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?

So You Thought You Were Finished?

rejectedI read a quote a little while back and thought I would share it on my blog. I don’t know who wrote it. A name wasn’t provided. It reads as follows:

A lot of times that first manuscript needs to sashay out stage left in order for the real blockbuster to break into the spotlight.

If you’ve been working on your novel for a while, you know exactly what this writer was saying. My current manuscript is so different from the original, and while it’s not ready for submission, it is sooooo much better than it was after that first very rough draft.

As a newbie, I had no idea the work involved in creating a masterpiece worthy of publishing. I wrote my book and sent it out. It wasn’t until I started receiving the rejections, and the one response explaining why it wasn’t ready for prime time, that the truth sunk in.

I did have a completed manuscript, a great story, but it was missing the bells and whistles, that something that would make it stand out. Of course, the fact that it was full of grammatical and structural errors didn’t help my case either.

I read another quote years ago that has remained with me and I’ve used in several of my blogs.

Get it done and then get it good.

Don’t expect your first draft to be the final, finished, ready to go version. It won’t be. Once it is completed, the fun begins. At least I hope you enjoy it, since you will be working on that manuscript for quite some time.

If you are new to the writing scene, I would recommend a lot of reading. Not just books in your preferred genre, but also how to books from credible authors. I’ve found some excellent blogs, and of course, the internet is invaluable.

I would also recommend courses on creative writing and writing fiction. I’ve purchased classes through ‘Great Courses’ and ‘Udemy’ that were excellent and inexpensive. I watched webinars and completed a workshop through Holly Lisle on ‘How to revise your novel’.

You don’t know what you don’t know. Know this, your first draft is not ready, and it’s up to you to research, learn your craft, and get it done. Nobody will do it for you.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

So You Thought You Were Finished?

Description Overloads/I Get It Already!

untitledI love doing critiques. Sometimes I think I should have been an editor or professional proofreader.

The one issue that bothers me more than any other when I do critiques, is description overloads, dumps, whatever you want to call them. If you are reading this, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I realize some description and imagery are necessary to help the reader visualize the story, but some people provide page after page of it.

I’m a skipper/skimmer. I own up to it and have stated it as fact in many of my blogs. I don’t want to be, and I don’t like the idea of skimming through pages of writing to get to the good stuff. As a matter of fact, if I pick up a book or go to someone’s writing posted for critique and all I see is paragraph after paragraph of description, I’m not touching it.

Jerry Jenkins says it’s a sin to ask a paragraph of description to stand on its own. Your readers eyes glaze over and then they are gone. He’s written nearly 190 books, including the best selling Left Behind series, so I listen when he speaks.

So, what’s the solution? It’s your job to set the scene, but you want to make sure your readers aren’t skimming the descriptions, or worse, skipping them altogether.

You have to make the description part of the action:

Randall wanted only David to know his scheme, so he pulled him away from the others and onto the deck where he had to raise his voice over the pounding waves. He hunched his shoulders against the whipping wind and wished he’d thought to grab a jacket, knowing they wouldn’t be able to stand it out there for long.

In this example we know the setting because it was incorporated into the action. The author did not take a paragraph to discuss the severity of the storm that was causing massive waves and packing winds at 20 miles an hour.  While Randall is whispering his nefarious plan, your reader is skipping nothing.

I wish I could say I’ve mastered this skill, but I have not. It is a technique I continue to work on. A place I aspire to be one day.

-Jan R

Description Overloads/I Get It Already!

I Thought I Knew A Lot, Until I Learned A Little.

Enough already! At least that’s how I feel sometimes. I’ve been through my book more times than I can count. In my own defense, no one taught me how to write. I had a great story idea and decided to give it a whirl.

I thought it was ready, and then real life happened.  My wonderful work was rejected by the five agents I sent it to. One of the them must of seen something promising, she took it upon herself to provide me feedback about what I was doing wrong (there was a long list), and what I needed to do to improve my work.

I was totally humiliated. Grammatical and Structural errors are kindergarten stuff and completely unacceptable. Even I should have gotten those right. I could understand  my issues with head hopping and on-the-nose-writing. Those terms were totally foreign to me.  I wasn’t a professional novelist. I thought all you had to do was put words on paper and create a wonderful story that everyone wanted to read. How was I to know there were rules?

And what was the deal with dragging dialogue? My people were talking. How was I suppose to know dialogue moved the story forward, or had to have some significance?  I couldn’t believe I sent an agent such inferior work!

When you’re a newby, you don’t know how bad your work is, because you lack the knowledge and skills necessary to produce publishable work. While there may be a few prodigies out there, chances are, you aren’t one of them. Sorry!
Like myself and many others, you’re going to have to pay your dues and learn the craft. Then you will be ready to write that New York Times best seller.

One of my favorite saying is, you don’t know what you don’t know. I’m not sure were I picked that up from, but it’s true. I wasn’t intentionally sending out bad work. I just didn’t know.

