Aug 27

Self Edits, Part 2 – The Hook

Part Two of Self Editing deals with the opening of your book, or ‘The Hook’. What I am referring to here is the way that you intend to grab your reader’s attention, and hopefully, later, keep it.

Sometimes, a hook is associated with the trope used in the book – this is common in category romance. The trope (see here for a great article on tropes – what they are, and what they do) is something the reader is familiar with and expects from the book – may have even bought the book because they love this kind of story – while the hook is the twist on the cliché. Sometimes, a hook is part of an action scene that leaves the reader wanting more, a common method used in action, mystery, suspense, thriller and sci-fi novels to name a few. Sometimes it revolves around emotion, most commonly in women’s literature. But a hook always happens in the first 1000 words.

That’s right, you have a thousand words, or less, to grab a reader and catch their attention, their desire to follow through with reading the book. Life is busy, no one has time to read a book that isn’t really interesting them.

Exercise: You have only 1000 words and you must end those thousand words as though they are the only thing that a person is able to read of your book on the day they purchase it. A double spaced page with 12pt print is approximately 250 words. Take your manuscript and look at the 5 pages that reflect this first thousand. Does it have a hook? No, you can’t care that it tells the hero’s fall from grace, or the events that lead the villain to commit his first murder, unless that is the hook. No backstory. No explanations. Hook your reader.

Contests are a great way to test out your hook, but only if they provide feedback and only if they are looking for a very short amount of the book. It can be difficult to find a contest with both of these attributes, sometimes it is more helpful to submit your first 5 pages to a small group of readers – your beta readers – or to a critique group.

Without this important introduction to your story, no editor, agent or reader is going to finish the whole book with enthusiasm. No matter what you have a few chapters down the road; your introduction is what will bring on the desire to keep turning the page. And once you understand this, you will find the very next most important stage of keeping the reader engaged – chapter endings. Like the beginning of a book, each chapter ends with – you guessed it – a hook.

Happy Writing!