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How To Be A Great Hooker

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Did the title of this post get your attention? I’m guessing some people will seek this out thinking it’s about a very different topic.

I could have said how to write a great opening to your story. My aim wasn’t to fool anyone but to show you how you can draw readers into a story. Or, in this case, a blog post. Yes, it works for non-fiction too.

So, why is a great opening essential?

If you’ve been submitting your work, I don’t have to tell you that most publishers and agents only want to see the first chapter or few chapters before they ask for your complete manuscript.

These are people who get to read manuscripts all day, every day. They get tired, they get cranky, they see a lot of the same thing over and over again. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine you’ve just started reading something that makes you sit up and take notice. Right before your eyes, is the story opening like no one else’s you’ve read that day, maybe even in that month. Chances are a request to see your complete manuscript is heading your way.

Once you’re published, you still have people to impress, your readers. I’m an avid reader, I love books, but just like the publisher and agent, I have to look at words all day. When it comes time to read just for fun, an author has to impress me because my eyes can only take so much. I want a book that pulls me in ASAP. One that I’m willing to get eye fatigue for.

So how do you reel in a reader?

Here are my do and don’ts…

Don’t start with what I call the flora and fauna opening. A description of nothing but the trees and the skies, the rain, the flowers and nothing else, no characters, no dialogue, no nothing. If a reader wanted that they’d have chosen a nature book. Sure, you need to set the stage but how about interweaving something more. You could use a character trying to get through a downpour getting something vital to their child. Or maybe the woods hide a dead body your character stumbles upon during a hike.

Don’t start with an information dump about your character. Everything they’ve done from the moment they were born up until the start of the story when they’re thirty. Readers want to know about that but that’s for feeding to them slowly, not force feeding them all this info in the first chapter or even few pages.

Now onto the do…

Think about your character, their goal, the conflict. At what point in your story do the three intersect? For example, the character needs to get someplace but they have no car and no money. That’s the place to start your story, not with them going shopping, getting ready for work and then in the third chapter, you spring all the good stuff on the reader. By then it’s too late.

Lots of stories get rejected because the writer started the story in the wrong place. Remember I said about the first chapters the publisher or editor gets to read? If your story doesn’t start to kick into high gear until chapter four then you’ve lost what could have been a great opportunity to convince them this is a manuscript they want to read and even a story they need to publish.

Don’t shortchange yourself with a so-so opening for a great story.

So now you know how to be a great hooker….yes, endings are just as important as opening lines for getting attention!

 

 

Writing How Tos Writing Tips

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