Stephen King is pretty freakin cool…

 

stephen king book

So I recently read Stephen King’s memoir on writing (Stephen King/On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft). He has always been an author that’s intrigued me and after reading this book he does even more.

He’s an author of more than 50 books and all of them worldwide bestsellers. Not many authors can claim that. I thought that I would share a few things he said that spoke to me in his memoir. May I strongly suggest also, whether you’re a writer or just a fan to go pick this book up or order it online. It’s a must have.

From the King himself:

“Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”

Although you’re the creator of your characters, they can actually teach you some unexpected things along the way. According to Stephen, Carrie White, his main character in the book, Carrie, was the one character that taught him things no other did.

“The most important is that the writer’s original perception of a character or characters may be as erroneous as the reader’s. Running a close second was the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a shitting position.”  

“-…but I think you will find that, if you continue to write fiction, every character you create is partly you.”

“And if you do your job, your characters will come to life and start doing stuff on their own.”

Everything matters. Even where you place your writing desk.

“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.”

You have the honor of writing a book, which is what Mr. King calls, “uniquely portable magic.” However, that comes with a seriousness of the responsibility it holds.

“Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again; you must not come lightly to a blank page.” 

“-it’s writing, damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can’t or won’t, it’s time for you to close the book and do something else.”

Words, Tense, Averbs…

“Remember that the basic rule of vocabulary is use the first word that comes to your mind, if it is appropriate and colorful.”

“The word is only a representation of the meaning; even at its best, writing almost always falls short of the full meaning.”

“You should avoid passive tense.”

“The adverb is not your friend.”

Whether you’re a first time author or you’ve written a million books, there is still a small steady fear that whatever your writing is crap and you had no business being an author in the first place. That’s okay. Just don’t let it consume you the writing will be bad if it even gets written at all.

“I’m convinced that fear is the root of most bad writing.”

“Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation. Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sorts of writing as “good” and other sorts as “bad”, is fearful behavior. Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with.”

One of your must-have tools…Reading. You MUST read…without ceasing. Second, write. Anything…everything…just write.

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

“You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.”

“We also read in order to measure ourselves against the good and the great, to get a sense of all that can be done. And we read in order to experience the different styles.”

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.”

“The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country of the writer with one’s papers and identification pretty much in order. Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like that phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor”

“Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world.”

Keep it fresh in your mind. Yes, some of us have other jobs, families, or responsibilities, but you MUST forge through with your writing and keep it going.

“Once I start work on a project, I don’t stop and I don’t slow down unless I absolutely have to. If I don’t write every day, the characters begin to stale off in my mind–they begin to seem like characters instead of real people. The tale’s narrative cutting edge starts to rust and I begin to lose my hold on the story’s plot and pace. Worst of all, the excitement of spinning something new begins to fade. The work starts to feel like work, and for most writers that is the smooch of death. Writing is at its best–always, always, always–when it is a kind of inspired play for the writer. I can write in cold blood if I have to, but I like it best when it’s fresh and almost too hot to handle.”

“For any writer, but for the beginning writer in particular, it’s wise to eliminate every possible distraction.”

“I am, after all, not just the novel’s creator but its first reader.”

Description is the essence for your reader. That skill does not come overnight to a writer.

“Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story. Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot.”

“Description begins with visualization of what it is you want the reader to experience. It ends with your translating what you see in your mind into words on the page.”

“If you want to be a successful writer, you must be able to describe it, and in a way that will cause your reader to prickle with recognition.”

“The key to good description begins with clear seeing and ends with clear writing, the kind of writing that employs fresh images and simple vocabulary.”

“Practice the art, always reminding yourself that your job is to say what you see, and then to get on with your story.”

Dialogue…truth…

“As with all other aspects of fiction, the key to writing good dialogue is honesty. And if you are honest about the words coming out of your character’s mouths, you’ll find that you’ve let yourself in for a fair amount of criticism.”

“You must tell the truth if your dialogue is to have the resonance and realism that Hart’s War, good story though it is, so sadly lacks–and that holds true all the way down to what folks say when they hit their thumb with a hammer. If you substitute “Oh sugar!” for “Oh shit!” because you’re thinking about the Legion of Decency, you are breaking the unspoken contract that exists between writer and reader–your promise to express the truth of how people act and talk through the medium of a made-up story.”

