Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hooked

In his book, Hooked, Les Edgerton helps us understand the importance of our opening scenes. The book is subtitled, "write fiction that grabs readers at page one and never lets them go". What struck me, early on, was the number of different beginnings that need to be great.



Mr. Edgerton lists:

the opening line
the opening paragraph
the opening scene
the opening page
and the opening chapter itself.



He says all of these, except the entire first chapter, are included in a proper opening.


Having worked as an editor for a variety of sources, he knows what is required to keep people reading. He tells us,

What is really neat about all this is that starting stories off where they should begin and in a way that makes agents and editors and readers sit up and take notice isn't a difficult thing to master at all. What's even cooler about all this is that once you learn what constitutes the proper beginning to your stories, you're going to be leagues ahead of your competition, and your manuscripts are going to start getting published.

Hooked is an invaluable resource for learning how to craft powerful beginnings. If beginnings are an area of weakness for you, you should definitely check out this book.

What area of story writing do you struggle with most?

41 comments:

Mary Aalgaard said...

So, it's fairly "easy." We'll see. The opening, of course, is the hardest. What do you change the most? Where do you find yourself stuck? Sigh. Good post.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I think openings and endings are the hardest. I've got one other scene I know edited more than my intro, but the first 30 pages must have been edited at least 30 times. Probably more. In fact, they got chopped in half, but it was a process of whittling them away, word by word, paragraph by paragraph.

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

I definitely have to agree - the first chapter is the hardest. After that it's quite smooth sailing, and endings come quite naturally to me :) But, yeah, my first chapter has been edited three times more than the rest of my ms!

Kimberly Franklin said...

Okay, I'm definitely buying this book. Beginnings are always the hardest!

Carolyn V. said...

Okay Shannon, I totally love, love, love this advice! I'm going to use it...today! Thanks. =)

Tere Kirkland said...

Awesome advice, Shannon! Beginnings are definitely the roughest for me.

storyqueen said...

I agree with Stephanie...openings and endings. Openings are difficult because I can't really "begin" until I have found the correct voice through which to tell the story...and so there are usually several false starts.

Endings because....well, they are just hard!

Shelley

Heather said...

This sounds great, I'm going to have to check it out! Thanks for the tip.

Kayeleen said...

I think finding the right moment to start with is the hardest. I just had to scrap my beginning and start at a point much later in the story because it was the wrong place.

The beginning is tough, but I also think having an ending that is worth all the stuff that went before is pretty hard, too.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Mary - Thanks. I agree - it really isn't easy.

Stephanie - Those are the hardest for me too.

Allomorph - You are lucky. I have a killer time with endings.

Kimberly - It's a great book.

Carolyn - I'm here for you, girl!

Tere - Thanks, Tere. You're not alone. :)

Shelley - Exactly!

Heather - You're welcome.

Kayeleen - He addresses that problem specifically. You should definitely get the book.

Shelley Sly said...

Openings are very challenging, and I often end up rewriting the opening chapter 2 or 3 times or more! When it comes to reading, I don't have the best attention span, so I *need* a book with something that hooks me in the first few pages, or I'll lose interest. (I know, how sad of me to say that as a writer.) So I know how important it is to hook!

Susan R. Mills said...

I'm struggling with my beginning right now. I've rewritten my entire manuscript, and I'm pleased with everything but the beginning. I think I'll have to get this book. Thanks for sharing.

Bane of Anubis said...

I've been reworking my beginning for too many days now -- it's circling through my head... vultures ready to feed on what's left of my brain.

So far I've written about 20 iterations of the 1st paragraph... need to move on.

laurel said...

Edgerton's book rocks! Once I really understood his advice, I was able to locate my inciting incident--hidden in chapter 2. Chop, chop and smooth, smooth and I have a first chapter I'm eager to get out into the world.

MIDDLES are my headache. I love introducing characters and settings and love wrapping up story lines with a resonant denouement, but that swampy midground getting from here to there is so hard for me. I'm learning how to better dribble information and slowly build tension.

K. Harrington said...

I'll have to check it out. Thanks!

Christina Lee said...

EASY??? gosh I hope so--I hope I got it right with this one!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Shelley - That's just what Edgerton says. :)

Susan - I think you'll find the book helpful.

Bane - I fully empathize.

Laurel - I struggle with endings. Argh!

Karen - You bet. :-)

Christina - Me too! (with mine, not yours. Ha ha)

Elana Johnson said...

