If you’re following my blog, just stopping by, or keep up with me in any capacity, then I assume it’s for one of three reasons:
- You’re a friend, acquaintance, or follower of mine, genuinely interested in my upcoming book series, Worlds Apart, and the process that goes along with it.
- You’re a fellow reader, writer, or blogger looking consciously or accidently stumbling upon my blog or other resources for ideas of your own – and that’s great; we all do it! OR . . .
- You’re in it for the “Free Giveaway Mondays” that happen on the last Monday of every month because . . . well . . . who doesn’t like free stuff? And if that’s why you’re following me, that’s perfectly fine, too. My hope is that you’ll enjoy what I write enough to keep coming back for more.
Regardless of what brought you here, I really appreciate the support, and I couldn’t do it without you!
I want to share with you a piece of personal information that my fellow readers, writers, and bloggers might find useful. I want to talk about the importance of strong book openings and how to hook your readers with a good opening paragraph.
We’ve all heard the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” And although those words are great in theory, the fact of the matter is: we DO judge a book by its cover. Now that e-books have a stronger presence in the reader’s realm, a cover is one of the most important things . . . that is, until you open it.
What comes after the book cover? Page 1, of course. Much like the cover, you, as the author, want the first chapter, page, paragraph, sentence to shine like the sun that little orphan Annie promises will come out tomorrow! You want the following pages and chapters to be just as good, but you really want that intro to pop. Why? Well . . . think about it!
Unless you’re writing for self-satisfaction and don’t really care how your books fare, then you want people to read your books. Let me lay out three scenarios for you to consider.
Scenario #1 Your readers buy your book, but your opening page and paragraph are terrible. There is no hook. Your readers become bored, and you’re tossed into that wannabe-writer-with-no-talent pile. And if you were working on a series, well, you can forget about future sales.
Scenario #2 Your opening is mediocre. It’s not great, but it’s not bad. People who bought your book were curious enough to read on past the first few pages. Maybe they’ll get to chapter 3 or 4, but unless the writing improves, they won’t be able to stomach much more. Only those readers who believe they have to finish every book they start will hang in until the bitter end. And then you’re out of luck. Trust me, they won’t be back for round two.
Scenario #3 Your opening is fantastic. You’ve got the reader pulled in, hook, line and sinker, and they’re not going anywhere! Writing a good opening is like starting your party with the good wine. When you write, however, you don’t want to switch to the cheap wine—no matter how drunk your guests get. Am I suggesting that you get your readers drunk on your well-written prose, dialogue, and action? Absolutely!
If you need some inspiration for how to hook your readers, check out “The 25 Best Opening Lines in Western Literature.” Not only does the article give examples of great openings, it also describes why they are effective. I’ve included one of my favorites below.
Opening lines from George Orwell’s 1984
Creative Thought Process: “To properly set the mood for a futuristic dystopia, combine the elements of springtime, coldness, an unlucky number, and bells tolling. Then, watch people fight over the feasibility of a clock that can strike thirteen.” (shmoop.com)
Every writer wants to experience the third of my scenarios. It means your readers are buying your book, reading it from cover to cover, and—hopefully—will be left with a craving for more. That leads to word-of-mouth recommendations, book reviews, and a general boost in visibility. And if you’re writing a series, like I am, you need all those things!
The reason I share all of this is because I recently had, and am still having, a hard time with my opening for Book One, A Myth Reborn. In 2011, I began my writing journey, and for the last three years, I’ve been changing, editing and tweaking my first novel. Mostly I’ve been happy with it—except for the opening, that is. My problem was that I liked most of what I had written and didn’t want to change too much, so I removed chunks of muscle and skin and let the skeleton of the story intact.
During the madness of March, when I did little except write, edit, and research, I realized (with much help from my editor, Susan Hughes), that it was time to take more drastic measures. It was time to amputate a few limbs from the skeleton of my story. It was stressful, at first, to throw out all those words. What if I couldn’t replicate what I’d written the first time? What if I forgot certain plot points and they popped up in the story later, out of nowhere? The point is—I wasn’t satisfied. I went back to the drawing board, after 3 years, and tossed the opening of my story, and you know what? The ideas came flooding in! And many of the other minor problems I’d had with my story began to work themselves out, too!
Having suffered through this part of the process, here’s my advice: Hook your readers with something different. Write something out of the ordinary. Make them CARE, right from the start. With the opening I’m working on right now, I allude to the fact that (much like the mantra of my entire series), “change is coming.” After a line or two, the reader discovers, through thoughts, action, or dialogue, that things are about to change. And change is good—it means there’s a story to tell.
Anyway, that’s my take on it. Don’t just take my word on it, though. The article linked above has lots of clever ideas on how to write a good opening, and the commentary about the creative thought processes each author went through is witticism at its finest!
Finally, as I end this post, I’d like to share an update about my month of March Madness and what is on the horizon for April. Because I like naming things and giving them themes, I’m deeming next month “An Author’s April Spring Cleaning.” I’m going to clean up what I need to. That means more editing on A Myth Reborn, categorizing the helpful resources I’ve found in a more organized way, and attempting to get ahead of the oncoming wave that is self-publishing. And, of course, I have to plan for my next giveaway on April 28th, the last Monday of the month!
Don’t forget, the March Madness Free Giveaway Monday is still live until March 31st at midnight (EST).
Life is beautiful! The future is bright!
“Keep on dreaming even if it breaks your heart.” – Eli Young Band
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See you all next time!