Hooking Your Readers and NaNoWriMo Update

National Novel Writing Month has been a blast for me.  I’ve been knocking out about 1,700 words every day and it’s a great feeling.  My book “Dreamspire” is coming along nicely and I’ll be sure to share an excerpt soon.  

If you have not yet begun, it is not too late!  Get typing-today.  Even if you can’t quite hit the 50,000 mark, you’ve done something wonderful: you’ve got your start.  I find that that is often the hardest part about writing a book. Once you’ve gotten the momentum going, it is much easier to keep going.  

I would like to continue with my Roy Elementary writing series and talk about hooking your reader.  

It used to be that novelists were not expected to get right to the point.  They spent pages upon pages of giving background, describing the setting, etc, etc, ad nauseum.  Just pick up “Moby Dick” or “Les Miserables” or “War and Peace” if you want an example of what I’m talking about.  

Those days are gone. We live in an age of movies, TV shows and internet, where people want quick results.  They want to be drawn into the story right away, given a reason to care and then drawn along on exciting adventure.  If you don’t write like this, your potential reader will probably put your book down and go back to updating his Facebook status for the 10th time that day. 

The principles of hooking your reader are the same as hooking a fish: you need good bait.  The following are some things that you might consider using as bait for your readers: 

Mysteries/Good questions
High stakes/a lot to lose
Strange characters/places
Strong words
Interesting, vivid, quick descriptions

On the other hand, you don’t usually catch fish with poor bait.  For example: 

Cliché’s, things that people have heard before (It was a dark and stormy night)
Things that move slowly-long descriptions, a long back story
No action, “Is something going to happen already?” 

Consider the difference of the two beginnings to a story: 

“Once upon a time, it was a dark and stormy night.  Fred sat in his chair and thought of a summer, long, long ago, on a beach far, far away.” 

When Billy got home, a black box lay on his bed.  Atop the box, in vivid red writing lay a note: “Do not open until midnight on pain of death.” 

The first, is clichéd and launches us directly into a flashback.  The second creates an immediate sense of urgency and mystery.  

That’s all for this post.  Visit http://www.nanowrimo.org if you haven’t already and get your story started with the perfect hook! 

Roy Elementary Author Visit

This week, I had one of the best experiences of my writing career.  I had privilege of visiting Roy Elementary in Roy, UT to get the students excited about writing.  They are putting on a “Young Authors Fair” later this school year, and my visit was to help them prepare for that.

I gave two different assemblies to the school to talk about how I became and author (and how they can too) and then I was off to the classrooms.  Over the course of two days, I visited 21 different classrooms, ranging from Kindergarten to Sixth Grade.  Each teacher had been stressing some part of writing in their classrooms and they had me give one of four presentations about an aspect of writing that they wanted their students to work on.  I was so impressed how well-behaved the students were and how many of them were excited about learning how to write and telling their own stories.

It was a bit of a challenge tailoring my presentations to match the needs and learning levels of such a wide variety of age groups (for example, in Kindergarten, we just talked about ways to use your imagination, while in sixth grade, I could hold a lengthy discussion about the elements of a story), but in the end, I feel that I got the hang of it.

From an author’s point of view, it was a very worthwhile exercise. The principal suggested that I have books on hand for the students to purchase, and through this, I sold 33 books, which is far greater than most events that I hold in bookstores.

As a teacher, the experience was incredibly satisfying, as I saw those young minds light up and ask very intelligent questions about writing and I could tell they were getting excited about it.

I want to make the presentations I used available for use by other writers and by other teachers.  There are four in all, including:

How to Organize Your Writing
Sentence Fluency
Hooking Your Reader

I am going to use this opportunity to explore each of these topics on my blog; once a week for four weeks.  I will prepare a post on this topic and then the PowerPoint presentation file available for free download.

I would love to hear about other opportunities to visit schools.  If you know of any such opportunities, please contact me at thecanticlekingdom@gmail.com.