Well, folks. It was fun while it lasted.

As you can see, not much has been happening on this blog lately.

There are several reasons for this, but I will only hit on a couple:

First: It's amazing how much can change in a couple of months--both in our personal lives and on the writing front. A couple of us have signed publishing contracts, and so the need to write, edit, market, promote HAD to take preference over this blog and the services we were providing.

Second: Running this blog, critiquing submissions, providing feedback...well, that's a LOT of dang work. We weren't getting paid for this service. We had a concept and we went with it--for free--not realizing how much time it would involve with very little (nothing) in return for our effort.

Third: Probably the biggest factor that made us come to this decision, was the fact that a good portion of the submissions we received just weren't ready. They needed more revision. We were wanting to give out reviews on AMAZING, fully complete, well edited novels. 90% of what we received didn't come close.

So we've shut it down. We've moved on.

If you liked our comments and our posts, you can check us out on our individual blogs:

Angela Scott: www.whimsywritingandreading.weebly.com or @whimsywriting on twitter or http://www.facebook.com/AngelaScottWriter

D.S. Tracy:

Kacey Mark:

Friday, June 3, 2011

How To Hook A Skeptical Hook'er

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 5:00 AM
I have always been an impatient reader. I love to read but unless a book hooks me right away, I’m in trouble. When I was a kid, I stuck to the authors and series I liked. But as I got older, went to college, and explored other literary genres, I found it takes a lot to hook me. Once an author does hook me, I’m in it to win it. It’s getting there—the foreplay—that has me stuck with a stack of unfinished books on my nightstand.
Besides my children’s endless whining and need to eat, there are several things that cause me to put down a book:
Lame start—I read a writing book once that said to make sure and talk about the weather. It was so important to talk about the weather the author mentioned it twice. I stopped reading the book at that moment, in fact, I can’t even remember the title.
The use of weather and setting to start a story can be fantastic, deep, symbolic, and almost become a character all its own, but it has been done too many times. Or the fantasy start with the dark figure slipping into the tavern with a bunch of ruffians slamming down grog—please don’t.
Slow start—No sleeping, waking up from sleep, dream, vacuuming the floor . . . . Unless it is important to the story and moves it forward—skip it. Get us to the meat. I take mine medium rare.
Pompous—There's a famous author who is quite successful because he manipulated an already famous story. He was quite clever and had me at hello just off the idea of his book. I loved the original story so I jumped in and read his version. The trouble was, he used big arse words that came off with an air of hoity toitiness that crept under my skin and stayed for good.
Keep it simple, right? Don’t work too hard to be clever or smart with your writing. Write clean, tight prose that grabs me by the eyeballs and won't let go. I’m not saying don’t build your vocabulary; I’m saying be smart about it.
Too much too soon—Hook me. Don’t overwhelm me with too much of anything, especially characters.
Prologue—I usually skip prologues and go right for the chapter. If they are short, I’ll give them a go, but I’m not a fan, especially when they seem like they are used as a ploy.
Following trends—If you force yourself to write the next vamp book or wizard book because it’s hot, be careful. I think it is hard to find the right genre. I started out writing women’s fiction, switched to suspense, now I’m thinking I belong in sci-fi/fantasy. Tomorrow I may think I’m the next erotica superstar—or not.
Also, just because a person reads a lot in one genre doesn’t mean that’s their writing home. I have a friend who loves reading Adult fantasy, but she excels in YA Contemporary.
If you must follow the trend because you are so passionate about it make sure you make it your own.
Boring—Don’t really need to explain this, but . . . If you are interested in landing an agent, start with action. Now that doesn’t mean Karate kid type action, although what book couldn’t use a one legged crane kick, right?
Get down to it. Who is the MC? What do they want? Blah blah blah. Don’t meander through weighty weather descriptions or chatty dialogue. What's the story?  
Characters are lackluster—It seems like there is an abundance of snarky women leads out there and I’m getting tired of it. I like me some sass, but lately, it comes off as cliché. Is sarcasm the only thing that makes females interesting? I know a lot of great women who are as far from this type of character as they come. They are deep, kind, mysterious, complicated, funny, but their quick tongues don’t rule them. Women aren’t all bitches, some are hook’ers too.

