6 Ways to Hook your Reader from the Very First Line

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I’d like to take a quick second, and wish everyone a great writing conference experience this weekend! Do ya’ll have butterflies yet? Are ya’ll panicking that you forgot to pack something? It’s crazy to think that it’s been a whole year since I was doing the exact same thing as all of you. Like I said before, just relax and have a great time!!! I’ll be thinking about ya’ll! I would love to hear some experiences when ya’ll get back!

So, on to our subject today. Obviously, it’s important to keep your readers interested. Sure, not all of your book is going to keep your reader on the edge of their seat (well, unless it’s an intense thriller or mystery). But, let’s face it, there will possibly be a slow paced part in your manuscript. That’s cool. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But, you need to make sure that it’s not excessive or lingers throughout your manuscript. The worst thing a writer can do, is fill the pages with words just for a word count. You don’t want your reader to start skipping or skimming over pages. It can happen in all sorts of ways, starting with too much description, or dialogue that doesn’t really have a purpose. With the snap of your fingers, it can cause your reader to sit your book down and move on to the next. Believe me, there are plenty of choices for them out there. Don’t aid them in choosing a different book.

But, before you start worrying about the middle or end of your manuscript, the valleys and peaks of it, you must concentrate on capturing your audience with the first few pages. This is very important as well, when searching for a literary agent. Agents are VERY busy, and if you can’t grab their attention in the first single page, some will simply move on to the next manuscript in front of them.

Something they said at the conference that stuck with me, is that every reader who picks up a book, goes through a process when they’re interest is sparked. The cover or title of the book catches their eye first, then they flip the book over to the back. Still intrigued, they move to the inside jacket flap, and if you’ve hit gold, igniting their interest even more, they begin to read the first page or first few pages. This, is where you get them hooked. So, the question is, how do you do that? How do you capture your readers, whether it’s a literary agent or a bookstore customer, from the very beginning?

I found this article by, Suzannah Windsor Freedom, about how to do just that.


Although I consider myself an avid reader, I must admit I have a short attention span when it comes to getting into books. If you fail to grab my attention in the first few lines, I start spacing out.

Most readers are like me. Most people don’t want to spend the first 50 pages trying to get into a book.

Here are a few things I find annoying in the first lines of a story:

  • Dialogue. Nice somewhere on the first or second page, but not in the first line. We won’t know who’s speaking or why we should care.
  • Excessive description. Some description is good, but not when it’s long winded. Skip the purple prose and opt for something more powerful.
  • Irrelevant information. The first few lines of your story are crucial, so give your reader only important information.
  • Introducing too many characters. I don’t like to be bombarded with the names of too many characters at once. How are we supposed to keep them straight when we don’t know who’s who?

The last thing you want to do as a writer is annoy or bore people. Instead, try one of these 6 ways to hook your readers right off the bat:

(N.B. One of the easiest ways to check out the opening pages of nearly any book you want is with the ‘Look Inside!‘ feature on Amazon.com.)

1. Make your readers wonder.

Put a question in your readers’ minds. What do those first lines mean? What’s going to happen? Make them wonder, and you’ll keep them reading.

2. Begin at a pivotal moment.

By starting at an important moment in the story, your reader is more likely to want to continue so he or she can discover what will happen next.

  • “It was dark where she was crouched but the little girl did as she’d been told.” ~Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden
  • “I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.” ~Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

3. Create an interesting picture.

Description is good when it encourages people to paint a picture in their minds. Often, simple is best so it’s the reader who imagines a scene, instead of simply being told by the author.

  • “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” ~Daphne DuMaurier, Rebecca
  • “She stands up in the garden where she has been working and looks into the distance.” ~Michael Ontaatje, The English Patient

4. Introduce an intriguing character.

The promise of reading more about a character you find intriguing will, no doubt, draw you into a story’s narrative. Most often, this is one of the main characters in the book.

  • “I was born twice: first as a baby girl on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” ~Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

5. Start with an unusual situation.

Show us characters in unusual circumstances, and we’ll definitely be sticking around to see what it’s all about.

  • “They had flown from England to Minneapolis to look at a toilet.” ~Nick Hornby, Juliet, Naked
  • Last night, I dreamt that I chopped Andrew up into a hundred little pieces, like a Benihana chef, and ate them, one by one.” ~Julie Buxbaum, The Opposite of Love

6. Begin with a compelling narrative voice.

Open your story with the voice of a narrator we can instantly identify with, or one that relates things in a fresh way.

  • “As I begin to tell this, it is the golden month of September in southwestern Ontario.” ~Alistair MacLeod, No Great Mischief
  • “I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.” ~Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants

No matter how you start your book, keep your readers in mind. What will make them want to continue reading? What will potentially make them put down your book?

