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

Genre Word Count Guide

1493414357331You ever wonder how many words you need to have an acceptable novel? Well, it varies depending on the genre. I pulled the following list from Writer’s Digest and The Manuscript Appraisal Agency. There are slight differences in their numbers, but they are within the following range.


  •  Flash Fiction                                                   500
  •  Novella                                                             10,000 – 40,000
  • Adult Mainstream Novels                              80,000 – 100,000
  • Adult Mainstream Novel Deal Breakers     fewer than 70,000 and more than 110,000
  •  Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy              90,000 – 120,000
  •  Romance                                                           50,000 – 100,000
  •  Mystery/ Crime/ Horror                                 70,000 – 90,000
  •  Historical Fiction                                             100,000 +
  •  Young Adult                                                      50,000 – 80,000
  •  Upper Middle Grade                                       40,000 – 55,000
  •  Middle Grade                                                    20,000 – 55,000
  •  Picture Books                                                    32 pages; 500 – 600 words

Hope this helped.

– Jan R


Genre Word Count Guide

Who Versus Whom (Revisited)

imagesFOEFOFTLAm I the only person who has a problem with who versus whom? Fortunately, I don’t use sentences requiring these words that often, but when I do, I become paralyzed. I’m not sure. I usually read through the sentence a few times using both words and pick the one that sounds better to me. There is nothing scientific about that. It simply boils down to preference.

This week I ran into a method to determine which word is correct, who or whom, and thought I would share my findings on this blog.

  1. Look at the clause associated with the who or whom. A clause is a set of words with a subject and a verb.
  2. Scramble the words of the clause (if you have to), so that they form a statement and not a question.
  3. Substitute either he or him for who or whom. If your sentence is about females, substitute males for the sake of your mnemonic.


  • (Who, Whom) called you last night?                                                                                     This sentence has only one clause, so all you need to do is see if it’s necessary to scramble the words to make a statement. You don’t. Once you substitute he or him you have a statement.                                                                                                                  He called last night.                                                                                                                      Him called last night.                                                                                                                    He called last night is the obvious choice. Who is the correct answer.                     Who called last night?          

***Look at the last letter of he and him to determine if you are using who or whom.

he = who

him = whom (they both end with the letter ‘m’)

  • (Who, Whom) were you calling last night?                                                                         This sentence has only one clause, but it does need to be scrambled to make a statement.                                                                                                                                       You called he last night.                                                                                                         You called him last night.                                                                                                      You called him last night is correct, so the original sentence reads as follows:   Whom were you calling last night?

Let’s try a trickier example:

  • Sarah was concerned about (Who, Whom) her daughter would be paired off with in the dance competition.                                                                                               This sentence has two clauses, but you’re only concerned with the one containing Who,Whom.                                                                                                                      Scramble the words to make a statement, and substitute he, him for who, whom.         Her daughter would be paired off with him in the dance competition.                            Her daughter would be paired off with he in the dance competition.                                   Him was the obvious substitute, so we are going to use Whom.                                         Sarah was concerned about whom her daughter would be paired off with in the dance competition.

Still a little complicated, but hope this helps 🙂

-Jan R

Who Versus Whom (Revisited)

Looking For An Agent?

untitled.pngYou’re coming to a close on your manuscript and have started thinking about agents. If you go the traditional route, you are going to want one. Where are they? How do you find one that would be a perfect fit for your work?

You could ask a friend, but odds are they will have no idea. You could go to conferences and hope to bump into one or maybe even by time for a short critique or pitch, but your best bet is the internet. It offers a wide range of information on agents and publishing houses. Unlike authors of the past, you have the world at your fingertips.

Take out the keyboard and start typing.

Association of Authors Representatives, Inc – AARONLINE.org     This site contains over 400 literary and dramatic agents, who have pledged to adhere to the association’s high standards of professional conduct in serving their clients.

Manuscript wishlist – MANUSCRIPTWISHLIST.COM    Agents and editors provide in-depth information on what they are looking for, their profiles and bios, along with submission guidelines.

QueryTracker – QUERYTRACKER.NET    This free site gives you access to over 1,600 agents, explores agent data, and keeps track of the queries they send out.

LIT REJECTIONS – LITREJECTIONS.COM   This site provides a list of submission guidelines for more than 350 literary agencies. The website also offers articles and interview making it an excellent resource for authors looking to get published.

There are other sites out there. I recommend you do your homework. I’ve provided a few of the better ones to get you started. Association of Authors Representatives was voted the best of the best by Writer’s Digest.

If you have a literary agency or agent in mind, go to their page. They will provide submission requirements, and let you know if they are accepting queries.

Hope this helps.

-Jan R

Looking For An Agent?

Keep Them Turning The Page

HeaderCreativeExercisesThink about the books you have read.  What motivated you to continue to the end? What kept you turning the pages?

We all want our books to be purchased, but more importantly read to conclusion. We want our readers to be absorbed by the storyline unable to put the book down.

I read an interesting article in Writer’s Digest this past week by Steven James. The article covered the 5 factors that keep readers turning the page. You can probably guess a few of them and have no doubt put them to work in your novel. Did you do it intentionally, or did the factors result as a product of happentance? Either way, I hope you have at least one of the first 4 in your work.

