Hook, Line and…Stinker?

One of the most important jobs we have as writers is to make sure that we grab the readers interest right from the get go. The second, of course, being that we keep that interest throughout. But without that initial hook, the latter becomes redundant.

We really, really want to avoid this.
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

So how quickly do you need to get that hook in?

Some schools of thought say it should be the very first sentence. That’s when you need to grab the reader. Personally I’m not a big fan of this method. Yes, your opening line is important, but should you rely on that one sentence to carry the burden of everything that follows? In my opinion it’s too much pressure. It also increases the chances of the dreaded purple prose.

It was a dark and stormy night.

Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

We all know that one. It is probably one of the most derided openings in the history of literature.

My own preference is that the first page should be the hook. Maybe even that entire first chapter or the prologue if that is how the story is structured. But that first page will allow you to set the feel of the prose. You can go into more detail and give your audience a richer insight. What we want them to do is to want to look beyond that opening. To turn the page and become invested. You can have the greatest opening line ever penned but if the rest of that page doesn’t match up to that standard, they will lose their interest very quickly. A narrative is a marathon, not a sprint. Remember, no one turns the page after the first sentence.

You have the space to build your opening. Use it wisely.

Breakin’ the Law…Of First Drafts

What’s the first rule of writing your first draft? Don’t edit while you write. Just get it down, no going back and forth.

Well screw that, I’m a rebel and thats just what I’ve been doing today. And it really drove home how the “Rules of Writing” really just a guideline. I mean who actually decided on them?

It is something people seem to get a bit hung up on though. I see it a lot in writing groups, writing guides and anywhere that offers advice to struggling writers. The concept of just get it written and worry about edits later is good advice but remember it’s not set in stone. You can write however you want.

Today is a prime example. Sometimes an idea will come to mind long that will change the flow of the narrative. It will be a good idea, one that takes the story into new territory. But there’s a problem. It contradicts a large portion of what you have already written and you get a large, gaping…

PLOT HOLE

*Cue 1950s horror scream*

So what do you do? Do you just leave it and wait until the first edit? Or do you go ahead and do a rewrite? My advice is to ask yourself a few questions.

  • How big of a change is this?
  • Are you on deadline?
  • Can the story go ahead without an immediate change?
  • Will you remember to make the change?
  • If you decide to wait, will you really be able to fit it in properly?

This last one is the most important. What you don’t want is to have your manuscript finished and then have an early chapter that feels shoehorned in. Imagine yourself as the reader. Will it seem obvious that it was a late edit? Will it disrupt the flow?

We all read here and I’m sure we all hate when a sudden interruption happens. Personally it’s made me put a book down in the past.

So don’t worry about following “The Rules” to the letter. They are very much like the pirates code. Basically guidelines rather than rules. Do what works best for you and find your own style and way of doing things.

All Work and No Play

Well I finally pulled the trigger and decided to take a week off from my (nesessary evil) day job. This is my first proper time off since Christmas so I’d say it was about time. I’ve decided to use this time to write. Nothing else, just write. And so far I’m loving this. In fact I might never go back.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Everyday I’ve actually been excited to get up and get going. It’s a wonderful feeling and not one I’ve had in a long time. It has also made me realise how much I don’t like being around people. Right now it’s just myself and my three furry familiars. The only downside is that I may be developing a slight addiction to chai. Yes I know the stereotype is coffee but unfortunately that is not an option these days.

So do i think I could dedicate myself to this full time?
Honestly yes I do. For the first time ever I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I’ve spoken about the dreaded imposter syndrome that plagues all of the arts before but for the first time I’m not feeling it. It simply feels…right. I can see this becoming a bit more of a regular thing for me. No more making excuses or allowing other things to gt in the way and stop the writing. I really feel like I’m ready to make this happen.

So enough of me babbling on here about ebing deliriously happy and contented. Time to put the kettle on, make a cup of chai and get cracking. The PRD have an adventure to go on and a date with a very dark and evil concisouness.