How does your favorite book open, and what makes it so compelling?


Hope everyone has a stupendous, exhilarating weekend!!

Happy Writing, Editing, Pitching, and Conferencing Ya’ll!!

Hot Summer Fun with the Animals!

If any of you are from the South, then you know how blistering hot its been the last month. I mean, like, I literally sweat walking from my car to the entrance of the grocery store. This summer in particular, I don’t think it matters where you are. It’s HOT! Now, imagine putting on a fur coat as you walked into the store. I wouldn’t make it.

If you’ve read any of my blogs, you’ve probably figured out that I love writing, reading, and animals. I thought since most of us have the Monday Blues, I would mix it up a bit, and show you some fun ways our wonderful furry creatures stay cool in the summer. Enjoy!!

Here, polar bear Yoghi wrestles an ice cake at Hellabrunn Zoo in Munich, Germany, on July 1.

A white tiger enjoys a frozen meal at Dusit Zoo, known as Khao Din, in Bangkok on April 22. Hot weather come early to Thailand in this year, with averages of nearly 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degree Celsius) in most areas.
A worker splashes water on elephants to cool them off at the Karachi Zoo, in Pakistan, on June 24. Caretakers at Karachi’s zoo were working to keep animals cool during a deadly heatwave insouthern Pakistan. The human toll from four days of sweltering conditions rose into the thousands. Large animals — including elephants from Tanzania, white lions, and tigers from Bengal — have been deeply distressed due to the “unbearable” heat, said Tazeem Naqvi, a director at the facility.
A giraffe gets a cold shower in Ouwehands Dierenpark (Ouwehands Zoo) in Rhenen, Netherlands, on June 30. The animals in the zoo get regular refreshments when temperatures soar into the 80s.
 A tiger beats the heat by embracing a large lump of ice at the Karachi Zoo on June 24.
 A mandrill studies its iced fruit in Ouwehands Dierenpark (Ouwehands Zoo) on June 30.
A chimp splashes to cool off at the Karachi Zoo as temperatures soared toward 105 degrees F.
monkeys drinking water
Monkeys drink and play in tap water at the Wulongkou resort in China.
gray hanuman langur eating block of ice and frozen fruit
There’s nothing like a cold, fruity treat on a hot summer day. This gray hanuman langur certainly seems to be enjoying the fruit-filled “ice cream bomb” given to him by zookeepers at the zoo in Hanover, Germany.
panda bear playing with large block of ice
A panda at the Wuhan Zoo in China keeps cool as it rolls around with a large block of ice.
monkey eating watermelon
 Nothing says summer like a juicy slice of watermelon. This snub-nosed monkey at the Shaanxi Wild Animals Rescue Center in China digs into a piece of fresh fruit and enjoys the center’s air conditioning.
gorilla eating popsicle
 Everyone loves a popsicle! Effie, a female western lowland gorilla at the London Zoo, indulges in a fruit-flavored ice block.
lemurs licking watermelon
Three ring-tailed lemurs lick the juice from a piece of watermelon at Hangzhou Safari Park in China.
monkey drinking from water bottle
 A macaque monkey raises a toast to summer as he takes a sip of a plum-favored drink at a zoo in Tianjin, China.
hippo being fed watermelon
A zookeeper at a Chinese zoo hand feeds a hippo an entire chilled watermelon to help cool it down. That’s one pampered hippo!
Hoped ya’ll enjoyed my little photo gallery! Stay cool everyone! Happy Writing Ya’ll!

What should I Blog about??

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So if there are any of you out there, like me, who is a complete rookie when it comes to blogging, this is the article for you! I’ll tell you that before I went to the Writer’s Digest Conference, I had no idea even what a blog was. Apologies, to all you tech savvy people out there, I just didn’t know. My bad.

When I did figure it all out, I was of course, totally overwhelmed in what to do or say in my blog. Yes, obviously, if you’re a writer who wishes to get published in the future, a social media platform is quite important. The more followers, the better. Agents and publishers look at this.

However, I wanted my blog to be more than just trying to accumulate as many followers as possible. Don’t get me wrong, followers are fantastic! Shout out and a huge thank you to all the people who are following me! Ya’ll are the best! But, more than that, I wanted to be able to help other writers in their journey. Share with them tips, information, and my own experiences to help them along the way. I know how much writers blogs and other great writing articles helped me in the beginning, and even still today. Like I said, as a writer, there will always be more for you to learn.

Hope this article by, Amy Lynn Andrews, helps some of you as you embark on writing and blogging! Happy Friday!

