Jill Weatherholt

Writing Stories of Love, Faith and Happy Endings While Enjoying the Journey

There’s no hook in my Nook

35 Comments

nook2

I have a problem. I love to read. Of course my problem isn’t reading, it’s finding the time to read without the guilt. I try to maintain a balance of work, family and writing by reading at night.

There are times when a couple of pages turn into a much needed double dose of caffeine the next morning because I couldn’t put the book down.  I love those times. A page-turner is the type of book I prefer to read and some of us strive to write.

Despite the strict guidelines in the world of publishing, not all books are created equal. Sometimes I reach the end of the first chapter, put the book down and forget to pick it back up. I intend to finish the book, but my reading time is too limited to spend on a book that doesn’t grab my attention and keep me reading.

If you’re a writer, how do you keep the reader from falling into a valium induced coma while reading your book?  I’ve come up with a few ways, perhaps you can add to the list.

1. Don’t forget the hook. I want something to hit me in the face on that first page. Give me some action or a telling secret so I’ll keep turning the pages.

2. Don’t start with dialogue because I get confused. Who is this person talking and why should I care what they have to say?

3. Don’t confuse me by introducing too many characters in the first chapter. I want the spotlight to be on the main character(s) from the start.

4. Don’t make me frustrated by beginning the book with a puzzle or in the middle of a situation. I don’t want to be scratching my head on the first page wondering what is going on.

5. Don’t make me feel like I’ve read the book before by using a clichéd plot line or character.

Am I asking too much?

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Author: Jill Weatherholt

My name is Jill Weatherholt and I’m a writer. I have a full-time job, but at night and on the weekend, I pursue my passion, writing. I write modern stories about love, friendship and forgiveness. I started this blog as a way to share my journey toward publication and to create a community for other new writers. Raised in the Washington, DC area, I’ve lived in Charlotte, North Carolina since 2004. I hold a degree in Psychology from George Mason University and a Certification in Paralegal Studies from Duke University. My first book, SECOND CHANCE ROMANCE, will release in March, 2017. It's now able for pre-order on Amazon. I was the first place winner in the Dream Quest One Short Story Contest in the Winter 2014-2015 competition. In 2014, I placed second in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest. I was also a top ten finalist in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest in 2012 and 2013. I’m a 2010 and 2012 winner of the NaNoWriMo Contest. I love to connect readers, visit me at jillweatherholt.com

35 thoughts on “There’s no hook in my Nook

  1. These are all great points, Jill. I’ve edited a few novels that begin with four or five pages of scenery description–snooze!

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  2. You are not asking too much. In my opinion, it is the job of the writer to produce the best work possible and these simple tips are very important to keep in mind.

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  3. These are great tips, Jill. I do the 50 page test and if I’m not sure where I am I usually put the book down (my time is too precious to spent it confused by a story) 😉

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    • Thanks, Dianne! I think you have more patience than I do as I rarely get past five or ten. By the way, I saw your comment at “bodhisattvaintraining”, we have more in common than writing. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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  4. I almost always finish the books I start. But I am sometimes disappointed I wasted my time after I’m through — like too many calories on a bad dessert. Good points for writers to remember.

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    • Good for you, finishing what you start. Sometimes it can be very painful, so I give you a lot of credit, Theresa. I like your dessert analogy. I often say eating dessert that isn’t chocolate is wasted calories.

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  5. Interesting ideas and very good points…but (about number 2) what if the prologue doesn’t start with dialogue but the first chapter does? The reader must read the prologue to get an idea about where the book is going. So technically, the book doesn’t start with dialogue. Does that count with meeting your requirement? Also, (about number 1 and 4) are you referring to in medias res? It sounds like it’s not what you’re looking for, but wouldn’t that satisfy as your hook; the action or telling secret you are seeking? Just wondering.

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    • You bring up a very good point when you mention the prologue. I’m curious what you’ve read about prologues. I’m still in the early stages of learning the craft, but much of what I’ve read is you shouldn’t start your book with a prologue. I’ve read many books that start with a high drama action scene, but I’m not scratching my head wondering what the heck is going on. Again, I’m in the learning process, so I welcome comments that generate a conversation and can maybe alleviate some of my confusion. 🙂

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      • I, too, am no expert. I often feel like a neophyte when it comes to learning anything–especially writing. But that’s the benefit of constructive (self) criticism; it keeps you moving in the right direction and prevents complacency.

        There are advantages and disadvantages to (1) writing a prologue and (2) starting a novel with in medias res.

        (1) Can serve as back story or describe a critical event from a different time that is out of sequence with the rest of the book. It is sometimes used in sci-fi/fantasy to orient the reader to the new world he/she is about to step into, to acclimate the reader so he/she isn’t lost and gives up on reading. Could be used to show a different point of view, changing from first person to third, or vice versa. But the drawbacks are: it can be tedious to the reader, readers nowadays tend to skip to the first chapter missing what the author felt was essential, sometimes it just isn’t needed, etc. So what you’ve read is the general rule; prologues should be avoided. I’ve considered making my prologue chapter one, or working it in somewhere else in the novel. All of the advantages above can be worked into the story if the writer knows how. (But when I write, I write for pleasure, happiness, and passion. Something I’ve learned along the way: if I concern myself too much with this kind of advice I’ve read, especially during the first draft, I’ll never be writing from my heart and only worried about writing to please the masses. I never write to please the masses. Because in the end, no one is satisfied–not even the writer. And it might not even make it past the eyes of a literary agent if written with that attitude. There’s nothing to be gained when the writer only writes to garner fame and fortune.)