Writer’s Cramp

Everyone has heard of writers block but there is another malady that is less known outside of writing circles: Writer’s cramp.

Okay I may have just totally made that up but it’s a good analogy for what I’ve been feeling latley. Think of it like going back to the gym for the first time on over a year (something quite a few can relate to right now). Those mucles that you used to exercise on a regular basis have been neglected and they re not happy with the sudden shock of being put through their paces. You’ve maybe put on a few pounds since last time because it’s cream egg season and you have to get as many in as you can before they vanish again. So without thinking, you hop back on the treadmill and off you go. Five minutes later you’re being knifed in the ribs by an unseen gremlin.

Well writing can be very much like that as I discovered recently. The writing process can be very much like exercising. The more you do it, the stronger you get and the better your endurance. Spend enough time away though, your fitness level will start to drop down and you need to take a few steps back so you don’t do yourself a mischief. This is what happens after a prolonged bought of writers block. Like the one I’ve been going through for the past year.

The block finally shifted about a week ago after what was a pretty horrific dream. As awful as it was, this dream did grab my block by the throat, drag it into a dark alleyway and nick its wallet. The muse had returned and to be honest I don’t think she’s been taking her meds. So here I am once again writing. After two years of working on childrens stories, I’ve returned to my roots and started on a new horror novel. And you know what, I’m loveing every second of it.

Until the cramp sets in that is. Instead of being stabbed in the ribs like you would in the gym, this one punches you in the brain. Like right inside the brain. It all started like normal; a bit of research, make notes, plan things out, the usual. Then comes the day to start writing and get these wild ideas out of the meaty blob in my head and onto the screen. One sentence, then two, everything is going well and suddenly it hits you. You can’t remember how to convert those ideas into words. You can see it in your head but the pathways that go from your brain to your fingers are running on a go slow. What you have on the screen is not what you have in your head. All those bad habits you had trained yourself out of are coming back. Things like editing on the go and being able to filter out the 200 ideas that are all fighting for your attention.

So here I am writing for the first time in ages and I haven’t even managed to finish the prologue yet because the damn story keeps changing. And every new idea needs to be tied in with what’s already been written. It hurts but if you take it slow and steady, you can get back to that level of writer fitness before the block came on. Slow and steady is the key. If this ever hits you, the best advice I can give you is to let yourself work back up. Don’t be hard on yourself if the words don’t come like they used to straight away. You will get there again.

Why Do We Do It?

That’s something I get asked a lot by my none writing friends. Why do write? Aren’t you little old to be making up stories?

Okay, number one: Too old? Care to ask Stephen King that same question!

As to the more serious point of why…well you will get a different answer from any writer you ask. You may even get the old stand by: “Because it isn’t there” (I love clichés don’t you?). The truth is that some of us just love to write. We have all of these wonderful worlds that we want to share with the world. Are we just hopeless dreamers? some of us are. yes. Are we wasting time that could be spent doing more “productive things”? Depends on how you define productive.

Too say that we don’t provide some of value to society is so wrong that it’s far beyond the scope of this particular rambling. Plus it’s really bad for my blood pressure.

To be honest my reasons for writing are a little more than just wanted to tell my stories.

A major part of why I write is due to my stammer. When you can take a 30 seconds to utter a 10 second sentence you quickly learn to find other ways of communicating. Even though I came to terms with my stutter a long time ago I still get self conscious on occasion. Meeting new people is generally less than pleasant (that’s why I keep all my friends in my computer ;-D ). To be honest I think it’s more uncomfortable for my listeners these days than it has me. Something that my more sadistic side has taken some pleasure from MWAHAHAHAHA!

But when I write it’s a different story. I can become the person that I hear when I speak, except now every one else can hear me as well. The pleasure you get from that feeling is greater than any high, legal or other, that will ever experience. This isn’t restricted to writing of course. Anyone who does the job that they love will know what this feeling is like. When they can truly be who they are and share that with the world.

Why do I write?

Simply put, it makes me happy. But more importantly; It’s who I am 🙂