How to Decide What to Blog About

Unless your blog is strictly for your own enjoyment, you’re probably hoping to gain readers. So, it’s important to consider what others might want to read.

I’ve been watching the blogosphere for years. Below are five overarching areas that seem to attract the most readers. Below that are some practical tips for choosing your own blog topic.

WHAT READERS WANT

  1. Readers want to solve a problem

What do people get frustrated about? Do you have a solution? This is how my blogging took off. I talked to a lot of bloggers who loved to write but got frustrated with the techy side of blogging. I knew I could help solve this problem by sharing blogging tips, tools and tutorials in a non-techy way.

  1. Readers want to relieve their fears

What are people afraid of? How can you help ease those fears? Maybe you’re a parent who has lost a child. It’s a real and valid fear for a lot of parents. Sharing your story of hope and healing could be very helpful for many people. Or maybe you can offer help to those facing job loss or financial disaster.

  1. Readers want to learn something new

What would people love to do if only they knew how? What do you know that you could teach them? Maybe you’re a whiz at crocheting, you have a knack for writing or you have a unique way of teaching math that makes it easy to understand. A lot of people have projects around the house they would gladly tackle but aren’t sure where to start. Teach them.

  1. Readers want to reach a goal

What are common goals people have? Have you set and reached some significant goals? Can you spell out how you did it and inspire others on their journey? Fitness and weight loss come to mind here, as well as getting out of debt. Pursuing big goals can be disheartening and lonely. Knowing someone else has been there does wonders.

  1. Readers want to be entertained

Do you have a fascinating story? Do you lead a wildly interesting life? Are you outrageously funny? Everyone needs down time and plenty of blogs exist purely to entertain. I’d say this is a trickier path to pursue since there’s no shortage of entertainment to be had on the internet, in magazines and on TV, but it’s doable. The key is providing something totally unique. Of course as a bonus, you could be entertaining and helpful at the same time. For example, if your family raises llamas, talk about how you raise llamas not just that you raise llamas. Entertaining + helpful = a great combination.

Related: How to Blog: Step-By-Step Guide

BLOG TOPIC TIPS

Now that you know what others are looking for, here are some tips to decide where your interests might overlap and therefore make a good blog topic.

Is my blog idea a good one?

This is a difficult question to answer, mostly because it’s the wrong question. Unless your proposed blog topic is of interest to only a couple of people in the world because it’s so specialized, it’s likely a good idea. But two bloggers can have the very same idea, start the same type of blog, at the same time, in the same niche and have very different outcomes. The real question is, are you willing to put in the time and effort to stand out? It will absolutely take lots of both.

Write for others

A lot of new bloggers fail to think beyond their own interests when starting a blog (see above). Your blog should undoubtedly be an extension of you, but if you’re not writing for the benefit of others at the same time, you might as well just keep a diary.

Pick a niche

Instead of just writing whatever comes to mind, try to write around a general topic. (This is called your niche.) Not only will it be easier to stay on task, it’ll be a lot easier for readers to track with you.

While not required, a niche provides focus and direction, making your blog’s purpose easily understood and defined, not only by you, but by your visitors as well.

Is this niche too broad or too specific?

If your blog’s topic is too broad, it’s hard to compete with, and stand out from, all the other blogs and websites in your niche. On the other hand, if your topic is too narrow, the pool of interested readers will be too small to gain any traction.

For example, “photography” is a very broad topic. On the other hand, “photography in 50-Person Town, USA” doesn’t give you a very large audience. “Black and white photography” is better. “Black and white photography in National Parks” is better still. “Black and white photography in Yellowstone” might be even better. The goal is to find a topic with a good number of interested people and plenty of potential subtopics, but a topic that not so many other people are writing about. Do some research and googling to narrow it down.

Is this niche saturated?

Back in the day, when there weren’t so many blogs online, you could almost pick any topic and run with it. Now, not so much. There are definitely niches that are really, really full and therefore, difficult to break into. How do you know? If you can easily find several dozen popular blogs on the topic, you might rethink your topic.

However, just because a niche is big doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to choose it. After all, a large niche means there’s a market for it. Spend time watching the main players. Knowing your way around will help you fine-tune the “thing” that will make you stand out.

Are readers in this niche willing to spend money?

If you hope to generate income, this is an important question. Think about the intersection between your niche and your audience. For example, if you’re hoping to promote high-end clothing products, it’s probably not a great idea to target struggling college students. Another way to look at it: are other blogs in this niche earning money? Finding this out is easier said than done, but keep your eyes and ears peeled. Do those blogs have advertisers? Are the blogs active, engaging and growing?

Do you have plenty to blog about?