I Thought I Knew A Lot, Until I Learned A Little.

Another Set Of Eyes Are Necessary

small-eye-shape-400x400I recently started the revision process on my manuscript. One of many, but more importantly, the first after a year of leaving it on the shelf.

I think the one mistake I was making that surprised me the most, was echo words.  I couldn’t believe it. I know better. I’ve been at this for six years. How in the world could something like that happen?

You would be surprised what you miss. I also missed commas, had commas that didn’t belong, and started some sentences in one tense and ended them in another. Unbelievable.

I don’t know, maybe I’m a bad writer, but I don’t think so. I use to see mistakes on other people’s blogs and think, I can’t believe they missed that. I’m sure I missed stuff too, because I’ve gone back to old blogs and corrected mistakes. I can’t believe I posted them 🙂

You have to step back and get another set of eyes on your work. You are too close to your story.  I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having others review your work. I’m not talking about family and friends, I’m talking about people who will be honest and know what they are looking for.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Another Set Of Eyes Are Necessary

How Long Do You Wait?

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I recently picked up a novel I had worked on for six years. I can’t count the number of revisions I completed on the manuscript. Yet nothing seemed to help. I got discouraged and put it away.

My life had gotten pretty complicated during that time, so I used it as an excuse.  As the weeks went on, I found it easier and easier to let it go. I did  not want to pull that manuscript out. It was a mess and a waste of my time. That’s how I felt anyway.

I didn’t stop writing. I picked up a new project. I had an idea for another novel and began to flesh it out. I also continued reading books written by successful novelists and took some more on-line classes. From my perspective, that first book had a great premise (a fact confirmed by one of the agents who rejected my work), but I just couldn’t see what was going on that made it unpublishable.

So as I stated at the opening, I picked up that novel I had placed on the shelf a year ago and started cutting. I was looking at that work through fresh eyes, and enjoyed muddling through the mess and reorganizing my work.

Most of the blogs I read recommended setting a finished piece of work to the side for a few weeks or a few months, based on the premise it would give you a fresher look at your work and allow you to see those areas that were problematic.

Well, that didn’t work for me. I followed the recommendations, but a few months wasn’t long enough. I know everyone is different, and a more experienced writer may only need a few weeks to a few months before they are ready to roll again. So I am in no way saying you should put your work to the side for a year.

What I am saying, is if you have that masterpiece that started your dream sitting on a shelf, or stored in a remote area of your computer, maybe you should consider pulling it out and reassessing. You may be pleasantly surprised at how quickly the issues that caused that manuscript to fail come to light.

So how long do you put a completed manuscript to the side before the final edit?

Just something to think about.

-Jan R

 

How Long Do You Wait?

Antagonist-Friend or Foe (Revisited)

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My main focus for this particular blog is antagonists. I have two in my novel. One is amnesia, and the other is a young woman determined to marry the man of her dreams, even if he belongs to someone else. She uses his amnesia to her advantage, manipulating and deceiving him.

When you are creating antagonists, you must remember they are people too. Help your reader to empathize with them and understand why they act the way they do. Even bad people have weaknesses and can show love towards others. They are more than just a device to move your plot in a certain direction. Flesh them out!

Get into your antagonists head. Help people to see things from his/her point of view if possible. I write in third person omniscient, which allows me to get into the head of any character I choose, as long as I limit myself to one per scene. If this doesn’t work for you, have your point of view characters mull over and try to understand the antagonist’s point of view. You don’t want him/her to be seen as pure evil.

I have to admit, I’m a ‘Star Wars’ geek. If you’re a follower, you know who Darth Vader is. From my perspective, he is the perfect antagonist. The creator of this series, put a lot of thought into this bad guy. He is pure evil, but as Luke stated, “There is good in you, I can feel it.” Luke was right. Vader wasn’t all evil, as a matter of fact, he started out as a good guy. His motivation for turning to the dark side, was to save his wife.

You want your antagonists to be strong, smart, and capable. At least as much so as your protagonist. This serves to give the story balance and maintain interest.  It also helps to increase tension and suspense. You know the antagonist is capable of defeating the protagonist. The story could go in many different directions.

Back to the ‘Star Wars saga, Darth Vader was  the most powerful of all the Jedi, even though he turned to the dark side and fell under the control of the Sith Lord. His downfall in the end wasn’t his lack of strength, but his return to the light.  He sacrificed himself to save his son. In a split second decision, he destroyed the empire and brought balance to the universe.

Many professionals recommended that you not use abstractions, such as corporations, disease, or war as your antagonists. They are unrelatable, but that’s a blog for another day.

If you do feel the need to use an abstraction, put a human face to it.  Instead of organized religion, you may consider a resentful pastor seeking revenge. Instead of corporate greed, you may consider a Bernie Madoff type. One of my antagonists is a medical condition that a second antagonist exploits to get what she wants.

Hope this post provided a couple nuggets and got you thinking 🙂

-Jan R

Antagonist-Friend or Foe (Revisited)