Three Hot Tips To Make Awesome First Pages

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
Three Hot Tips To Make Awesome First Pages
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


Carrie has been talking to a lot of her authors lately about the beginning of their stories and how to make them awesome. And Carrie has a lot of tips for the writers she works with, but we’re going to be fast here.

Make it Tense AF

You don’t want to make readers in our time wait for the good stuff. Nobody is into waiting right now. It’s all instant gratification all the time. This is even true for most books. Too many details. Too much setting or exposition. And too little tension means that readers aren’t going to want to read on. Your first page should make the reader ask a question that they want the answer to.

Show Us What Your Book and Character Are About

This tip really means we want to see the core of your character and what they are yearning for on the very first page. If your book is a mystery, let us see it. If your book is an erotic novel about a hamster and a gerbil, we need to know that, too. The first thing the reader sees your main character doing? That shows the reader who that character is. If she’s running to rescue someone because she hears yelling? That tells us something about her. If she’s running away because she hears yelling? That tells us something about her, too.

Show Us Where They Hell We Are

Nothing is more annoying than a book that has no grounding elements. Let us readers know where the characters are hanging out. Are we in this century? This world? A cold climate? A warm one? What part of the year is it? Let the reader know where your characters are.

Bonus Tip: You don’t want a prologue unless you really need it and you probably don’t need it. We know! We know! It’s super sexy to start with all that backstory instead of trying to expertly twist it into the forward-moving scenes. But it’s also super lazy. And agents don’t like them if you’re trying to get traditionally published.

Spoiler: You can’t just give up after the first ten pages. You want to make sure that your whole book is fantastic and keeps hooking the reader and making them want to read more.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the regular stuff is there.

I Lost My Damn Theme How Do I Find It

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
I Lost My Damn Theme How Do I Find It
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


Last week on our podcast we talked about theme, and we’re going back there again.

We know! We know! So scary. Why risk it again? We risk it for you, dear listener. Like a matyr-parent from the early 2000s, we’re writing your college essays and yelling at the soccer coach and doing the work.

Once again, what actually is a theme?

So, the theme is the central idea of your story.

According to aresearchguide.com:

“A theme in a story is the major idea that the story leans or surrounds. It comments on human experience, and more often a story relates to real life situations. All stories have at least one theme.

“A theme gives the general view of the story. It gives the reader the insight into how the story characters live to pursue something good, the results of conflicts and how all these choices come to pass in their lives. In a story, there can be major and minor themes.

   A major theme is an idea the writer keeps on repeating in his work, portraying it as the most significant idea.

   The minor theme is the idea that appears briefly in the story.

“A theme needs to be compelling and captivating. You need to think carefully when choosing a theme for your story.”

Let’s go simple: It’s the idea your story is about and it’s good to include a verb in that idea and a noun/subject.

Some writing coaches will say to never ever explicitly state your theme. Some coaches will say you should absolutely have a character state your theme early on in your story (first act) but have your main character not get it.

Over on the blog writerswrite, they give examples of themes:

Crime pays.

Honesty is the best policy.

Who dares wins.

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Home is where the heart is.

The past is a foreign country – they do things differently there.

You never really know anybody.

People are predictable.

People with nothing to lose are dangerous.

Love conquers all.

Blood is thicker than water.

You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.

What does not kill you makes you stranger.

That site uses the Lajos Egri Theme Cheat Sheet, which is from Ljos’s book: The Art of Dramatic Writing.

This is from the writerswrite blog.

And, according to Amanda Patterson who wrote that fantastic post, a theme is important and helps you actually write your novel because you then can make sure that every scene in your novel works toward that theme.

Over on the aresearchguide, they say,

“A theme gives a story meaning and hence creating an emotional impact. A theme creates a difference between a great story that readers can relate to and a mediocre one. The theme adds an in-depth and creates a connection to the story. It is necessary for an author to have a good and clear understanding of the theme (h)as this is the key to crafting great and awesome stories that readers will love.”

But it’s over on Amanda’s brilliant post that the three steps, the three really helpful steps, show up. These are a direct quote.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the regular stuff is there.

Make Dialogue Your BFF

Dialogue and voice both do some really important things in your story.

Provide context

You can provide some pretty awesome information via dialogue and idiosyncratic character voice.

Show the subtext

Subtext is basically the hidden motivation/emotion/wants of your character that aren’t right there out on the surface.

So if I wrote: 

“Look at you in that onesie! What a brave person you are.” Shaun said with a grimace.

You’d know that Shaun is really thinking that the other character is more unconventional than brave.

Make things more exciting –

When you have two characters bickering, it tends to be more interesting on the page than saying, “They bickered.”

Dialogue and voice helps provide context, drama, and interest. It pulls the reader in. It’s a big part of showing rather than telling.

“I can’t believe you don’t like my onesie,” she said, spinning around in front of the couch, arms out.

He smirked. “Didn’t say that.”

“Manatees are frolicking on this.” She stopped spinning and pulled out the fabric a bit. “Look! Look at the print. It is imported.”

“You look like you’re two. A two year old with boobs.”

“Boobs! Call them breasts. Oh my word . . .”

“That makes you sound like a chicken.”

“You are the chicken, mister, a negative, judgmental and derogatory chicken and I am incensed that you don’t understand the value of this outfit or me.”

“WTF, baby.” 

Shows character difference.

Good dialogue and good voice show us how the characters aren’t the same. Even in my horrible example up there, the two characters don’t sound the same. One has longer sentences and more Latinate word choices. The other is a bit more blunt. One uses conjunctions and the other doesn’t.

Dialogue and voice go hand in hand to really make a huge impact on your story. Get cozy with them. Learn their rules. Buy them a coffee. Make them your friends. You won’t regret it.

NEW BOOK ALERT!

I just want to let everyone know that INCHWORMS (The Dude Series Book 2) is out and having a good time as Dude competes for a full scholarship at a prestigious Southern college and getting into a bit of trouble.

Here’s what it’s about:

A fascinating must-read suspense from New York Times bestseller Carrie Jones.

A new chance visiting a small Southern college.
A potential love interest for a broken girl obsessed with psychology.
A damaged group of co-eds.
A drowning that’s no accident.
A threat that seems to have no end.

And just like that Jessica Goodfeather aka Dude’s trip away from her claustrophobic life in Maine to try to get an amazing scholarship to her dream school has suddenly turned deadly. Again.


What would you do to make a difference?

After his best friend Norah was almost abducted, Cole Nicholaus has spent most of his childhood homeschooled, lonely and pining for Norah to move from best friend to girl friend status. When birds follow him around or he levitates the dishes, he thinks nothing of it—until a reporter appears and pushes him into making a choice: stay safe at home or help save a kidnapped kid.

Cole and Norah quickly end up trying to not just save a kid, but an entire town from a curse that has devastating roots and implications for how exactly Cole came to be the saint that he is.

Can Cole stop evil from hurting him and Norah again? And maybe even get together? Only the saints know.

From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the NEED seriesSaint is a book about dealing with the consequences that make us who we are and being brave enough to admit who we love and what we need.

BUY NOW! 🙂 I made a smiley face there so you don’t feel like I’m too desperate.

The cover. Creepy, right?

You can read an excerpt right here.

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