Guest Valerie Bowman: Writing to Hooks
Posted by Anne Barton Oct 11 2012, 12:00 am in craft, hooks, valerie bowman
Hello Rubies and Friends,
Thank you so much for having me today. I’m Valerie Bowman, a 2011 Golden Heart finalist in the Regency category and I’m here to celebrate my debut (and GH-finaling manuscript) SECRETS OF A WEDDING NIGHT which is in stores (and online) now.
I thought long and hard about what I could offer the Rubies. I discarded a variety of craft topics that I decided were too elementary for such an esteemed group of writers. I settled upon a technique that I think made all the difference in taking my manuscript from good to SOLD.
That technique is writing TO hooks.
I did not invent this concept and I wish I could remember where I read or heard about it, so that I might give due credit, but alas, I cannot. The concept itself, however, was something that really stuck with me, and in case some of you haven’t heard of it yet, I’d like to share it with you.
As writers we’re all told to end our chapters on hooks. Hooks, of course, being something that leaves the reader wanting more, hopefully unable to put the book down and moving on to the next chapter because she just can’t wait to see what happens next. So, we all know we must end with a hook but what about writing TO a hook? In other words, create a hook and make your chapter shorter on purpose to get there faster.
Consider it this way, instead of writing and writing and at the end of 20 pages (or however long your chapters are), you start thinking of how you’re going to wrap it up to hook the reader, come up with the hook first and get to it faster.
More hooks, more often = more pages turning.
I recently had the pleasure of attending a workshop given by RWA Nora Roberts’ Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Brenda Jackson. Ms. Jackson likened the hook to how soap operas always end on Friday with something that makes you anxiously wait all weekend to see how it turns out. Exactly!
This technique, adding more hooks, writing to hooks, greatly increased my pacing and (I think) keeps the pages of my books turning. The more I write, the better (I think) I’m becoming at this and now my chapters are about 5 pages long (yes, some are longer if the scene/mood/moment calls for it, but when I plot out my chapters before I begin (ok, so I’m a plotter) I give myself 5-8 pages per chapter and the closer I am to 5, the happier I am. Why? Because at the end of five pages, there is a hook! And a hook means pages turn, turn, turn.
I think it also provides the added benefit of providing more conflict because a hook usually involves conflict of some sort, does it not?
Ok, so in theory this sounds good, no? But how do you come up with that many hooks? Well, for this I must give all credit to author Joan Johnston and her workshop Writing the Unputdownable Novel. I’ve listened to it multiple times on the RWA conference CDs and I highly recommend it. She provides a list of eight types of hooks and explains how to employ them. In addition to the RWA National Conference CDs, I believe Ms. Johnston also offers the workshop for sale online for $3.99. Google it. I highly recommend it.
So, if you don’t already naturally do this, I challenge you. Think about how you can add more hooks to your manuscript. How can you write TO hooks? It just may be that little added umph that puts your story over the top.
What do you think about this concept? Does it sound like something that could work for you?
Valerie will be giving away a an autographed copy of Secrets of a Wedding Night and a 10-page critique from her agent, Kevan Lyon, for the another lucky winner!
Valerie Bowman writes Regency-set historical romance novels with a focus on sharp dialogue, engaging storylines, and heroines who take matters into their own hands! Publishers Weekly calls Secrets of a Wedding Night, an “enchanting, engaging debut that will have readers seeking future installments” and Romantic Times Book Reviews says, “This fast-paced, charming debut, sparkling with witty dialogue and engaging characters, marks Bowman for stardom.” Booklist gave it a starred review!
Valerie lives in Jacksonville, FL with her rascally dog, Roo. You can find Valerie on the web at www.ValerieBowmanBooks.com and on Facebook and Twitter.
Buy Links for Secrets of a Wedding Night: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books a Million
10/15/12 Update: Thank you to everyone who stopped by and commented! Greta and T Ferrera each won a copy of SECRETS OF A WEDDING NIGHT. Barbara Bettis won the critique from Kevan Lyon. (Look for an email from Valerie or Anne soon.) Congrats!!!