        (2) In medias res is Latin for “in the middle of things.” This literary technique can be confusing, as you said; but if it’s done right, it is the hook that the reader is seeking. So maybe the times you were left scratching your head, it probably wasn’t executed properly. It goes straight to the conflict immediately without wasting the reader’s time. This tactic is often employed these days because lots of people have the attention span of a gnat (including myself). But the skilled writer has to find the balance; if it’s too early, then the author risks losing the reader’s attention, if it’s too late, then the author risks making the rest of the book feel too anticlimactic, or trivial, or even meaningless.

        Well, I hope I helped. Sorry for the long reply. Any thoughts you have on these topics or anything else writing related, I would love to know more. Thanks for the opportunity to start a conversation (I actually worked something out in my head for my novel while typing my reply). 😉

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      • I agree, constructive criticism is always very beneficial, at least for me. I appreciate your input on the prologue. I’ve read many books where a prologue was necessary or I would have been lost in the first chapter. I’m with you, I write for pleasure as well, but I’m also write with the dream of one day being published, so for me, I’ll leave out the prologue, at least until the rules change again. No apology needed for your reply. 🙂 I’m happy while responding it helped you work out something.

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  6. The tips are great 🙂 sometimes it’s hard to think like the reader because you get so wrapped up in the story playing in your head.

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  7. Very good tips. I’ve found that if a novel doesn’t grab me straight off, I’ll give it just a wee bit more time; the author in me wants to suss out just what doesn’t compute. But life is too short to read dull books. Once I’ve gathered enough info, I’ll move on, ready to find the next gem. 🙂

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    • I agree, Anna. There are too many wonderful books out there to spend time on a dud, especially if your “pleasure” reading time is limited. I know you won’t be doing any reading next Sunday. 🙂 Good luck to your 49ers!

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  8. I’m very guilty of starting a book and dropping it like a hot potato if it doesn’t hook me within the first two pages. I can be a tough critic I suppose, but I expect the same of my own writing. My reading time is very precious and there are many incredible books out there to read…

    Great points. My first novel originally included a prologue. I spent the better part of a week weaving that backstory into the first chapter in order to rid of it. Too many agents and readers don’t like prologues for me to leave it in. 😦

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    • I’m with you, Jolyse. My reading time is valuable, so I feel no guilt in kicking a book to the curb if it doesn’t catch me from the beginning. Although I do regret the money spent. 🙂

      Thanks for your input on the prologue. I recently received a book from a contest I entered and to my surprise, there was a prologue. Sometimes the writing world can be confusing. But for now, I’m leaving the prologue out of my writing.

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  9. I think all of us who write a great deal have a harder time getting interested in a book. If something hasn’t caught me within the first ten minutes of my reading, regardless of page numbers, another three hours or three days won’t make it any better. I don’t think this to be an indictment on the writer, but on me. I have had this response to some writers I have never heard of and some of the most popular writers of all time.

    Tim

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    • You make a good point,Tim. Sometimes I think it can be my frame of mind during those first couple of pages. I never blame the writer either because I’ve had negative reactions to some bestsellers. Everyone has different taste and opinions. I hope my list didn’t sound too harsh. These are just things I try to focus on with my writing. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to reading your short stories on your blog.

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  10. Good points! I’m currently reading “A million suns” by Beth Revis, and one of the reasons I keep turning pages is because there’s this big secret that they keep mentioning, but no one knows what it is. I’m pretty sure I’ve figured it out, but I need to keep reading to confirm. So I totally agree with your advice, but I’d also say some sort of mystery, or unknown outcome, mentioned near the beginning will do a lot to keep me reading even if I’m not loving the story itself or the characters. In Revis’ case, though, the story and characters are also top notch, but that mystery is what’s driving me anyways.

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    • Thanks! I just added “A Million Suns” to my TBR list, it sounds good. I agree, some mystery at the beginning is definitely a page turner. I guess it all comes down to if it’s well written, you won’t be lost.

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  11. Great thoughts Jill – I realize the truth of your advice and know I broke one of those rules today, already (bad writer!). Too many characters = too much expectation for the reader. I am down with the hook, for sure. Your post made me think of my wife, reading the iPad and getting so tired late at night she starts trying to flip the pages on it…have a good day and thank you for stopping by my blog. – Bill

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  12. I’m either hooked or bored after the first two paragraphs. That introduction is what makes me want to delve into the rest of the story. I try to keep that in mind when I’m writing. That first line is extremely important.

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  13. A great list, thanks for this I will totally keep them in mind!

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  14. No, sounds about right to me, Jill.

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  15. Reblogged this on Jill London and commented:
    Sometimes you get so caught up in your writing it’s easy to forget the finished outcome. The act of creation is central to writing but if you want to write to be read please remember to spare a thought for the reader 🙂

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  16. Important points for writers to remember! Thanks Jill, I’ve reblogged this 🙂

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