Saturday, June 1, 2013

A tip a day to keep the rejections away

Welcome to my marathon of writing tips—one tip a day to make you a better writer.


What are my qualifications?  For several years, I’ve written the Pet Vet column for the Post Bulletin newspaper.  I’ve had articles published in RunMinnesota, DVM360 journal, and The Wagazine.  I’m in a wonderful critique group that meets weekly to tell me everything I’ve done wrong.


Save yourself some time by learning from my mistakes.


Abbreviations as follows:

MS = manuscript

CP = critique partner

WIP = work in progress




At the end of each chapter give the reader a reason to turn the page.  I’m a huge fan of “cliffhanger” or “what comes next” chapter hooks, but not every novel has that level of tension.  Nevertheless, I still want a reason, even just simple curiosity, to turn the page. 


The King of Chapter Hooks is William Goldman.  I happen to be obsessed with The Princess Bride, so we’ll use that as an example.  But, really, any of his books would do.


Flip through your well-worn copy.  (You do have one, don’t you?  I have two, because who could resist the 30th Anniversary Edition?)  Carefully examine each chapter end.  EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM IS FANTASTIC.  Not only fantastic, but Mr. Goldman's witty way of wielding tension hooks the reader and FORCES YOU TO TURN THE PAGE.


The real magic happens when the reader believes that the end of each chapter is just the start of something else which is even better.  And please don’t break off a chapter mid-conversation, unless someone just dropped a bomb.


For gender equality, I must also nominate a queen, I suppose.  No big surprise here, but Suzanne Collins is my current Queen of Chapter Hooks with her Hunger Games series.  Obviously, the whole trilogy rides on a wave of suspense, but she’s especially good at utilizing her chapter ends to perfection.  Well done.


But don’t only look at my examples.  Choose something in your genre.  A modern-day romance won’t use the same type of chapter ends as a thriller.


Now I’m done.  I mean it.


See you tomorrow for Mile 8?  Are you tired yet?

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