Choose a topic that you can write about regularly and indefinitely. Remember, you’re in this for the long haul. If you post once a week, that amounts to 52 posts a year. Three times a week? 156 posts. Five times a week? 260 posts.  And that’s just barely getting started! Don’t choose something so narrow that you run out of writing fodder after only a few weeks or months.

A good way to test this is to brainstorm possible posts or subtopics pertaining to your main blog topic. If you can easily come up with a list of several dozen with additional ideas about how to branch out, it’s probably a good sign. If, however, you can’t think of many, you might need to rethink your choice. Another way to work around this problem is to have  a multi-author blog.

Rock your ninja-ness

If you aren’t sure you have much to offer, I love what Sonia Simone says, “Even if you’re only pretty good, but not a ninja, you’re still a ninja to someone.” Find that thing about which you have a decent amount of know-how and go with it. Chances are there are others who will appreciate what you have to say.

Choose a topic you are genuinely passionate about

If you don’t have a genuine interest in what you’re writing about, it will be a drag and a burden. If you talk about the topic among your real life friends and they just want you to be quiet already, it’s a great topic to blog about.

Choose a niche in which you can be an authority

The key here is to think smaller. I’ve always been impressed with Carrie from Springs Bargains who did just this. She started a deal blog, but instead of starting a general one like so many others, she purposefully targeted Colorado Springs. She is absolutely the authority on deals in Colorado Springs.

“Niching down,” as some say, or, choosing a narrower niche, may have a smaller pool of potential readers, but you might be able to gain a following quicker too.

What kind of site do you wish you could find?

Sometimes a good way to determine a viable blog niche is to ask yourself what you’ve found to be lacking online. After all, if you’re looking for it, someone else might be looking for it too. This is how I started my first blog. Back in 2004, I was a struggling pastor’s wife. I knew I couldn’t be the only pastor’s wife having a difficult time, so I searched online for others with whom I could relate. I couldn’t find any, so I started my own. Another way to look at it: what group is being ignored online?

What’s missing on other blogs?

When I asked this question in 2010, my blog started taking off. There are a gazillion blogs about blogging and making money blogging. What I noticed though, is that a lot of them say things like, “Wanna start a blog? Great! You’ll need hosting and a domain and then here’s how to blog…” Not a lot of them explained exactly how to choose a domain and how to purchase & set up hosting in a step-by-step way. So, even in this huge niche, I decided to tackle the basics where a lot of people seemed to get lost (like I did when I first started!). Find a hole and fill it.

As you hang out in your potential niche, continually ask yourself what’s missing. What are people looking for? What are you looking for? Read comments, get involved in forums, Twitter and Facebook and keep your ears peeled for hints about what people want, but can’t find.

Be different

Bloggers tend to copy what other bloggers do. This is absolutely valuable in many ways, but it’s not so good when it puts your blog right smack in the middle of average. Brainstorm ways to do things differently.

  • Do most bloggers in your niche write long posts? Why not keep yours short?
  • Do most bloggers in your niche write words? Why not vlog?
  • Do most bloggers in your niche post a few times a week? Why not post every day?
  • Or maybe you could start a unique feature or incorporate an interesting twist — something no one else has done or something you saw someone in a different niche do that you think might work in yours.

You may have heard of The Pioneer Woman. Way back when, she was one of many bloggers blogging about their lives as a mom. But one day she started recounting the tale of how her (a city girl) and her husband (a cowboy) met and fell in love. Her readers ate it up. Coupled with her outstanding photography and love for cooking, she subsequently rose to the top of her niche…and the entire mommy blogging world.

What hasn’t been done before? Try it and see if it propels you to the top!

Be flexible

Once you choose a niche, don’t feel like you’re committed to it for life. Blogging is very fluid and changes constantly. Being flexible and taking advantage of ways to be different will serve you well. In fact, expect it.

Be you

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to find a blog you love…and then try to duplicate it. You must differentiate yourself. One of the greatest things about blogs is they afford us the opportunity to get to know the individual behind the blog. Blogging is part of social media because it’s just that—social.

Let your personality come through. If you’re goofy, be goofy. If you’re feisty, be feisty. If you’re contemplative, be contemplative. Your readers will be drawn to what you have to say, but they will also be drawn to who you are. BE YOU.

Resist paralysis of analysis

Many people get stuck at this point in the process because they’re terrified of making the “wrong choice.” While a well-chosen niche is a benefit, one wonderful thing about the internet is how forgiving it is. Don’t be afraid to dive in and figure it out as you go. We all do that. Better to do that than to do nothing at all. Just start. How about right now?

Happy Blogging Ya’ll! And thank you again for reading and following!

