From my first meeting with my local writers’ group, I’ve heard consistently that your book has to hook your reader from the first line. And if that’s not pressure enough, your last line needs to make them beg for the next book. Make your reader scream, “NOOOOOO!” when they read THE END.
All of this is much easier said than done. My upcoming novel, Little Black Dress, has a pretty good hook at both the beginning and end. These lines didn’t happen by accident. The words didn’t appear magically on the page. No muse, fairies, or pixie dust involved. These sentences developed and came to life only after hours of brainstorming, trial and error, and careful crafting. These sentences set the mood. They inform the reader about when and where the story begins. They tell you who the story is about, as well as a little something of their character. I worked my butt off getting my first line just right.
“She had never been one for bars or nightclubs,
but how else was a good girl like Evan Tyler
going to find a bad boy in Paris?”
I hope it makes you want to read more.
Now that I have the first book finished and awaiting publication (I’ll share my pre-order links very soon.), it’s on to the sequel, Red Heels. Chapter One, line one. And the pressure begins. Again.
I have had the rough draft of this manuscript finished for a while now. I even have the RD for the third book mostly finished. What I lack on Red Heels are the beginning and the end hooks. I have agonized over these lines. These paragraphs haunt me day and night. Twice this week I’ve awoken from a dead sleep and thought, AHA! And the next morning these ideas were relegated to file 13. But this morning…
Early this morning I woke to a charley-horse in my left calf that nearly had me in tears. It took several minutes to get the muscles in my leg to relax. Once I finally returned to bed, my mind was in gear. I suddenly knew what I wanted to say and how to say it. This first paragraph has it all. Who, what, when, where, and why. It even contains a little weather and some humor. Both things I enjoy in a book. Is it perfect? No, but I like it, and I think you will, too.
Please check back soon for pre-order links, and character studies. Little Black Dress comes off the rack March 8, 2018! #LittleBlackDressNovel
I will also have some fun #giveaways and #games for all my readers, too. Please share this post and let me hear from you! XOX
I’m a writer, which already pegs me as a little odd. I make stuff up. Crazy stuff, sweet stuff, scary stuff. I write down my dreams and nightmares and build worlds around them. Weird.
But to get to the actual business of smearing thoughts across white space, I have a few rituals I practice. Some of these are absolute MUSTS, others are just when I’m having a tough time with motivation.
Always, I get started with coffee. Not weird; lots of people do that, whether they are writers or not. Coffee is important. Not only does coffee wake me up and energize me, the taste and aroma sort of work like a time machine, transporting me to wherever else I need to be. It’s magic.
Sometimes I listen to music. It can be the perfect way to get into the needed emotions of a scene. I don’t do this every day, because if my playlist shuffles badly, I get distracted. Nothing worse than having the Goldfinger theme song stuck in your head while you’re trying to write a story about a Bible character. And Song of India is too relaxing to sufficiently inspire a fight scene. My playlist is extensive, so I get pretty picky about that.
I prefer to be alone when I write. That means when people walk in to chat or ask a question, I will minimize my story. This isn’t really a ritual, but it keeps everything secretive, and that mind-set helps me write. When I find myself being interrupted too much, I declare a National Get Out of My House Day, and that usually fixes the problem.
When I first begin writing each day, I go back to my last chapter or last page, and read for a minute or two. I want to get back into the “feel” of the story, so the next part develops naturally. I don’t edit, but I like the more organic approach, as opposed to reviewing my outline (I use that term loosely) or checking a to-do list. Also, I cannot stop writing until the chapter or scene is finished. Walking away from my keyboard mid-scene is not an option. If my house catches fire while I’m writing I will probably die.
Then there is break time, which is about doing chores (How would my main character feel about washing dishes?) or getting a little exercise. If there is music, I will dance. I’m not a great dancer, but that’s never stopped me.
If I get stuck in a scene or situation, I jump to my Pinterest board for the story in question. Here is where I have cast my story and pinned all the research links I might need. Sometimes just reviewing the “facts” gets my stream of thought back on track. If I’m really stuck, I will stare at the photos of my characters and ask them questions. You would be surprised how often they answer. Some of my favorite chapters are the result of this technique.
Another thing that I find myself doing– when I’m working something out in my mind’s eye– is playing with my earrings. Because I do this fairly often, I keep myself focused by wearing earrings that coordinate with my story. What? I know it seems silly. I’m discovering that I do quite a lot of silly things. Yes, in the morning while I’m getting dressed I ask myself which story I will be writing today. Little Black Dress is set in Paris, so I put on my Eiffel Tower earrings. Shooting Stars Traveling Circus calls for my pistols. Her Most Precious Gift is about Mary of Bethany from the Bible, so I wear my favorite cross earrings. When I start fiddling with them, they become inspiration. My fingertips, which usually hop from key to key, now explore the edges and form of real symbols from my stories. Sometimes the tactile bond is just what I need to keep going.
As I look over my list, I’m noticing something that has never occurred to me before today. All of my quirks, my weird little writing rituals, revolve around my five senses. I suppose these are just some of the methods I use to make my story real.
Would you like a glimpse into the novels I’m writing? Here are a few links to my Pinterest boards. Follow me!
The sun is high and warm. The car windows are coming down and the shorts are begging to come out to play. It’s time to think about vacation.
My only obstacle is cash. Face it: vacations are expensive. Whether you fly or drive, or even cruise, you must have a substantial stash of dough to go.
That’s another thing that I love about movies—world travel from the comfort of your own home or local theatre.
I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and Notre Dame Cathedral inParis. I’ve been to the Moulin Rouge and the Louvre.
In Italy, I’ve visited the Trevi Roman fountains, the Venetian canals, the Coliseum, and the leaning tower of Pisa.
In Australia, I’ve snorkeled around the Great Barrier Reef, hiked Ayres Rock, and gone walkabout in the Outback. I’ve enjoyed the man-made marvels of the Sydney Opera House framed by the Harbour Bridge. I’ve been whale watching off the coast of Perth.
I’ve climbed the steps of Indian temples and lain on the beaches of Thailand. I witnessed the Equinox at the pyramid at Chichen Itza. I’ve experienced Shangri La and Utopia.
I’ve enjoyed all of these wonders and seen places my grandparents never imagined through the magic of movies. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I’m satisfied with never traveling the globe. I long to visit far off destinations. The movies I see often help me to refine my “list.”
My point is that while I save up for that once-in-a-lifetime European tour, I can enjoy the rolling green hills of Irelandin films like Leap Year (2010) and The Quiet Man (1952). As my “Aussie Break” jar fills up with spare change, I can organize my packing while watching Crocodile Dundee (1986), Australia (2008), and Mad Max (1979).
Though the hotels and cars that I might rent on my real-life travels might not be as glamorous or luxurious as those in film, the trade off is that I probably won’t be attacked by post-apocalyptic savages. I hope.
My trips might not be as adventurous as in the movies, but they’re almost never as dangerous, either. I’ve never been kidnapped by centuries-old mummies or attacked by werewolves on foggy moors. The worst thing I’ve ever really had to deal with is a nasty sunburn on my nose. Maybe next time…
That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading.