Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday Writing Tips - How to Hook the Reader for NaNoWriMo

Hi all, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is less than a week away and I'll be back. This year's project is "The Wolf's Torment." Here's a blurb:

Crown Prince Mihai Sigmaringen has a lot to look forward to. Recently returned from England, he's engaged to Lady Theresa von Kracken. He hopes to unite the Romanian principalities into a nation, but when his best friend, Viktor Bacau, is bitten by a werewolf, his dreams and his relationship with Theresa threaten to shatter into a thousand tiny pieces.

I'm very excited at the project and I'm doing my research and preliminary work now. What's the goal of NaNoWriMo? From the website: It is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30. That averages to approx 1650 words a day. Do-able write? *wink*

Last year I did NaNoWriMo for the first time. It was a challenge and with all my other "obstacles" work, home, mommy, wife, I slid in with 52K at the end of the month and had a great start to my novel "The Count's Lair" (which is coming out FEB 2011 with Desert Breeze Publishing)

If you want to check out my NaNoWriMo space, here's a link: http://www.nanowrimo.org/eng/user/526402

I'm going to tie this into my next topic which is my Tuesday writing tip: how to hook the reader. It's not as easy as you think.

The beginning of the story must hook the reader or it doesn't do what it's supposed to do. The first sentence, paragraph, chapter has to grab a reader's attention. Some obvious turn offs include: spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Not so obvious: starting with description, back story, or a flashback.

The opening should have the lead character into the problem. Start with action, show the lead in motion, doing something.

Here's an example: Alice skulked after Edmund. What's the reader's next thought? Why. That encourages the reader to read more to find out.

Keep in mind: The opening should have an inciting incident and a story-worthy problem which should hold attention.

Reference: Hooked, by Les Edgerton, Writer's Digest books, 2007. If you want to follow my NaNoWriMo project, I'll be putting up my rough chapters on Writing.com. Here's the link:



  1. *skips over to the NaNo site to add you as a buddy* I'm bookworm0753 on NaNo. Good luck with your novel. I started NaNoWriMo last year too, and I finished up at 68,000 words, although the novel is still rough. *sighs* It's great fun, though. I'm looking forward to writing my novel and see how everyone is doing with it.

  2. Hey Steph,

    The opening hook is so essential. I know what it should do, and yet oftentimes I start my books in the wrong place. I want to "set the scene" but you don't have that luxury in today's publishing market. If you don't hook readers on the first page you're toast!

    Wishing you the best of luck with Nano.


  3. Hi Steph,
    Nice post. I too am in NaNoWriMo. This is my first time so I'm a little ignorant as to how it works. I read your blurb. Am I supposed to have a blurb, a chapter, a hook to post on opening day, or am I supposed to wait til opening day to do that?

    I am going to buddy you! :)

    Rie McGaha...fantasy that keeps you up

  4. Or not! Apparently I don't know how to do that and couldn't find you! Mine is Rie_McGaha if you'd like to buddy me.

  5. Steph,
    good luck with NaNo. I thought about doing it this year, but decided with the move it wouldn't be possible.

    I love the cover of The Wolf's Torment. Very evocative, and the b/w images just grabbed my attention.

    As for the opening line...It's the most important in the book, and I can't write mine until I'm about 1/3 of the way through the first draft. Until then, I just don't know what the book is truly about (even if I've plotted it out).

    What's the best opening line you've read?

  6. Hi Steph,
    Nice post. I'm doing NaNo for the first time. Yeah, ONLY 1650 words a day? We'll see. I have a full-time job, so I'll be trying to fit this in-between the other job. I'm going to be quite a task master for myself. Good luck!


  7. Cherie, I went over and added you as a buddy. That's what I love about NaNoWriMo - it gives you a real good start on a project. I had 52K after last year's project. The project finished around 85K when I was completely done.

    Maggie - I agree - a lot of writers want to set the scene, but I try my best to resist the urge. For my Victorian Soundrel novel, it starts with "Alice skulked after Edmund through the halls of the time traveling institute." I hope it's a line that intrigues.

    Rie, I went ahead and "buddied" you! I usually do my research and my preliminary work so I came up with the novel synopsis and a working cover before I start. I use it for inspiration and I don't see why you can't start with that. I save the actual writing for 1 NOV, but I also work out my plot and my character bios at this time.

    The NaNoWriMo site does not record your writing, just your word count.

    Keena, I usually have my "working" opening line and then as I write, I tweak if I need to. I can't really recall any memorable opening lines, but I know what I don't like - don't give me description or paint a scene. I'm going to go through my books and see if there's a line that grabs me. Do you have one?

    Ann, good luck to you. I'm there with you. I have a full time job, two kids, and I'm a slave to housework. My time mangement skills will be tested.