The 10 Most Important Things Every Writer Needs to Know

It’s almost Friday! Woohoo!! It seems to me, like it’s been the longest week ever. Anyway, here’s another great article I found while surfing the web by David Cole with Bay Tree Publishing. – www.baytreepublish.com

He gives a lot of great advice for anyone who is considering writing a novel, beginner writers who have just started, or even just to serve as reminders to those of us who have done it a bit longer. 🙂

The Ten Most Important Things Every Writer Needs to Know

Following is a list of useful instructions for writing and life. They are not secrets, mine or anyone else’s, but they are helpful to keep in mind. I suggest printing them out and taping them on your wall.

  1. Beware the romantic haze

It’s easy to indulge in a romantic haze and get carried away by the sound of your own words—attractive phrases, the sensuous play of vowels and sibilants, the sly insinuation of disguised intent. These are the tools of what was called in an old song, moon glow. There’s a certain amount of fun to be had behind this curtain, but it doesn’t withstand the daylight. After all, you are on a mission. What comes of this stuff anyway?

  1. Ignore, disregard, combat, quash, or by any means at your disposal destroy nagging self-doubts

Nobody wants to hear or read about your self-doubts, qualms or scruples. Just an oblique reference is usually too much, even for your spouse. Readers want to see, smell, feel, hear, and taste your words, but they will put up with a certain amount of failure of language if you can give them a little thrill. I’m talking about myself, but you may have found the same.

  1. Nothing but the truth

Personally, I want the truth, spoken clearly and with confidence. Every week through my childhood the hardboiled L.A. detective Sergeant Friday deadpanned on black-and-white television, lips hardly moving, “Just the facts, ma’am,” and audiences salivated waiting for the line. This is what I am after, and what readers want as well. I don’t mean, of course, the facts of your own life, but the truth of human experience. This is probably harder to get at than it sounds, but between the romantic haze of self-delusion and the harping of doubt lies a narrow path, a fragile bridge. The trick is to listen to the inner voice. The trick is to listen to your heart and write what it speaks, to reinvent yourself every day, every minute, to be fully alive and not just go through the motions.

Be here now wrote Ram Dass in the 1960s. It’s still a relevant message. Don’t pull the blinds down or half shut your eyes into a comfortable twilight, and don’t poke at yourself for being imperfect in your efforts. Put your chin up, your chest forward, and step deliberately into the present, into the day. Hup, two, three, four.

  1. Don’t take advice

Actually, I’m not sure what I had in mind when I added this to the list. People offer all kinds of helpful criticism and often point out flaws that need fixing. You wouldn’t want to go through life all character-disordered because no one pointed out your narcissism for instance. If you keep taking their advice you will get stronger and stronger, and by the time you die you will be almost perfect.

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  1. Don’t worry about your mistakes

Somewhere I saw Miles Davis quoted as saying, if you play a wrong note, play it loud and everyone will think you played it on purpose. This probably goes without saying.

  1.   6. Know your audience

In my occasional role of marketing consultant, this is my first injunction. Since writing is a business like any other, I can extend this advice to you as well. If you write short stories, poetry, fiction, or anything inspiring, inspired or inspirational, you will be the first, primary, and sometimes total readership. The great thing about this is that knowing your audience is the same thing as knowing yourself, which Socrates made clear is the most important thing anyone can do. So by heeding this crucial directive to know your audience, you kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. And while I have never killed two birds with one stone—I haven’t actually killed any bird with a stone—I can affirm it to be very efficient. Actually, I know there are more efficient ways to kill birds. This is just an old saying.

7. Your family and friends are not your audience

They will either love everything you have written or else pick it to death. What do they know? When I was a child they still sold bound diaries with little locks and keys. There was a reason for this. These days you have a password to protect your computer. Joking aside, if you want feedback, I recommend joining a writers group with smart people who like you, but not too much. The main thing is to be careful about the food they serve.

  1. Read everything you can

There is wisdom to be found on cereal boxes if you know how to look. Read the acknowledgements in books and find out who the author hangs out with. Often this will substitute for reading the book itself. Read the publisher’s statement in magazines and check out the circulation audit. Read things that no one else does, and you will learn things no one else knows. This won’t make you a better writer, but you will be wealth of interesting and obscure information. Depending on the kind of parties you go to, you will either be the center of attention or someone to be avoided. Would you rather go to a party where people are dancing and carrying on or one where people are earnestly discussing subjects of import? What kind of dancer are you, anyway?

9.  Speak and listen as much as possible

Both enlarge you in different ways, and both can lead to success as a writer. The main thing, although it sometimes takes a long time to realize it, is the words. The more you use words, the more real they become. When they are completely real they become a force that nothing on earth can resist. Of course, many people have said that.