5 factors that keep readers turning the page.

  1. Curiosity – Make your reader wonder and want to know where the story is going. Provides intellectual engagement. Used often in Mysteries, it is a great way to create intrigue.
  2. Concern – The reader worries about where the story is going. Provides emotional engagement. Often found in Suspense, it is a great way to create tension.
  3. Anticipation – The reader can’t wait to see where the story is going. It provides future enjoyment. It’s often found in romance and requires a satisfying climax.
  4. Entertainment – The reader doesn’t care where the story is going – it’s that good. It provides current pleasure. It’s often found in humor.
  5. Obligation – I have to finish this because I started it and/or it was assigned by a professor. There is usually limited to no investment for the reader. It is often found in classics/literary.

There you have it. Which factors are you using? Something to think about.

-Jan R

Keep Them Turning The Page

Make A Decent Proposal

imagesI know you may feel helpless at times. You’ve written an exciting adventure and edited it so many times you’ve lost count. You know you’ve produced a publisheable piece of work, so why isn’t it published. I’ve been there – done that.

Remember that your work being accepted by an agent often times has nothing to do with the novel itself. How many times have you had a rejection letter following the request for the full manuscript? That agent made the decision that they liked or disliked your idea before they even started reading your novel.

That’s the importance of the query letter and getting those first few pages of your novel right. Keep in mind that most agents receive over 10,000 queries a year. They don’t have the time to give to every submission they get.

Don’t make it easy for them to toss your work before they’ve given it consideration. That query has to be as polished as your manuscript. You don’t send out your first draft of a novel? That’s what it is – a rough draft. At least I hope you don’t. I have to confess I did.

One of the many rejection letters I received was nice enough to inform me that the novel wasn’t ready for publication, and proceeded to provide a long list of reasons why. The agent did like my premise 🙂 and made it through the query without tossing it. That’s probably why she took the time to respond.

There is a formula to get that query right. First and foremost, follow the submission guidelines of the agent or agency you are querying. Don’t give them more or less. If they want more information or to see the manuscript, they will request it.

There are workshops available and unlimited information on the internet on how to compile a successful query. Do your homework. When you finish that novel, you are not finished.

Something to think about.

-Jan R



Make A Decent Proposal

You Can’t Do This Alone!

1I remember my middle sister as a child. She was the kid who sat in the corner with her nose in a book, didn’t play well with others, well to be honest,  didn’t want to play at all.  Her friends were imaginary. I always thought that she was a little strange, and she probably was, but she is also one of the most talented writers I know.

You haven’t heard of her or read any of her work. Why, because she writes in a vaccuum. I have encouraged her for years to reach out and join the writing community.

She is an introvert, like most of us who seem to enjoy the keyboard much more than a group of pretentious people. I would be okay with that if she belonged to writing groups, or had people she related to that could help motivate her to move forward with her skill.

You don’t have to interact with others face to face, at least not at first. If that’s not your cup of tea, go online. Join writing groups and form relationships with other author want-to-bes. There are some great ones out there that cater to just what you’re looking for.

Critique groups:

  • Scribophile.com
  • AbsoluteWrite.com
  • CritiqueCircle.com

I am a member of Scribophile. It’s a great site to seek critiques and suggestions from fellow writers. Members on this site operate at different levels of expertise. I have gotten some great feedback, but I have also received feedback that was not up to par. I was pleasantly surprised at the community in the group and the willingness of total strangers to help me with my work.

Genre-Specific groups:

  • Romance Writers of America  rwa.org
  • Mystery Writers of America    mysterywriters.org
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America   sfwa.org

I think you’re getting the picture. I was a member of Romance Writers of America and need to renew. You can get excellent information and discounts from these sites. They will keep you informed on contests, conferences, writing groups/forums, what’s selling, agents looking for new works, and information on how to improve your craft.

You can’t do this alone. Plug in!

Something to think about.

-Jan R


You Can’t Do This Alone!

Stand Up To The Challenge

Cb3l1HoVAAEOgtTI’m a procrastinator. At least I am when it comes to writing. I know that sounds bad, and I know that it has held me up. I’ve been told by agents as well as published authors that the key to success is simple. Don’t give up!

We don’t start out thinking I’m going to give up. It festers and builds slowly in our psyche and often we don’t even realize it’s happening.  We begin to procrastinate. We lose interest, get tired, or become discouraged. Nothing seems to work. Allowing any of these feelings to take root, can all but terminate a work in progress.

We move on to another project thinking we need a break but never return. This may be a good idea in some instances, but a lot of times this break is used as an excuse, an escape if you will from our fear of failure.

I’m embarrassed at times to tell people how long I’ve worked on Always and Forever. Why has it taken so long? I’ve allowed myself to become discouraged. I have taken breaks – sometimes necessary, but other times to get away from a project that has become overwhelming to me.

I’m at the point where I have to decide what I’m going to do. We all have a limited amount of time. Am I going to waste mine procrastinating and running away from things I want to do but don’t because they appear to be too hard, or am I going to stand up to the challenge and face my nemesis head on?

My decision is to stand up. I hope yours will be too.

-Jan R


Stand Up To The Challenge