The opening lines of your novel are of critical importance.
In fact, it’s by reading them that readers decide whether to give your novel a shot or go instead looking for something else.
Of course, a book shouldn’t be judged solely by its first few lines—and the same can be said about the cover, the title, and so on.
But these days considering the amount of books that readers can choose from, and the hectic times in which we live, it’s normal for people to come up with shortcuts to try and find the brightest diamonds among the deluge–even if this means that sometimes they’re going to miss out on some of such diamonds, especially the most unconventional ones.
Writing hooks: definition
Simply put, a hook is a sentence or a group of sentences that appears at the beginning of your story and, ideally, it should entice perspective readers to keep reading.
In Hooked, his books about beginnings, Les Edgerton says: “Spend an awful lot of time on this sentence. In fact, more effort should be expended on your story’s first sentence than on any other line in your entire story. No kidding. The first sentence is the first thing the readers will see when they open the door of your manuscript or story. Make sure it’s a good ‘un! One that will create a strong impression.” Continue reading
It’s extremely easy to use the exclamation point.
In fact, you should never use such a banal device to draw the attention of your readers to what you’re writing!
Never!! Not even in non fiction!!! Or rather, especially not in non fiction!!!!
Well, if the exclamation point has to be used so sparingly as to appear no more than a few times every 100.000 words, then, you might think, it would be better to discard it altogether.
But there’s always a but. Especially in the realm of rules about grammar and language.
In fact, writers love giving advice about writing–after all, for them it’s a way as good as any other to keep debating about what they love most. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you should follow all the tips they toss off.
The reason is simple. Writing is such a personal endeavour that there’s no guarantee of sorts that what works for someone will work just as well for you.
This means you have to find your own style. And this includes also deciding how you’re going to treat those pesky little buggers otherwise known as punctuation marks.
Of course, in most cases you don’t want nor need to rewrite all the punctuation rules from scratch. Rather, you might feel the need to bend some of them on particular occasions. To apply them according to your sensibilities. Continue reading
Myths have accompanied us as a species since the dawn of time.
Even if it might seem strange, given that evolution hasn’t wiped them off our DNA pool, they must provide us with some kind of benefit.
However, this doesn’t mean all myths are always and necessarily useful or constructive.
For example, sometimes myths about writing grow out of stereotypes and biases. And tend to radicate with uncanny ease in the minds of people, even if at a closer look many of such myths are in stark contradiction the one with the other.
Here I present a list of some of the most widespread myths about writing. And examine them in detail to shed a bit of light on what is true and what is not. Continue reading
Literature offers writers and readers alike the opportunity to experiment with things that in real life usually lead to a series of unpleasant consequences.
No, I’m not speaking of explosives wired to fast-ticking timers, of psychopaths on a killing spree, or of alien hordes devastating our already half devastated world–not necessarily at least. What I’m speaking of here has to do with the well known literary trope of the narrator, or rather, the unreliable narrator.
This might look like a literary device of secondary importance, especially considering the gazillion super explosive things that authors can cook up in a book.
However, the unreliable narrator is one of those essential tools that any writer must learn to master. Indeed, to realize this is enough to remember that many of the most acclaimed works of literature worldwide exploit this literary device. Continue reading
We humans are a bit strange, to say nothing of the dog… Sorry, sometimes I mix what I’m reading — Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) — with what I’m writing, or should be writing.
Anyway, I was saying we’re strange. For example, we tend to give a lot of importance to the way things end.
I mean, if we go on a vacation for a fortnight and then the last day it rains, we’re bound to feel a bit cheated and depressed. Instead, if it rains the first day of our vacation it rarely is a big deal.
The same goes when we have to sit through a dental procedure. Even if the dentist is a sadistic jerk, it’s not a big problem. Really, all he has to do is to let the last five minutes of the procedure go without any discomfort on our part.
Instead, even if we sat through a mostly painless procedure, but with the last five minutes spent screaming in pain, in retrospective we would tend to rate such an experience as way worse than the first.
(If you’re curious and want to read more about this phenomenon, the peak-end rule, you can check out Thinking Fast and Slow, by the Nobel prizewinner psychologist Daniel Kahneman.) Continue reading