  1. Ask yourself, why do I want to write?

This is the key to everything. Many years ago in the middle of a night that went on for a very long time, I found myself on a hallucinogenic drug twirling toward the edge of the universe, and I turned to one of my companions and asked, “Why do people do this?” She looked back at me and said, “When I get into that kind of place, I say to myself, it comes in a little pill, and nobody makes you take it. You swallowed it of your own accord. ”Ever since then, I have tried to share helpful advice with friends. That is why I have written this.

Happy Writing Ya’ll!!

 

 

Tips on Writing a Page Turner

If you can’t tell by now, I’m a huge advocate of Writer’s Digest. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned just by reading the articles they have available on the internet. Not to mention, some of the books they have as well. If you haven’t checked them out yet, here’s the link! http://www.writersdigest.com/

Anyway, I found this great article by, Chuck Sambuchino, on 5 steps to write a page turner. There’s some really good tips in here. Enjoy!

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a quiet novel about old age, a historical romance, or a spy thriller. All writers face the same challenge: how do you keep a reader turning the pages of your novel? Imagine you’re rushing to work when you see a crowd of people, film cameras and lights. Some people say it’s Tom Cruise, others insist it’s a car commercial. Now you’re curious, and you stop to watch, even though you’re going to be late for work. As a writer, the most powerful emotion you can tap into is curiosity. You want the reader to stick around and see what happens in the end. How do you do this?

  1. Create a question in the reader’s mind right at the beginning.

This might seem like a cheap trick, but even a literary writer like Marquez uses it at the beginning of a novel: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

(Can you re-query an agent after she’s rejected you in the past?)

What? The Colonel is facing a firing squad? How did he get there? Will he survive? And notice the secondary information: ice in this world is a novelty. Where is this place? How long ago is it?

In my own first novel, the beginning is tighter: “The Senator’s wife was late. Very late.” Hopefully the reader is intrigued: Who is this woman? Why is she late? Will she show up? And as the protagonist of my novel waits for the Senator’s wife, the reader waits, too, and gets sucked into the story.

  1. Little questions can lead to larger ones.

You do not have to start of your novel with something dramatic: an explosion, a body dropping, a woman standing on a window ledge. It takes time to build the world of a novel. If you introduce the main conflict of the novel too soon, the reader may not care: your characters are strangers, after all.

Instead, you could start with a quieter situation: your main character wakes up with a hangover, and doesn’t remember what happened the night before. A child searches the house for his missing candy bar. A cab driver picks up a beautiful woman who he thinks he recognizes.

These everyday situations will all pique the reader’s curiosity, and while they wait to find out what happens, you can develop complex, sympathetic characters and create a vivid setting. Then, when your main character goes on an epic journey, the child’s mother dies, and the cab driver is accused of murder, the reader will be fully invested in them, and read on to see what happens.

  1. Identify the main question at the heart of your book and don’t answer it till the end.

Ask yourself: What is keeping the reader intrigued? What is the most important question that remains unanswered till the end?

This central question of the book is often called the ‘narrative engine’. It is what keeps the reader turning pages, waiting to find out what happens. Once this question is answered, all the mystery drains away, so keep it alive till close to the end of the book.

Here’s the engine that powers my second novel, in one sentence: “When an Indian cab driver in New York City is accused of the murder of a Bollywood actress, he has ten days to find out who did it.”

Other classic narrative engines that keep entire novels chugging along: Do the lovers get together in the end? Do the travelers make it to their destination? What really happened in the past? Does he/she recover from a broken heart, a death, an illness?

  1. You can answer the main question right at the beginning and still create a page turner.

This completely contradicts what I’ve just said! Yet, the novel ‘Tinkers’, which won the Pulitzer Prize, gives everything away in the first sentence: “George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died.”

This might feel like a real spoiler. But, unlike a thriller or a mystery, this novel doesn’t hinge on knowing whether the man lives or dies. Instead, it explores how he came to be dying in his bed. If you are writing a quieter novel, it turns out how something happened can be just as compelling as what happened.

You could start a novel by revealing that the ship sinks, the marriage ends in divorce, the movie star ends up an alcoholic. Then the entire novel becomes a gradual unfolding of how it all happened. And the reader will stay with you for the ride.

(Learn how to protect yourself when considering a independent editor for your book.)

  1. Create a layering of questions.

While there is an overarching question that keeps the reader turning pages till the end of the book, 400 pages is a long time to wait for answer. If you, the writer, withhold all information throughout the book, the reader will get frustrated, and stop reading.

