of dialogue for that next best selling novel you are about to write.

Reminder:  Dialogue and conversation are not always the same. It’s important that you know the differences. I would recommend that you visit my blog: Dialogue Vs. Conversation: They’re Not The Same!.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Do’s And Don’ts of Dialogue

Add Authenticity By Exploiting Experience

untitled.pngAdd authenticity to your writing by exploiting your experiences. Use what you know and what you’ve gone through as a person.

Nicolas Spark’s books are set in North Carolina. Why? He lives in North Carolina. He’s familiar with the towns and the customs of the south.

Beyond settings, think of embarrassing moments in your life where you simply wanted to disappear or have a do-over. Is there something there that could be used with your main character. You should have no problem defining the moment. You went through it and have all the raw emotions tucked away in your brain somewhere.

We all go through cycles in our life. I’m in the midlife cycle and often wonder if I’ll ever be successful or do anything meaningful in life. What is my purpose? Think about putting your characters in similar situations to your own. It will help you to connect with them and understand their thought process.

What are your weaknesses? How might you plunder them for story fodder? I have to admit, I’m a little OCD. One of the characters in my current novel is a little OCD. I almost feel as if I’m cheating while writing her story line, because I know her so well she’s a breeze to write.

Who do you know? What your family and friends do for work may be a useful benefit as well. My novel is set, at least for a short period, in Afghanistan. I’ve never been and never will go, but my stepson is in the marines and spent six months there. He provided a wealth of information to get me through the one chapter devoted to the area.

Think of sensations. I love the smell of lavender, the feel of silk against my skin, the beauty of a newly fallen snow. I love calming instrumentals and the taste of chocolate lava cake. I hate the smell of rotten eggs, the feel of burlap against my skin, the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard and the taste of raisins (Yes I hate raisins, unless theyre smothered in chocolate, then I like them 🙂 ). Use your own experiences to make your character’s reactions believable.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

Add Authenticity By Exploiting Experience

Facebook-It’s A Gold Mine Of Information

untitled.pngAccording to Orly Konig, if you use it wisely, social media isn’t a time suck – it’s a gold mine, and I agree.

Why connect on Facebook when you have a local clan or critique partners? It’s called connections, networking, and support. There’s something for everyone.

  • Critique Groups
  • Genre – Specific Groups
  • Association Groups (Women’s Fiction Writers Association, for example)
  • Marketing/Prom Support Groups
  • Agent/Publisher Groups
  • Event – Specific Groups (Writer’s Digest Annual Conference)
  • Reader-Oriented Groups

Facebook groups are a great place to ask questions and get honest answers. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting out or multi-published, there’s always something to learn.

Keep in mind, as with most things, you get what you put in. If you’re joining a critique group, jump in and critique for others. Answer questions and offer advice if it’s a subject you are comfortable with. Share experiences and encouragement with others as appropriate.

Don’t wait until you’re up against the wall and need help to join a Facebook group. If you only come out of the woodwork when you need something and don’t reciprocate, people will notice. Group members are much more likely to go out of their way to help you if they know and respect you.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

 

Facebook-It’s A Gold Mine Of Information

Infusing Scenes With Tension

images9B8IY8URI love Writer’s Digest. If you’re a serious writer, you should consider subscribing to the magazine. They have great articles from published authors that cover a multitude of subjects-related to writing of course 🙂

I recently picked up a copy of one of my older publications and reread an article by Jordan Rosenfield on building tension, or I guess I should say, quick tips for infusing scenes with tension.

Dramatic tension relies on the reader’s knowledge that something is about to go down – but the details for how or when have yet to be revealed. To create it, you must:

  • Thwart your protagonist’s goals and delay satisfaction.
  • Include unexpected changes without immediate explanation.
  • Shift power back and forth.
  • Throw in a piece of plot information that changes or alters your protagonist.
  • Create a tense atmoshpere through setting and senses.

Tension keeps the reader waiting with baited breath, wondering if the protagonist is going to survive, find love, or achieve his/her goal.

Remember tension keeps your reader turning the page.

Something to think about.

– Jan R

 

 

Infusing Scenes With Tension