Wednesday Writing Tips How to Hook Readers And How Not To Bore Them

The main element when we write a book is that we want our readers to keep reading. So,  I think I’m going to start what I like to call (Drumroll please) the Wednesday Writing Series About Hooking Your Reader.

I’ll be giving two hints a blog post. Let’s keep going!

TWO QUICK HINTS TO KEEP YOUR READER HOOKED ON YOUR BOOK

Let the reader identify with someone.

We like stories where we can quickly identify with the main character, or at least a character, pretty early on.

Think about all the BuzzFeed quizzes that ask, “Which Harry Potter Character Are You?” “Which Buffy Character Are You?” “Who Are You In The Wire?” “What Disney Princess Are You?”

It goes on and on.

We humans like to identify with characters who are in the stories we read or the video we watch. It’s like a nice pat on the back that says we aren’t alone, and it creates community.

Don’t Do This:

  1. Start with dialogue on the first line. It’s hard to care about the person speaking if you haven’t met them yet.

“Wow,” he said. “That is really it.”

Huh, the reader said.

2. Tell us stuff we don’t need to know.

So, in 1870 or something like that I had this great great aunt who allegedly stepped on a nail or something, not that it matters. Although, maybe it mattered to her, but yeah. I don’t know why I’m telling you this.

Neither does the reader.

3. Introduce 18 characters in the first paragraphs. It’s hard to remember who is who and who is important.

As Belinda walked inside the Timberland RV Campground in Trenton, Maine she waved hello to Lincoln, son-in-law of the owner, a retired man with a name like Jack or something, and then she waved to Debbie, Lincoln’s wife, who was riding on a golf cart with Charlene. Peggy was perched on the back with a blonde child whose name I think is Jackie…

Enough said, right?

4. And finally describe things just for the sake of describing them.

Timberland RV Campground descended into a slight hill, managing to split itself across two town lines. It was Trenton in the front and Ellsworth in the back and the back was where there were no trees surrounding the sites, just pull-in places for the giant RVs and motorhomes and campers and busses. I have no idea which is which. I’d never been in a campground before, but they had hook-ups at some of the sites for water and sewer, or just one, and electricity. There were metal fire rings and some people had fancied up their sites with flowers and decks and lobster buoys because… Maine.

 

You can find the other posts in this series by searching the hookingreaderstag.

Writing News

Next and Last Time Stoppers Book

It’s out! You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere. The official release date was yesterday, August 7!

Please buy it so I can keep buying food for the dogs… and stuff…

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People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

You should totally buy Carrie’s book about Moe. It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

OUR PODCAST DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow.

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Writing Coach

Carrie offers solo writing coach services. For more about Carrie’s individual coaching, click here.

Appearances

Carrie will be at The Books-A-Million in South Portland, Maine on August 8. That’s tonight!

She’ll be at the Maine Literacy Volunteers Festival on September 8.

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Revising a Book Is Sort of Like Hell, Basically, So Take Care of Yourself

Back in 2009, I had just finished the revision of CAPTIVATE (sequel to NEED), and after I happy danced, I pretty much passed out.

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The revision of that book was the hardest revision I ever had to do, basically because during that revision I had to work my brain really hard and I was still pretty new to writing novels.

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DURING THAT REVISION:

1. I cut about 40,000 words in two-revision passes.
2. I added about 20,000 more words.
3. I lost all word retrieval skills.
4. I  called everyone I saw BABY  because that was the only word I could retrieve.

5. I lost one friend who didn’t like that I called him BABY and failed to call him back 8,0000 times.
6. I gained three more friends who were into the whole BABY thing.
7. I wondered why I was a writer 74 times (a day).

My whole life went on hold I made lists like this:

Tomorrow I will have to:

1. Call my father who thinks I don’t love him anymore and doesn’t understand that I can’t talk to him in the middle of work when he always talks for at least an hour and it totally ruins my ability to think.

2. Email my mother who is much more understanding.

3. Do push-ups.

4. Pass out again.

5. Reply to blog comments.

Yes, that’s how bad it was. I put ‘pass out’ on my list of things to do.

Revision can be tough especially when there’s a whole lot of pressure on you. To be the best writer and person you can be, you have to take care of yourself, not just your book.

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So here are some tips on how to stay healthy while revising

Get Some Sleep

I know! I know! Writers are supposed to write until they are slumped over their desk and drooling on their keyboard, but this is not actually healthy!

Your brain becomes less efficient the more it needs sleep. So no all-nighters, writing friends.

Have Healthy Snacks, Not Sugary Ones.

Sugar makes you fluctuate between big highs and lows. Nobody wants that.

Stand Up A Lot

Sitting at the desk forever isn’t good for you. Stand up and work whenever you can or at least take breaks from the sitting.

Get Exercise

This is right there with not sitting at your desk all the time, but I made it two separate points. If you take the time to work out before you do your actual writing work, it helps keep you focused and awake.

Drink Water

Dehydrated writers are writers who faint. Fainting is romantic in books, but in real life it leads to concussions. Concussions lead to missed deadlines. Nobody wants that.

Do Good Wednesday

Be a kindness ambassador. I know! I know! It sounds corny, but I’m so super serious. Leave a note, a present, anonymously somewhere in your town or school for someone specific or anyone at all.

Need a specific idea on how to do this? There used to be a blog called Secret Agent L (I think) where the person in charge of the blog went around their town doing this sort of thing. It was cool.