It is your job to introduce smaller questions throughout the book, and to answer them at different times. In my second novel, as my cab driver struggles to find the actress’s murderer, he takes up with a nightclub hostess; but what is she hiding from him? What exactly is happening at her nightclub? And do they end up together? While the main question remains shrouded in mystery, these smaller mysteries keep the book moving from chapter to chapter.

To conclude: please note that I started this post with a question, and you’ve read this far to find out the answers!

If you want to know even more, you can check out this website on Writer’s Digest as well – http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/write-first-chapter-get-started/how-to-make-your-novel-a-page-turner

Happy Writing Ya’ll!

Last Minute Conference Tips!!

Your-First-Writers-Conference

Well…10 more days till the Writer’s Digest Conference. How’s everyone feeling? I’m sure some of you are a tad anxious. Especially, if you’ve never gone to a writing conference before. This is a great one to start with, believe me.

Anyway, I just wanted to wish everyone luck, particularly the ones who are involved in the Pitch Slam. Again, deep breath, you’ll do great!

Here are a few last minute tips:

1. Don’t be shy.

If you asked my friends if I was shy, they would say, “Heck NO!!” And that would be the truth, at least to them. But when I’m with a bunch of strangers, it takes me a little while to let my guard down. So if you’re like that, do your best to open up. I can’t tell you how freeing it was to just let myself kick back, and not be afraid to join in the conversation. Quite honestly, it’s how I learned some things and got more comfortable talking about my own book.

2. Make friends.

Again, this goes back to not being shy. This is a HUGE opportunity for you to meet all types of people. Writers, editors, agents, and others who have a part in the writing industry. Form friendships, and celebrate in the fact that you’re not alone. Learn from one another, and bond over the things you have in common. I met a great group of people while I was there, and I know some of them will be life long friends. When I have writer’s block or when I just can’t seem to get my seat in the chair to write, I’ll text them and they’re great at motivating me back to where I need to be. Writing is about so many other things, than just the words that come from you. I’ve said it before, WE are a tribe. We celebrate each other’s successes, and are there for support during rejection.

3. Take it in strides.

Be prepared to be overwhelmed. There’s a lot of information given to you. But don’t feel like you have to remember everything, or know it all by the time you leave. Writing is a continual learning process. If you feel like you’ve reached an end to that process, well, that means you’re not doing something right. It’s forever moving. Your mind will be so full, that when you leave the conference, you’ll almost be in a daze. Don’t fret, it will all come together.

4. Be prepared.

What do you do with all that information? Well…you’re a writer. Write it down. Or tap it in your IPAD or laptop, whatever you’ve brought to take down notes. Just make sure you have a pen and notebook. Anything. I guess, unless you’re an audio learner, but even then, it’s so much, you’re bound to forget something. I actually brought a messenger bag with pens, highlighters, notepads, my business cards (those are to hand out to fellow writers that you want to keep in touch with. Not agents.), the first few pages of my manuscript, and that was about it. Just make sure, to be prepared.

5. Take a chance.

One great thing I have found at the Writer’s Digest Conference, is how interactive they make it. From the guest speakers, to the agents, editors, etc., they encourage you to ask questions and give you time to actually ask them. DON’T BE SHY!!! I can not stress this enough. Get up there, take that microphone, and ask whatever question your little heart desires. This could be your only chance to ask your question, so do it. I promise you’ll regret it if you don’t. A lot of times I found that someone would ask a question, and it would be the very one that was on my own mind. You’re helping other writers around you, just as much as you are yourself. It gets easier too, after you do it a few times.

6. Don’t put pressure on yourself.

Don’t put so much pressure on yourself, that you forget to enjoy the time at the conference. I know it feels like this might be your only chance to find an agent or to sell your book, but it’s not, I promise. This is simply another step. It opens the door for many more things. Yes, there are writers who get signed from the conference. I know of three of them personally, from last year when I went. But the conference is not just about getting signed by an agent. It’s about learning the skills and industry as well. Don’t be so focused on signing with someone that you miss out on some other really good stuff. You’re time is still coming. Don’t get discouraged.

6. Have fun.

This will probably be one of the greatest experiences in your lifetime. Revel in it. If I could go to a week long writing conference like Writer’s Digest, I would do it in a heart beat no matter the cost. There are no words to express how refreshing and how liberating it is for a writer to be surrounded by people who love it just as much as you. Sure, your friends and family are supportive of your writing and dreams, but it isn’t the same when you can talk to someone about how freaking scared you were during the Pitch Slam or that you received 50 rejections from 50 different agents. Nobody understands that better than a fellow comrade in paper. They don’t look at you crazy when you want to just talk about writing for hours, cause they want to do the exact same thing! I’m telling you, I didn’t want to leave. 🙂

And, just a word of advice. If everyone seems a tad anxious on Friday. I promise after the Pitch Slams on Saturday, everyone will be like college kids who just finished their graduate exams. They all breathe a sigh of relief and go, “Oh…that wasn’t so bad.” LOL!

