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

Times Are Changing-Stay Neutral

untitled.pngSeveral years back I was doing a critique on a ladies work, and the number of times she entered his or her, he or she, was distracting and cumbersome. In my write up of suggestions, I recommended she go with the masculine pronoun to refer to either sex.

Well guess what, I was wrong. The practice of using the masculine pronoun was acceptable back in the day, but as you may know, times change.

So what’s a person to do? Writing his or her, he or she will get old really fast. I can attest to that.  You have to start looking for more gender neutral terms.

                 Sexist Term                                                             Substitution

  • chairman/chairwoman                        chair, chairperson, presiding officer
  • coed                                                          student
  • congressman/congresswoman           congressional representative, legislator
  • forefathers                                             ancestors
  • layman                                                     layperson
  • man/woman                                           person/people, individual
  • man-made                                               synthetic
  • policeman                                               police officer
  • salesman                                                 sales clerk
  • mankind                                                 humanity, humankind, human race

I think you’re getting the picture.

Other options…….

  • Change your wording to plural pronouns.                                                                                 Each teacher should greet all of his or her students by name.                                          Teachers should greet all of their students by name.
  • Substitute he or she with a noun.                                                                                                She needs to go to the back of the line.                                                                                   The doctor needs to go to the back of the line.
  • Reword your sentence to use the first or second person.                                                        If she loses her ticket, she can’t get in.                                                                                     If you lose your ticket, you can’t get in.

I’m a little older, so to be honest, using a masculine pronoun to refer to all sexes does not bother me. However, I do realize we have to change with the times.

As an author you may not have to many situations arise in your novel related to gender specificity, but if you do, this is something to think about .

-Jan R

Times Are Changing-Stay Neutral

Does That ‘But’ Really Need A Comma?

imagesZGN867X5I like to highlight my mistakes. I guess my thought is, if I’m doing it, there are plenty of newbies out there doing the same thing. I like to think I’m not alone 🙂

I noticed something during my current revision that I never saw before. I’m having a  love affair with but. That wasn’t the only problem. There were a lot of commas following that but that shouldn’t have been there. My sentences weren’t compound, but they did have compound verbs.

Compound sentences are made up of two independent clauses that could stand on there on.

We went to a restaurant, and I ordered the chicken salad.

Simple sentences with compound verbs are not compound sentences and shouldn’t be divided by a comma. (This sentence is a great example.) Don’t you want to put a comma after and?

I knew I was wrong but couldn’t help myself.

She ran through the woods and jumped over the fence.

If these simple sentences bother you that much, you can make them compound.

I knew I was wrong, but I couldn’t help myself.

She ran through the woods, and she jumped over the fence.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Does That ‘But’ Really Need A Comma?

Avoid The Dump!

1-11Not to long ago I picked up my first completed manuscript, shook off the dust, and began the revision process yet again. I had become discouraged and didn’t want anything to do with the story.

Truth be known there is nothing wrong with my premise. As a matter of fact, I had a literary agent to tell me it was a really good one. I identified and revised the most blaring of my mistakes, but there was another issue a bigger one that I had missed.

I had made one of the biggest mistakes a new writer makes, and I couldn’t see it. In order for my story to work, I thought it was necessary for the reader to have some backstory. My first 2 chapters were nothing but set up. It was a little history lesson on my main characters to get the reader caught up and make the story easier to follow.

I didn’t want to leave my readers confused. I wanted them in the know. If my reader was familiar with certain aspects of the past, it would also make the story more suspenseful and make them want to know more. At least that’s what I thought.

One thing you need to remember, exposition and backstory can stop the action cold. This is something you can’t afford in the first scene, not when you are trying to convince a reader or editor to buy your book. This doesn’t mean that backstory or exposition isn’t important, it means you can’t drop it all at once, and you can’t start your novel with boring, although important information.

I took my advice and cut those first two chapters. I know that sounds radical, but I decided that I would only giving my reader what they needed to set the stage in the opening pages. I will weave any other pertinent information into  the story once it is underway.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Avoid The Dump!

Rewrite-itis

images559M9THLI got tickled when I first saw this word. I have to admit, I have dealt with rewrite-itis. What is it? It’s a severe condition that effects both published and unpublished writers according to The Everything Guide To Writing A Romance Novel. It means your are unable to call a book, chapter, or even a scene finished. So what causes the condition? A fear of failure or success. For me it is definitely failure.

What are the symptoms?