“Everything I’ve said about dialogue applies to building characters in fiction. The job boils down to two things: paying attention to how real people around you behave and then telling the truth about what you see.”

1st drafts…2nd drafts…and self doubt…

“I don’t believe a story or novel should be allowed outside the door of your study or writing room unless you feel confident that it’s reasonably reader-friendly.”

“With the door shut, downloading what’s in my head directly to the page, I write as fast as I can and still remain comfortable. Writing fiction, especially a long work of fiction, can be a difficult, lonely job; it’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There’s plenty of opportunity for self-doubt. If I write rapidly, putting down my story exactly as it comes to my mind, only looking back to check the names of characters and the relevant parts of their back stories, I find that I can keep up with my original enthusiasm and at the same time outrun the self-doubt that’s always waiting to settle in.”

For all writers, the act of writing is something extraordinary, a feat that cannot be put into exact words, a window that opens to endless possibilities if they can imagine it…

“Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.”

“The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.”

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”

“Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink up and be filled.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 is upon us…

new_year_2016-fun

 

Well, here we are. Another year. My mom always said the older you got, the faster time went by. Which is kinda weird to me, since your body begins to slow down with age, you would think it would be the opposite. Maybe your just more aware of it by then.

I don’t know about you, but for me, 2015 held a lot of writing milestones. Querying my manuscript became a reality, instead of just a dream. Then, I found a fabulous editor, (shout out Katelyn Stark) who has not only been the most patient person in the world, but has expanded my knowledge of the craft in immeasurable ways. She’s really been a true savior when it came to helping me think “outside the box.”

My social media has grown and it’s because of all my awesome followers on this blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin. Thank you so much for following, reading, your comments, and feedback. Sometimes just knowing that I have people who care and are interested, keeps me motivated to keep going in my writing.

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I have high hopes for 2016, finishing up with my editor, moving to an agent, and on to publishing…dreams that I’ve waited years for. Yes, 2016 is upon us.

I pray that all of you out there whose dreams are the same as mine, will succeed in 2016. I wish luck in all that you do and in all your writing endeavors. I truly feel blessed to be a part of the writer’s tribe and all its readers.

Happy Writing in 2016!!!!

Do you suffer from F.A.P. ???

Fear and Procrastination. Two nasty little words that obliterate a writer’s craft before it’s completed.

I’ve written blogs before on inspiration and keeping that perseverance going. But what happens when you just don’t think you have it in you to write one more page, write one more word? Just because we’re writers doesn’t mean the words come easy. It’s not like our pens become magic wands, making all our dreams come true in five seconds. So, what if your “small break” ends up being two months of pure nothingness?

You start having that fear creep inside you. That voice that says, “you’ll never get there. You were so close, all that work, and now its just collecting dust, like all your other projects you never finished. Good job, buddy. Don’t quit your day job.”

And there it starts. After fear catches you, then procrastination keeps you. He’s the little thief in the night that watches your every movement until…BAM…he’s in your house while you’re asleep, grabbing all your precious things.


Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.”  ~ Charles Dickens, David Copperfield


How does a writer move on from that? At times, procrastination can almost be debilitating. It’s similar to how depression is described in some people, the fear of failure but no urge to be productive. Some of the best pieces of work have never left a writer’s mind because of that robber who steals our time and thoughts. We make excuses saying it’s our spouse, our full-time job, friends, or our kids that need our time more. “Life is just busy right now.” We say to ourselves. “I’m moving, changing jobs, my daughter has basketball practice, I’m getting married, I’m getting divorced, the holidays are coming up, etc.”

FAP


The thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing.”  ~ Alan Dean Foster


Sometimes, it’s as simple as guilt from a family member. You know the person I’m talking about. The one that says your writing is just a “hobby” and really it should come behind everything else. Before we know it, days, weeks, months, maybe even years have gone by. We feel like we’ve missed our moment.

Other times, it’s the discouragement of comparing ourselves to other writers. “How did Suzy Smith write and edit her 100K word manuscript in six months? She’s going to be published in the Spring!” You gaze at the piles of crumpled paper that surround your desk. The red ink smudged all over your 40K word rough draft that you’ve been working on for nearly two years. “She even has a husband and three kids! She does carpool and works for an attorney! How is that even possible!? I might as well just hang in the towel. If I was meant to be a writer, I’d be where Suzy is at.”

