When I set out to write a “body of work,” I didn’t intend a “string of failed proposals” to define its completion. I had hoped to leave a legacy of, well, you know. Actual written novels.
Yet it was time to try again. From a fresh page, my cursor blinked at me; I cursed and blinked right back. Where to go from here?
My attention strayed to my bookcases—in particular, the way I’d organized them. The one on the left holds a couple hundred new and used novels that piqued my interest. I plan to read them someday.
The bookcase on the right holds a couple hundred new and used books that piqued my interest and which I’d promptly read.
It seemed worth my time to determine what made the books on the right “must-read-nows.” I don’t want one of my titles to languish on someone’s left-hand bookcase, where more urgent reads will find a way to slip ahead in line, and where the sum total of the sale is the $1.15 that was banked toward earning out my advance. A great read is certainly great whenever it is read, but “someday” may be dangerously close to “out of print,” a time when discussion, review, or word-of-mouth recommendation can no longer help drive sales.
It is important to be read. I want my novels to be in the right bookcase. How about you?
I assessed the books I’d gobbled as if choosing them for the first time: reading the back-cover copy, where I could find the inciting incident that would suggest the type of story, and then opening lines, where the prose had a chance to set its hook. Some results from my “right bookcase study” are below. Red type signifies what about each of them said I have to read this now.
For this exercise, I set aside one hook that can be particularly compelling—buzz—since it did not emanate from the work itself. The following examples hooked me all on their own, whether through opening lines that begged my continued interest, an inciting incident from the back-cover copy that raised a question to which I needed the answer—or, in some cases, both. I dove right in because I was hooked.
These examples will address a question from WU commenter Cheryl O’Donovan on my last post, “Identifying and Crafting Your Inciting Incident”, who asked whether hook and inciting incident are the same thing. The answer: sometimes. More on that at the end of the post. [Read more…]