Excellent advice. I struggle the most with endings. I've always got too many threads and I can't tie them all up neatly. I end up deleting pages and pages and starting over. Several times. Just the last 50-75 pages or so... It's the bane of my writing existence.

Falen said...

I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book when i read it. Hands down the best writing book i've read in awhile.

Jana said...

It's totally easy. Blogger actually has a "add page" funciton now that allows you to create those tabs. When you are doing a new post, look right below the main tabs. It gives you a few options: new post, edit posts, edit pages, comment moderation. It's the Edit Pages one you want...I bet you can figure it out fromt here!!

Christine Danek said...

Openings and endings are the hardest for me. I bought this book and it is great.
Thanks!

Donna Hole said...

My beginnings are horrible. I think I spend more time revising that than the entire rest of the novel.

This sounds like a great book. I'll have to pick it up.

Thanks.

.........dhole

Chasing the Moon said...

Ooh...thanks for the tip! Sounds like a book I might want to add to my writer's tool kit.

Jen said...

I think I'll pick this book up, just to see if I can't pick up any extra tips, I don't think I'm bad at beginnings however I do think that my endings can sometimes be tough, but this is my very first full WIP so really I'd say anything helps!!!

Happy Early Birthday!!! Hopefully Friday is wonderful! :)

Kelly Lyman said...

Good question! I'm gonna say the hardest for me is the beginning, middle and end! It seems like something is missing from all three at one point on another! Seriously though, I have this book and used it to help with my beginning. I still need to refine it, but it's way better after reading this book.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I get too stuck on the planning, I feel like I shouldn't write anything until I know what it is I'm going to write. Eventually I give up and start writing and then I find out what I'm going to write.
Good openings are important throughout your whole novel, you've made an important point. Thanks :-)

Cheree said...

When planning I seriously hate the middle (with a passion), I never know where to go even though I know the beginning and ending. But, when it comes to writing it's trying to figure out that first sentence... that's the tricky thing.

destrella said...

Thanks for the recommendation! :O)

Karen Lange said...

Endings can be challenging for me. Don't want the reader to feel they've been dropped off a cliff, and want everything to be tied up nicely.

Thanks for the advice:)
Karen

Jennie Englund said...

I am totally getting HOOKED! I'm having trouble revising my intro right now, so this is perfect.

I've always known that beginnings were my weakness. I wish I could write a book of all conclusions.

Do you struggle with intro, Shannon?

GunDiva said...

What great advice! I usually do okay with the beginning; in fact, I have a totally killer first scene and paragraph of one of my WIPs, but it all goes downhill after that.

Susan Fields said...

I guess you knew just what I needed today! :) I will definitely check this book out - thank you!

Kelly said...

Yeah, I definitely need to tweak my beginning to give it more of a wow factor...

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Good ol' hooks. Gotta love 'em.
I struggled with the beginning with my first story--and the end--and the middle. lol.
My current WIP I had to play with the end a few times. What to include, what not to include. Well, okay and maybe the beginning.
When does it start getting "easy?" ;)

beth said...

I'm horrible at beginnings in rough draft, but honestly, I think I suffer most from the murky middles....

Sharon Mayhew said...

Hooked sounds like a great book! I don't outline...I take notes and form scene ideas...I think I'd work faster if I could bring myself to writing a rough outline...

choco ( In Which a Girl Reads) said...

Ooh, Hooked sounds interesting!

I actually write in nonchronological snippets (usually less than 100 words each) so I get to avoid the opening, the middle, and the end.

Of course this is very problematic when I want to put a story together, haha. :)

Jennifer Shirk said...

Sounds like a good book!
I always struggle with openings--and the first whole chapter in general. I always need to go back and revise it the most.

Les Edgerton said...

Shannon, I just wanted to express my appreciation for all the nice things you had to say about my book, Hooked. I've really been gratified by the emails and messages I've received from writers telling me it helped them in their fiction. We belong to a special fraternity/sorority--writers! I've been helped in my own writing by other writers and it feels good to be able to "play it forward." Good luck to you in your own writing and the same to your readers. Blue skies, Les Edgerton. I'm going to post your blogsite on my own (www.lesedgertononwriting.blogspot.com/)

Jana said...

Ojne of my favorite opening lines/scenes that hooked me from the instant I read it was the first page of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness.

Elle Strauss said...

I love this book. I've blogged about it before, too. It's a must read for getting those trying first chapters right.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...