  • Rewriting the same scene, chapter, or book more than ten times
  • Never finishing a book, because you keep going back to polish the first chapter
  • Constantly having others read your book with the hopes they will give you some revisions to do
  • Taking your finished manuscript to the post office to mail, only to return home with it in hand for further revision

So what do you think? Do you have a case of rewrite-itis?

Rewrite-itis has a close cousin – Research-itis. Maybe you have that one too. True research is crucial to any novel, but an author needs to know when to say “Enough is enough.”

So what is the cure? Set goals and deadlines and stick to them. Remember your manuscript is your baby, but sooner or later you have to turn it loose.

Just something to think about.

-Jan R

Rewrite-itis

Surviving The Sting

I write a lot about rejection, because it is a part of life if you are an unpublished author seeking a literary agent or publishing contract. Many would be authors allow a simple rejection to end their attempts at writing. Their thought – I must not be good enough. Well maybe that’s true, but odds are it is not.

Manuscripts are rejected for numerous reasons, and many have nothing to do with your work. So what are you suppose to do if you receive a rejection?

  • Admit it hurts
  • Allow yourself time to grieve, but never take more than a week
  • Nurture your artist. Read a good book, take a walk, eat some chocolate… TLC is a good thing, but don’t wallow in self-pity.
  • Share your news and disappointment with close friends and family who will understand and offer encouragement
  • If you must, write a rebuttal to the editor or literary agent, but don’t send it. Tear it up and throw it in the trash. Your only response should be a thank you for their time and consideration
  • Remember just because your work wasn’t right for that particular editor or agent, doesn’t mean it won’t be right for another
  • Remember just because it isn’t ready for publication, doesn’t mean you can’t make it publishable

Remember: A writer not being able to deal with rejection, is like a doctor not being able to deal with death. It’s going to happen, and like successful authors, you will have to learn to live with it.

-Jan R

Surviving The Sting

Writing Contests-Yes or No?

Writing-Contest-LogoI haven’t sent my work out to writing contests, but I know many unpublished authors have used them as a tool, and they can be an effective avenue for getting noticed.

If you have contemplated following this route, there are some things to keep in mind that will give you an advantage. Using contests the wrong way are a waste of time and money. Educate yourself on how to make them work for you.

Make sure only your best work leaves the house                                                                        Edit and reedit you work before sending it out to a contest just as you would with a literary agent or editor. It has to be as close to perfect as you can get it.

Make sure you have a compelling hook                                                                                          One of the best ways of increasing your odds in a contest-hook your reader. Pull that contest judge into your manuscript and then leave him/her hanging with an even better hook that leaves them screaming for more.

Color inside the lines                                                                                                                           In other words, follow the rules. A writing contest is not the place to bend the rules and do cute things to make your work stand out. Bending the rules when it comes to point of view or passive voice will generally reduce your score significantly.

Judge the Judges                                                                                                                                     If you are entering a contest with the hope of getting in front of an editor, make sure the editor judge reading your work, works for a publishing house that buys the type of manuscript you are writing.

Know what the judges are looking for                                                                                           Most RWA chapters post their score sheets showing how manuscripts are scored. Review the score sheets and make revisions as indicated to give yourself a better chance of making the finals.

Just some things to keep in mind. As I said, I have not entered any contests but have been mulling over the idea and doing some research.

Would love to hear recommendations from any of you who have entered contests.

-Jan R

 

 

Writing Contests-Yes or No?

Perseverance-Revisited

I’ve read numerous stories from well known authors about their journey to becoming published. I put so much time and effort into my craft, I couldn’t help but feel discouraged and wonder what I was doing wrong when I received rejection letter after rejection letter. Reading their stories encouraged me.

The one common theme in all of their stories was perseverance. The agent that worked with me on my book, always ended her critiques with don’t give up. Perseverance is the one characteristic that all successful writers have.

If you have a high quality, marketable piece of work, persevere and you will eventually find an agent and get published. Kathryn Stockett wrote The Help over a five year period of time, then had three and a half years worth of rejections. 60 in all. It was agent 61 who took her on. The book spent 100 weeks on the best seller list. Not sure if you are familiar with the book but you probably have heard of the movie based on this book.

Other notable Authors who suffered rejection:

  • Richard Adam’s Watership Down 17 rejections
  • Frank Herbert’s Dune  20+ rejections
  • JK Rowlings’  Harry Potter 12+ rejections
  • Nicholas Sparks’  The Notebook 24 rejections.

I hope you are getting the picture.  Revise, edit, do what you have to do to make your story great and don’t give up.

-Jan R

Perseverance-Revisited