I went through some of this, just recently. Thankfully, I had a fantastic editor who didn’t give up on me. Shout out Katelyn Stark! She showed me that I could do it. I could finish, and that yes, life happens, but not to let it take all the reasons from me that caused me to start writing in the first place. Life is always moving and changing around you. But all you have to do is take that one step. Plug in that USB to your laptop, punch those keys with your fingers, take that paper out of your desk and pick up your pen. You’ll find that when you start again, it’s like an old friend the you thought was gone, but in fact, never left.

This blog is probably the most important one so far that I’ve written. Mostly, because it comes from a very dark place that I’ve been in with my writing. I’ve feared so much of not being able to cut it, never getting published, seeing others around me write faster or better, believing that maybe all the signs I thought I had seen, were just a mistake. Maybe, I really wasn’t a writer. I just got caught up in the moment. Maybe it had been just a lie I had wanted so badly.

I’ve written about patience in the writing industry on my blog. Every part of it is true. Sometimes you must have it with agents, editors, publishers, but more often than you think, we need it for ourselves too. It’s amazing how we start out with this drunk euphoria when we begin a new project. The OOOH’s and AAAH’s of our family and friends. “I can’t believe your writing a book! That’s amazing! This story is fantastic!” How quickly in diminishes once we’ve been at it for a while. The cheerleading that we once were given fades away, and we realize that we need something else to carry us through. Emotions are fleeting. It sound cliché, but still true.

It’s amazing how each one of us have this internal time clock that makes us feel like we need to go faster in our writing. We focus so much on reaching that end mark of success, that we let the joy of writing slip past us. We forget, making it become just another check mark on our list. Just another task we finished for the day. Don’t let it be that!!

I never understood the importance of the question, “Why do you write?” At least not, until recently. What’s the significance of it? I’ll tell you. We need to know and understand what our driving force is to write. This is the key that will deepen ourselves and our writing into breaking free of that dark time of fear and procrastination. We must hold on tight to those reasons of why we write in the first place.


Alice Hoffman “I wrote to find beauty and purpose, to know that love is possible and lasting and real, to see day lilies and swimming pools, loyalty and devotion, even though my eyes were closed and all that surrounded me was a darkened room. I wrote because that was who I was at the core, and if I was too damaged to walk around the block, I was lucky all the same. Once I got to my desk, once I started writing, I still believed anything was possible.” (August 2000)


I write this blog now, in hopes that it will help other writers know that they aren’t alone. If you’re not a writer, you can’t understand the mental battle that takes place every day in a writer’s mind. The fears, the hunger, the courage, and determination that each of us must possess to finish our work.

What separates us from the people who only desire to be a writer isn’t our work or its completion, that it’s published, or that we were asked to be a speaker at a writing conference. Our choice and what we do with it is what divides us. The choice to give in to those dark lies, or the choice to believe that we were created to write something no one else could. No other can write the same words we put on the page. It’s our own distinct and unique fingerprint on the world, whether it get’s published, or simply, that you take a stack of papers from a desk drawer one day and give them to your grandkids to read and cherish. Either way, it’s yours, and yours alone.


I found this great blog article that talks about the daily routines of 12 famous authors. http://jamesclear.com/daily-routines-writers  It’s pretty amazing to see the differences in what each of them do, and how they find their own success in writing.

Last but not least, I leave you with a few quotes that I hope will encourage you in your writing journey.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” Frank Herbert

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” Dale Carnegie

“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” Japanese Proverb

We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out. ” Ray Bradbury

 

Happy Writing Ya’ll!

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Writing Advice from Famous Authors

I came across this article by, Emily Temple, and it definitely caught my attention. As aspiring authors, as well as established ones, I feel we continuously crave the knowledge of writers before us. We wish to know and learn, from not only their successes, but their mistakes as well. I know when I’m in a writing rut, I enjoy finding different quotes from authors to help gain my motivation and inspiration back.

But, did you ever think about those quotes from authors that…well…might not be the best advice or statement? No one ever talks about those, but they’re out there. Here’s some bad writing advice from a few famous authors. Maybe, this will help you on what NOT to do!


