Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hook 'em!

"Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life." - Lawrence Kasdan

Opening hooks.

They're on my brain right now because I've just started SBCM and wanted to write a good one. Funny thing is -- I've never, ever kept my beginning the same in any novel (or most short stories) that I've written. So, I don't know why I focus on it so much right out of the gate.

Donald Maass says that in his live writing classes, he has the participants read their opening line aloud and then asks, "Do you want to hear the next line?"

Your success in this case rests on your ability to write one amazing sentence.

I've heard conflicting, but similar, views of how much of your submission an agent or editor will read. Some say a few paragraphs, some say a few pages. Some writers say that you need a hook, sure, but it doesn't have to be the first line.

While I'm inclined to agree that it doesn't have to be the first line, I do believe it should be the first paragraph.

If I hadn't had Julie Kenner's book "The Givenchy Code" recommended to me so highly, I don't think I'd have read it. The first few pages are all your usual chick lit stuff -- the kind of stuff I can't relate to (I really don't give a flip about shoes and not so much about clothes, either, sorry) and I was bored. Really, really bored. But after the first few pages, when she got that mysterious package, I was totally hooked.

I loaned the book to my mom with a warning that she would probably hate the first few pages, but to press on. It was worth it.

So, clearly Ms. Kenner didn't rely on having her hook in the first line, the first paragraph or the first page. She also wasn't a first time author. And I think that makes a difference.

What about you? Are you into a first line hook? First paragraph? What do you think about the whole hook thing? I'd love your two cents!


Ceri said...

Its gotta happen for me within the first few pages or else the book gets shelved. I don't know how many times I stopped reading SK's The Stand because I just couldn't get past the first chapter or two, it was so dull. But when I finally did I was so glad! It remains one of my favorite books.

As a new writer I think its very important for us to hook the reader with the first few paragraphs. I don't think the reader will give us a chance otherwise.

wtghlwdr-what tiny gerbils has Lenny with dainty ribbons

MaryF said...

I never could enter American Title because I don't think my first lines are strong enough. I don't want to try too hard, either, because that could kill the story.