Happy Conference Ya’ll!

And please please, when ya’ll get back, let me know how everything went! Can’t wait to hear!

 

Signs that you just might be…a writer

Do you ever wonder if you were truly meant to be a writer? Deep down you sense that it might just be so. But then doubt creeps in, and you just aren’t sure. You look at your writing. You realize that you aren’t where you want to be. Maybe you just aren’t good enough?

A great writer would be further along by now, right?

Wrong.

If you’re reading this, chances are you were meant to be a writer. You were meant to help change the world and impact people’s lives through your words.

Here are 8 signs that you were meant to be a word wizard:

1. Secret Dreams

You secretly dream about writing. And if you already write, you dream about doing something bigger, like writing a novel, or scoring that big freelancing client. You dream about more, bigger, better. Deep inside you know you can do it, but that pesky little voice stops you.

2. Doubt

Yes, doubt is a sign that you were meant to be a writer. If you didn’t have anything to say, you wouldn’t even think about writing, but you do have something to say, and you know it. But doubt stops you. However, doubt is just a thought popping up. It doesn’t feel great, but you can say hi, and keep taking tiny steps forward.

Why keep moving forward?

Because you were meant to be a writer.

3. Excuses

Your excuse for not hanging out with your friends is, “I have to write”. You aren’t interested in what non-writers are interested in. They live a different life. They sometimes seem like a different species. Embrace this. Don’t give into peer pressure.

If you’re a new writer, you won’t be sure what to do with yourself, but trust your inner calling. Trust your heart. It knows what you need.

If you have to write, you have to write.

4. Inspiration

Inspiration only comes to those who can use it. If you’re a writer, you get inspired, but you also have to take advantage of that inspiration. If you are inspired to write a novel, then start today. Don’t wait for perfection.

Let it be messy. Let it be chaotic. Let your thoughts go crazy and your body shiver with fear.

But start…right now.

5. Perfectionism

When you truly care about something, you want it to be perfect. I care about my writing. I want to help people. I want to help you when you read these very words. And for that reason, I want it to be perfect, because in my head, I believe perfection equals value to you, but that isn’t always true. Good enough can have a huge impact on someone’s life. Perfection is just an idea in my head. It has nothing to do with reality. Wanting your writing to be perfect is a sign that you care, and that’s good, because it means you will put out exceptional work, even when you feel like it’s crap.

But you have to get your writing out there.

6. Admiration

You secretly admire great writers. You want to talk about the elegant ways they craft their prose, but you often don’t have anyone to talk to, because your friends or family may not care about writing as much as you do. This alone shows you how much attention you pay to words. It shows you that you were meant to be a writer. All you have to do is muster the courage to write and step up your game.

You’re ready, even if you don’t feel it. Step up to it and enjoy.

7. Lacking

When you don’t write, you feel like something is missing. You need to write. You need to express yourself through prose. You know you can make a difference, but you’re not sure. We all have doubts. They’re normal, but they don’t have to stop you. Just keep moving forward. Keep putting words out there and let the universe take care of the rest. The fruits of your labor are none of your business. All you can do is your best, so start putting your stuff out there, even if it freaks you out.

8. Yearning

Deep down, you feel this yearning to write. It’s like someone is pulling a string that’s attached to your heart. The string is pulling you toward greatness, but you are resisting. You’re afraid. You’re worried. You’re not sure what people will think. Let that yearning take you to where you need to go. Forget about what everyone else is doing and follow your calling. Embrace your uniqueness, your quirkiness and your style. Results may not come instantly, but all is well when you follow your heart. Listen to that yearning.

Let the string take you on the adventure of your life.

If You’ve Read This Far …

You were meant to be a writer. I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. I’ve scribbled down crazy stories about animals when I was just in elementary school. Even as I grew older, a pen in my hand and a blank page, made my soul stir in incomprehensible ways.

Here I am, even now, spouting out what’s inside of me in this very blog, at this very moment. I just keep following my excitement, letting the doubts fall down around me. I write about what makes my heart sing. And you should do the same, because what excites you is your internal GPS telling you that you need to pay attention to that. I have uncertainty, fears and worries, like everyone else. But I know I was meant to do this, because doing anything else is torture.

So if you’ve read this far, you were meant to be a writer.

All you have to do is embrace it, because deep down you know you want to.

Happy Writing Ya’ll