Aspiring writers will never tire of reading lists of writing advice from famous authors, whether legendary or living. And why should they? These lists, the most recent of which to bubble up in our collective consciousness being advice from W.G. Sebald, contain countless encouragements, tips, and (in almost every case) directives to get to it and stop fooling about. But even famous authors can lead young writers astray — after all, not every suggestion works for everyone, or every rule for every type of writing, and we find ourselves deeply skeptical any time anyone tell us we must do something (or not do it). As Sebald himself advised, “Don’t listen to anyone. Not us, either. It’s fatal.” After the jump, a few pieces of bad — at least in our minds — writing advice from famous authors, and if you feel so moved, add to our list in the comments.

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” — Saul Bellow

We have found that no one is much interested in our book of half-awake scribblings recounting our dreams.

“Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you are doomed.” — Ray Bradbury

Tell that to Harper Lee.

“Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.” — Kurt Vonnegut

We happen to like a twist ending, thank you very much. Or at least a story that’s not so boring we know exactly what’s going to happen.

“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” — Oscar Wilde

Maybe on a grand scale, but not on a sentence level.

“Don’t try.” — Charles Bukowski

Unless he meant this in the Yoda sense (and he didn’t), we’re not biting.

“Write drunk; edit sober.” — Ernest Hemingway

Well, we can support the latter half of this sentiment, or the whole thing if he meant it metaphorically. Somehow we don’t think he did, though.

“Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” — George Orwell

Never use anything you’ve seen before? That seems like a tall order.

“Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.” and “Same for places and things.” — Elmore Leonard

Of course, it depends on what kind of writing you’re doing, but no descriptions of anything ever? That seems like a sad future of stories in white rooms to us.

“You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.” — Robert A. Heinlein

Well, he’s certainly in the minority on that one.

“Don’t be a draught-horse! Work with pleasure only.” — Henry Miller

We think Miller just didn’t want anyone else to get anything done.

“You’re a Genius all the time” — Jack Kerouac

Now we see what was wrong with Kerouac.

“Don’t have children.” — Richard Ford

Oh, please.

“Stop reading fiction – it’s all lies anyway, and it doesn’t have anything to tell you that you don’t know already (assuming, that is, you’ve read a great deal of fiction in the past; if you haven’t you have no business whatsoever being a writer of fiction).” — Will Self

Again, we’re on board with the latter half of this sentiment, but advising a writer to stop reading? Maybe it works for some, but we can’t support that as blanket advice.

“Never use a long word where a short one will do.” — George Orwell

But what if a long word sounds better? Also, go read some Nabokov.

“Actually if a writer needs a dictionary he should not write. He should have read the dictionary at least three times from beginning to end and then have loaned it to someone who needs it. There are only certain words which are valid and similies (bring me my dictionary) are like defective ammunition (the lowest thing I can think of at this time).” — Ernest Hemingway

The most draconian of the bunch, and very silly.


Hope everyone is having a great week! Happy Writing Ya’ll!!

Writer’s Block Caused By Stress: Ten Ways To Overcome.

I hope everyone had a fabulous time at the WD Conference this weekend. I know you learned a lot, and met some pretty awesome people. I’m sure some of you are already hard at work, critiquing, editing, and rewriting some of your manuscript, just from what you learned at the conference. Good job! Keep those words flowing!

However, a few might be a little overwhelmed, and I know at times for me, it can cause major writer’s block. Don’t get stressed! There are plenty of tips and info out there that may help relieve your writer’s block. This article here, in particular, really helped me. If you’re feeling a tad anxious or stressed from the work you know you have ahead of you, this article by, The Creative Writer’s Desk, can perhaps benefit you as well.

Some of these tips I may have touched on before, but let’s be honest, it’s never a bad idea for a review. Also, check out these great quotes by other authors, on how they combat the dreaded writer’s block – http://writerscircle.com/quotes-to-combat-writers-block/


Stress is one of the top two causes of writer’s block. When your mind is preoccupied it’s difficult, sometimes impossible to focus on creative writing. There are ways to get around it. Sometimes writing can actually be the activity that relieves your stress. Try these techniques to help you to relax and let the words flow. The top 10 ways to beat stress related writer’s block.