Same goes for blah characters. Liven them up with flaws, give them personality, put them in a pile of muck and let us see how they get out of it. I don't know. Do something. Make us root for them.
P.O.V. problems—I’m not a huge fan of first person present tense or third person omniscient. I’ll try to get through it, but if there are too many shifts or annoying things going on with the pov, I’m done. Whiny kids. Dinner to cook. Bottle of Jack to drink.
Watch your I’s and Me’s too. She’s and he’s in third. This is hard, I know, but it can mess up the flow.
Flowery—same as pompous in a way. Don’t try too hard. Write tight and clean and don’t bog me down with unnecessary description. If the lamp isn’t important to the story, don’t tell me about it. I don’t care about the lamp. I care about the character—or at least, hope to.
Tone—read aloud. Hopefully you can catch issues with tone.  
Pacing—too fast. Too slow. Inconsistent.
Telling vs. Showing—I have a few words that really bug me. Felt, know, believe, see/saw, etc. “She felt his arm brush against her boob.” (Gotta add in the boobs. I am a hook'er after all.) “His arm grazed her . . .” Besides the telling aspect of it, in many cases those words are simply unnecessary and clutter up writing. It is important to reveal your character through their actions and experiences.
Simply saying, "she was devastated by the loss of her father," is okay but I want to see/feel/experience that for myself. I don’t want to know that I’m reading a book. I want to live it. Show devastation. Trust your reader and always resist the urge to explain. R.U.E. the day, people.
Names—this is pretty minor, but names are important. I don’t like overly unique names, unless it is for a reason. I remember listening to a book on CD once and the narrator butchered the name. I don't think it was necessarily her fault, since the name was ridiculous, but hell-o editing. It was distracting and embarrassing for the writer and narrator.

The name has to fit. Also watch out for trendy names. Occasionally I will pop over to Query Tracker and read the threads and offer feedback. I changed the name of one of my characters after reading four other stories with the same name as my MC.
Dialogue—I like strong dialogue with minimal tags and just enough action. I also can’t stand it when an action is confused with a tag. “Don’t touch me,” she sighed. “I hate you,” she snarled.
I’ve read and heard people talk about how “said” is one of those invisible words. I agree to an extent—if used sparingly. When it isn’t, it is as blatant as a thump on the head. A good test for your tags is to read aloud. How would it sound as an audio book? Do you hear the thump?

There are a few other things that cause me to drift off to the land of milk and honey, or the land of bills and burdens, but I’m already bored with this post. It just didn’t hook me.

Can you add or take away from this list? Are you easily hooked? Or are you as impatient as I am?

Thanks for looking,
The Skeptical Hook’er

6 comments:

Lyn Midnight on June 3, 2011 at 12:31 PM said...

"Watch your I’s and Me’s too. She’s and he’s in third. This is hard, I know, but it can mess up the flow." -- Now that's something Ihave trouble with.

Omg, I love this post. First of all, any post with the word hoity toitiness is fabulous. Second, I think that the tip 'start with action' is the best one I've heard in a while, and though I'm supposed to know it, I forget about it sometimes. Good to know what agents like too.

I haven't heard of Query Tracker before but it sounds like something I have to get acquaintanced with.

I am... very hard to hook, to be honest. I mean, I actually skim through posts ususally, can't take it all in at once, I feel like the internet has awakened some kind of propensity for ADHD. Sigh. But I have to say that I read almost every word of this post, lol. I guess it's time to learn to speed read or sth or I'm in trouble.

As for books, same things you mentioned. I hate slowness, I hate too much description, and I hate present tense. Also, I can't stand it if I have to stop and go back to understand some fancy sentence. What hooks me are clean scenes and lots of dialogue. :)

Thanks you!!!

Crystal Collier on June 3, 2011 at 1:22 PM said...

Well there you go. Great list of do's and don'ts. I'm right with you. A book has a total of 4 sentences to grab me--as it has to compete tenaciously with 3 little kids who are ALWAYS home and ALWAYS loud. (We home school.)

So happy I stumbled across this blog!

Nancy Lauzon on June 3, 2011 at 9:28 PM said...

Great blog. I also have a stack of books that I never finished because I got bored. Sometimes they start pretty well, it's almost as though the author is aware they need to hook you, but then they slacken off the tension around Chapter 3, and voila ... I'm left holding a limp rope. Happened recently. The heroine seemed interesting and problems were piling up. She ends up in her boss's executive washroom and the next 3 pages are filled with her staring at herself in the mirror whining about her muffin top and how she needs to lose weight. HUH?

Nancy
http://nancylauzon.blogspot.com
The Chick Dick Blog

Brooke R. Busse on June 4, 2011 at 1:44 AM said...

I'm so used to reading past tense, that when I start to read present tense books, I still see all the words in past tense. It really disrupts the flow when I realize I've been reading present tense instead.

I do, occasionally, enjoy writing it though.

Elisabeth Hirsch on June 4, 2011 at 8:23 AM said...

I'm not easily hooked either, but this post hooked me. Great blog ;)

Lindsay on June 4, 2011 at 10:39 AM said...

Great post. The opening hook is vital and I think I soent the most time trying to get it right. Even going back several time to fine tune it.

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