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Tuesday, 18 June 2013

How To Keep Your Readers Hooked.

Last week I blogged about writing the first chapter and how that was the hardest job of all. I had many fellow writers agree with me and I also had those who did not.

Those writers pointed out that writing the rest of the book can be harder, and from that point I do agree with them.

Here's what I mean ...

When you write the first chapter you are making a promise to your reader. You're saying to them that your book will keep them entertained, enthralled and on the edge of their seat. You're setting a style and tone to your writing that you must keep up during the rest of the book. And sometimes that can be a very tricky thing to do.

All successful stories must have an element of suspense. No matter what the style of writing is like, whether you write in first or third person, you must write with suspense as your goal to keep your readers turning those pages.

I've read a couple of books lately that I've been disappointed with. I've been drawn to their plotlines because the blurb sounded interesting but when I've read the book, I've been waiting for a turn or a twist or for something to actually happen. But nothing does. All I get is a very flat story and then I question why I've bothered to waste my time reading it.

If I had bought the book I would have been very disappointed indeed but because I've just got them out of the library it's not been too bad.

But those books illustrate my point perfectly. A plotline just isn't enough. You have to make it interesting. And how do you do such a thing?

You have to add a huge dollop of conflict and suspense. Make your characters have the worst possible lives because a happy, smooth life is lethal in fiction. And keep your reader guessing what happens next. Too many storylines are predictable and predictable equals boring. If your reader already knows what's going to happen at the end then why should they bother to keep on reading?

Tell me how do you make sure your reader is hooked on your book?

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Writing The First Chapter: The Hardest Job Of All.

Last week I blogged about having enthusiasm when starting a new book, and how I have so many ideas racing around my head which I can't wait to write down on paper. This week I'm blogging about writing the first page or the first chapter of that book, and why that's the most difficult task of all.

As I said last week writers often have a copious amount of ideas when starting out on a new book, but those ideas can sometimes become jumbled. Writing the first page is an extremely daunting task in one sense because you're shaping the route your work will go down. And when you think you've only got another 89,000 words to write it can be an extremely frightening feeling indeed.

But I always look at it like this. No matter what you write or type on that fresh piece of paper, your opening scene will rarely stay the same once you have finished the book, as it's sometimes an impossible task to know how your story will end. Normally you have an idea, a goal you want to achieve in your last chapter, but more often then not your ideas will change throughout the book.

Some writers will cut a lot out from their opening chapter and put that work in other parts of the book. Some writers have a bad habit of information overload - revealing too much too soon. But if you save all of your work more often than not you can use it again in other parts of your book.

No matter if you have to re-write your first chapter ten times to make it fit in with the rest of your book, here are some points to consider when writing your first chapter.

  • You must introduce your protagonist and give a little information about them. Sounds obvious, right? But you'd be surprised how many books I have read that give the first three pages describing weather conditions.
  • Show the character's needs and what they want to accomplish. If the reader knows this then they have a better chance of caring what happens to your main character.
  • Make your protagonist believable, as in make them a character who could be a real person. unless you're writing sci-fi, of course. Even then you have to give them something which readers will be able to identify with.
  • Let the reader know which country they're in along with the time period. Readers will be able to engage so much better with the story once this has been achieved.
  • And finally introduce the antagonist - the character who will make your protagonist's life difficult.
So, how do you deal with your first chapters?

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Why Slow And Steady Wins The Book Writing Race

I love that feeling I have when I'm about to write a new book. There are so many ideas racing around my head I cannot wait to get them all down on paper. And until I start jotting down my thoughts, I can't think of anything else.

So many novice writers feel like that too. Although a daunting task that requires a 100% commitment, often on a daily basis, writing a book is one of lifetime's greatest achievements. And that is why so many people will start out on this epic journey with so much positivity and enthusiasm.

But like so many other things in life that enthusiasm will fade. There will be many long days and nights where this task will seem insurmountable. Many, if not all writers will question their sanity, and think themselves crazy for putting in so many hours where no positive outcomes are guaranteed.

But that's the joy of writing ;)

So, how do you keep the level of enthusiasm to ensure you actually finish your book?

That's a simple question to answer really as long as you've written at least one book.


Let me explain.

To maintain that level of enthusiasm you need to finish your book you need to make sure you have a life outside of writing. It's a bit like saying that although it's wonderful to have all the time in the world to write a book, in practise it doesn't quite work like this. At least for me it doesn't.

To complete tasks I have to feel a level of urgency. I have to have this mind-set of: I need to write now because I'm going to be out later. I need to work now because I'll be having fun later. Although writing is fun for me, don't get me wrong. But I need something else to focus on as well as my writing. It's all about getting the balance right.

Now, remember how I said that this is a simple question to answer as long as you've written at least one book? Let me explain what I mean by that too. It's taken me two books to realise I need to have a life outside of writing.

I spent ALL my time writing the last two books. And nothing kills your enthusiasm like that does. My writing became very boring for me very quickly. And that's not good.

But please remember this as well. Once you have succeeded in writing your first draft remember it's only your first draft. There will be plenty of errors and mistakes that you'll need to correct before you can even think about sending it off for a professional copyedit. Many writers are far too critical of their work before they realise they've still got time to improve it.

It's said that in order to become a good writer you need to write for 10,000 hours, or approximately three years. That's a long time and that time will provide a decent opportunity for doubts about your writing to creep into your mind. But don't let them put you off. If you truly want to be a writer then you will find some way to write.

I've been writing seriously for around three and half a years now and I'm still at it. So long as you write regularly you will find ideas come to you naturally. I've got an idea for my fourth book even though I'm still writing my third. I am proud that I've got part way through this epic journey and I have never once looked back. I encourage others to do the same.