1. Designate one place that’s just for writing. It may seem like a simple task but if there is one place that you write every day it makes it easier for your mind to focus on writing and writer’s block won’t be as big of a problem. It’s the same concept as studying in the classroom where you have a test. You’re accustom to the surroundings so when you sit down in that area your mind recognizes that it’s time to write and it will more easily put aside the other worries of the day.

2. Write at least 500 words immediately after you wake up. The morning is when your mind is most rested and relaxed. The act of writing is, psychologically speaking, both soothing and stimulating. It sooths the mind by acting as an outlet for the stress you wake up with, allowing you to face your day with less on your mind. It’s stimulating because it gets your creative juices flowing, like mental pushups. By starting your day with writing, you’ll be facing the world with a creative mindset.

3. Give yourself enough time. Consider writing a prior engagement. If you’re serious about being a writer you have to give yourself enough time to work. Think of it as a relationship. You’ve promised writing that you’re going to devote the 5 o’clock hour to it. It’s a date. If you have to pick up the kids or go to class, pick a different time to write. You can’t write if you rush yourself. It will only add more stress and make the writer’s block worse.

4. Eliminate distractions. It sounds easy but in the world of cell phones and e-mail, it isn’t. Turn off your cell phone, disconnect your Internet or turn your wireless off, and put a “do not disturb” sign on the door. A woman I know has a sign that she puts on her door while writing that says, “If you aren’t bleeding, I don’t care.” Get rid of the clutter in your writing space and keep it that way. Your task is writing. Stick to it.

5. Keep a Journal. This is one of the classic tips of stress relief but how can writing help you with writer’s block? Writing a personal journal and creative writing for an audience are two different tasks. Put pen to paper with your problems in mind and you’ll be surprised what comes out. Sometimes there were stressors in your life that you weren’t even thinking about. Seeing these things in writing sometimes helps you to figure out solutions. Even when it doesn’t, it feels good just to have them written down.

6. Take a power nap. Most working adults and students aren’t getting enough sleep. This can lead to decreased focus and increased stress by 3 or 4 in the afternoon. There are studies that show a 20-minute nap in the afternoon provides more rest than 20 more minutes of sleep in the morning. The equation is simple: more sleep equals less stress equals better focus when writing.

7. You can only change yourself. If there is someone else who doesn’t like you, or your work, there isn’t anything you can do about it. Don’t let other people’s judgments of you affect your judgment of yourself. If your writing isn’t good enough for someone else, but it’s the best your capable of doing, then it’s their problem. It’s easier to say than do but you can learn to see past their opinions. When someone tells you something that sounds negative don’t immediately respond. Repeat their words in your head and ask yourself, is this constructive criticism or destructive criticism? If it’s constructive, consider their advice and ask questions. If it’s destructive, smile at them and thank them for their opinion. Watching how annoyed they get when you don’t seem hurt is often humorous in itself (also a technique for relieving stress).

8. Exercise. Take a walk. Do yoga. Dancercise. Whatever will get your blood moving will get more oxygen to your brain and allow you to think more clearly. You’ll feel better about yourself because exercise is productive and healthy and you’ll feel better about writing when you get to it.

9. Take a break. Unless you’re on a strict deadline, whatever project you’re working on can wait. Sometimes, feeling trapped into one project can be stressful enough to cause writer’s block. If you’re working on a novel, put it to the side for a few days and try a short story or an essay. The change of pace is sometimes a relief and your mind will probably continue to work on the larger project behind the scenes. In a day or two you’ll wake up with a brilliant new direction so keep a notebook ready.

10. Volunteer. If you have the time, and be honest with yourself about the time you actually have, spend some of it helping others. Volunteer at a hospital, library, school, or community center. The feeling that you’re helping others is a simple way to overcoming stress and writer’s block. As human beings we’re naturally very self-focused. By getting out and helping others it allows us to see that our problems aren’t the only problems in the world. For writers, volunteering also adds to the material and experiences that we later turn into creative writing. Win-win-win.


I would so so so love to hear about how everyone did at the conference and what they thought about it. Feel free to comment or message me on here, or any of my social media sites! Thanks again for reading, and of course, writing!!!

Happy Writing Ya’ll!!

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!!

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!