The link is here.

carriejonesbooks.blog

Random Marketing and Book Things Since I am an Author and Need To Make Money.

I KNOW! I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO ADMIT IT. 

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy was all official on March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can order it!

Kirkus Review says:   A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, has a new podcast that came out Tuesday. All the episodes links are on this page.

This podcast is weird, quirky, and totally authentic. I mean, you can tell we are goofy people just trying to share some writing tips and life tips and we are not sitting in the NPR studio. I mean look at us. We’re total dorks.

And finally, I made a little video for my TIME STOPPERS books.

Time Stoppers’s third book comes out this summer. It’s been called a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but with heart. It takes place in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. I need to think of awesome ways to promote it because this little book series is the book series of my own middle grade heart. Plus, I wrote it for the Emster. Plus, it is fun.

Prom Parties Can Make You a Writer & Teach You About Pacing

Since I have no shame what-so-ever, and since I enjoy humiliating myself I am going to post my old prom pictures here.

So, here it is:

This is me with Joe. Joe is gay. He wasn’t out yet here. He was the best boyfriend ever obviously since he went to the prom with me despite the fact that I was wearing this pink monstrosity of a dress. From now on the dress will be referred to as BERTHABELINDAGOGOS.

Check out the bottom part of BERTHABELINDAGOGOS! You could make five dresses for Beyonce out of that… that… Not that Beyonce would allow that, obviously.

Oh! What is the name for the bottom part of a dress? You can tell I am no good at dressmaking terms. Oh… yeah… hemline?

Also, please try to ignore my hair and the fact that we are holding my dog, Shelly Belly, and gazing at each other in a total Lifetime Movie sort of way and that Shelly Belly is ALSO GAZING AT JOE IN A TOTAL LIFETIME MOVIE SORT OF WAY!!! Shelly Belly! I never knew.

(Yes. Those are two different pink dresses. Yes. Joe and I went to two different proms together, two years in a row. Yes. My mother made us pose in front of the fireplace EACH TIME!!!)

Cleansing breaths, Carrie. Cleansing breaths.

 

Here are Joe and I post prom at Hampton Beach in NH, which is where everyone went if they:

1. Didn’t go to a hotel to be skanky
2. Didn’t go home to be lonely
3. Didn’t go to the post-prom party to be good kids approved of by the school administration and parents everywhere.

Although, actually we did go to the post-prom party and it was there that my German teacher (who is QUITE similar to the German teacher in TIPS) dunked me in the swimming pool repeatedly. I have not forgiven him for the repeated dunking (Water up the nose is NOT fun, Herr Wells!), which is why there is a German teacher in TIPS.

Note in the picture that  the cool U2 shirt, and Chris LaSalle passed out behind us. He is the lump in the sand.

Note that the Emster hates this picture.

Note that I am posting it anyway because my chin looks good.

Note that we went to the post-prom party because you could win things (I WON A SAVINGS BOND, WHICH PAID FOR A COMPUTER, WHICH SET ME ON THE COURSE OF BEING A WRITER) and  because there was free pizza!

Moral of the story: Always go to post-prom parties if you want to be a writer or get free pizza.

Where is the Writing Wisdom in all this, you might ask. Is this not Writing Wisdom Wednesday and also Do Good Wednesday? Yes… yes… it is.

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Writing Wisdom Time

Books are like prom experiences.

No two proms are going to be the same even if you go with the same person. Proms have different levels of thrill and different levels of boredom. Some are hell on earth. Some are fantasies out of 1980s movies complete with awesome soundtracks.

Books are like that, too.

There is no one way to be a book. But all books, and all proms have a certain pace to them. You expect for them to fall into one of the types of pacing and action:

Some will be a slower, mellow time. Think a quiet, literary novel.

Some will be all razz-ma-razz action, blowing your hair back. Think a loud movie about Marvel characters, only as a book.

What happens is you get an expectation of pace that happens from your very first page and voice and tone, or the moment your prom date shows up with a clown wig and another woman on his arm. You set up the cause and effect, the action and reaction, and the speed between those two elements.

If you think of it as plot points, then you want to have a consistent distance between plot points.

Plot Point One…. 5,000 words happen…. Plot Point Two… 5,000 words happen. 

And so on.

But then the plot speeds up right before the climax, and then it slows down right after a huge revelation or plot point to allow for emotional reaction.

Pacing is a tool you get to use to make the best story possible. How cool is that?

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Do Good Wednesday

In honor of Joe and all the people I love and adore and respect, here is your Do Good Wednesday link. All you need to do is get informed. That’s it.

I once had someone look at TIPS; it was an industry professional and he lived in NYC and he’s super liberal and he said, “Carrie. This isn’t a believable premise. Hate crimes against gays don’t happen anymore.”

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He was obviously wrong then. He is still wrong now. We have only just had the first teen gay romance movie, right? We are still growing and as we grow? Sometimes hate lashes back and out harder than ever. So, just read about it, especially if you’re straight. Think about what it is to be a child of love.

 

Random Marketing and Book Things Since I am an Author and Need To Make Money.

I know! I’m not supposed to admit it. 

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy was all official on March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can order it!

Kirkus Review says:   A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, has a new podcast that came out Tuesday.

 

And finally, I made a little video for my TIME STOPPERS books.

Time Stoppers’s third book comes out this summer. It’s been called a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but with heart. It takes place in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. I need to think of awesome ways to promote it because this little book series is the book series of my own middle grade heart. Plus, I wrote it for the Emster. Plus, it is fun.