Forum posts made by morganhawke

Topic Writing Exercise: DESCRIPTION
Posted 03 Jun 2011 05:02

You rock, miss Hawke. Lush is lucky to have you.

I agree wholeheartedly.

I searched the web far and wide to find GOOD tutorials on writing in this genre, and only one site stood out. Lucky for me, Morgan has a very kind nature and enjoys helping out fellow writers.

Aww... Now I'm gonna need a tissue. sniff

Topic Writing Exercise: DESCRIPTION
Posted 03 Jun 2011 05:01

Very inventive, your exercise. You certainly were serious about improving your work, if you went to such lengths for it!
Obsession, more like... Seriously.

I'm fortunate in this respect, that I'm naturally very, very visual. Been drawing since I could hold a crayon. Portraits are my passion.
Would you believe I started out as an artist? In fact, I'm quite good, just not good enough to make it. I have talent, but I just don't have the drive -- the obsession -- it takes to develop it. With writing however, I have more drive to improve than I know what to do with.

And what is writing but a portrait of events, drawn in words?

You rock, miss Hawke. Lush is lucky to have you.
I'm lucky in that Lush was kind enough to let me in. LOL!

Topic "The story must have an ending?"
Posted 27 May 2011 20:03

... it's ok, in my mind, to have things that aren't tied up, minor plot lines, etc, but dammit, the major characters and story thread had BETTER be tied up...


Topic "The story must have an ending?"
Posted 27 May 2011 20:00

oh! this reminds me of a story. A few years ago, i spent a summer in Peru with a celebrity (i won't mention his name) on a Llama ranch in the mountains. One weekend, a trio of drug smugglers got lost and drove up through the gates, like just minutes ahead of some sort of hit squad. My celebrity friend gave me the keys to the basement (it had been locked and off limits to me before) and told me to grab some weapons. I mean, seriously, turns out he had a small armory down there, as well as a fully stocked dungeon AND a submarine yard! wow! so yeah, we armed our selves and...

Cliffhanger -- AUGH!

Topic "The story must have an ending?"
Posted 27 May 2011 05:05

What ever happened to leaving the audience wanting more? I think that certainly has a place in short stories. For novels, I totally agree with your post.
Leaving the reading audience wanting more stories is fine. Leaving the reader frustrated because the author didn't tie up the story's main issue is bad. I despise books where you MUST read the next in the series to find out what happened in That story. In my eyes, that's Cheating.

It's like when you're watching a movie and you have to decide for yourself how it probably ended. That's sometimes an interesting way to finish, but quite often, irritating!
You're more than welcome to like that sort of ending. I DON'T. I definitely won't read someone who does this consistently. At least tie up the main plot issue. The rest can be as vague as the author likes.

Topic "The story must have an ending?"
Posted 27 May 2011 04:56

Whoops double-posted by accident.

Topic "The story must have an ending?"
Posted 26 May 2011 21:34

I think the last few stories I wrote so far are just chapters, not stories. Haven't got the knack of a real ending yet. Ending a story is a good ambition to work toward..

Even I have trouble with endings. Despite my dedicated plotting, my stories can and do wander to places I don't expect.

Topic Writing a Whole Novel...?
Posted 23 May 2011 17:06

Basically you keep going till you're done. Sorry, but that's the only way to do it.
-- I think that should be written in blood over every writer's computer.

Ahhhhh..... (But in WHOSE blood????) LOL!!!

Now that would be telling! ;)

Topic Writing a Whole Novel...?
Posted 23 May 2011 14:19

My motivation is: IF I DON'T FINISH IT SOON, I WON'T FINISH IT AT ALL. That doesn't work for everyone, but I've learned it's the only way I'll ever finish anything.

I have the same problem. If I don't write a story as fast as I can, non-stop -- without interruptions -- it'll stall.
-- Once a story stalls on me, it'll take MONTHS or even YEARS to get back into that head-space to finish it. I CAN do it. I HAVE done it, but it was very much like eating my own eyeballs; nasty, slimy, and very painful.

Topic Writing a Whole Novel...?
Posted 22 May 2011 17:29

I've seen some advice recently in an article with Alexander McCall Smith (the guy who wrote the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency books) saying to try writing your novel as a short story first.
Frikken BRILLIANT advice!

Now begins the long torturous process of finishing it, lol! Research to do and integrate, technique to learn and apply, and many, many edits and revisions.
I try to get as much research and plotting done as I can BEFORE I write. It really saves on time and confusion later. In some cases, my research can inspire me to send the story in a completely unexpected direction.

Basically you keep going till you're done. Sorry, but that's the only way to do it.
Of course the only problem with that is it's never done, is it? There are always more improvements to make.
It's hard -- and frustrating -- being a perfectionist, I agree.

The opposite to those who want to rush in without doing enough work are those who aren't confident to take the plunge and submit despite working and working.
I couldn't make myself submit for YEARS. Finally, I was ASKED to submit by a publisher. That fixed everything!

Topic Writing a Whole Novel...?
Posted 22 May 2011 17:22

Most depressing post ever. Just saying. :)

I know.
-- Sadly, it takes a hell of a lot more work to write a book than people think. Look at how much work you have to do to write a 5000 word story, and how LONG it takes? Now multiply that to 100,000 words, (40 chapters at roughly 2500 words each.)

Topic Writing a Whole Novel...?
Posted 22 May 2011 17:20

Basically you keep going till you're done. Sorry, but that's the only way to do it.

I think that should be written in blood over every writer's computer.

It IS on mine.

Topic Writing a Whole Novel...?
Posted 20 May 2011 14:57

----- Original Message -----
"How can anyone write a whole novel? It's too huge, there's too much to figure out, and too much to do! How does anyone keep up the pace and keep going to actually finish? And then when you're done with the first draft, what if you realize you don't know how to do story tension and the characters have changed and you have to start all over again? Why would anyone want to do all that WORK?"
- Disillusioned Author

Lets do this one bit at a time...

Figuring out what to put in a Novel
I don't have any problems figuring out what to write in my novels because I plot out the entire book scene by scene. How do I do that?

-- Plotting begins by understanding that although there are a million variations, every story follows the same basic pattern:

A basic Plot Arc
> Introduction - early trouble, revealing the character's talents and setting
> Rising Action - increasing tension - crisis after crisis
> Climax / Reversal - point of highest tension & the story's turning point
> Falling Action – all plot threads unravel leaving only one solution
> Confrontation – final crisis, ending in hope or ruin
> Denouement - resolution

All You have to do is figure out what to put where. Literally, Fill In The Blank .

Keeping up the Pace
The ONLY way to finish a book is with a well-developed Obsessive Compulsive habit. Basically you keep going till you're done. Sorry, but that's the only way to do it.

To maintain the flavor of a book through the months it takes to write it, I use specific movie soundtracks, (one book - one soundtrack).

Wrecked over Rewrites!
If you need to do a rewrite, then you DO IT, over and over again, until you get it RIGHT.

And if you can't get it right? Then you consider it Practice, shelve it, and go on to another project.

A Practice Story is NOT wasted work!
-- Practice is JUST as necessary as publication, if not more so. How are you supposed to perfect your techniques if you don't experiment first? Practice is Valuable Experience! Ask any artist: Do THEY offer their sketch drafts or do they take the time to perfect their techniques first?

It is ALWAYS in your best interests to Perfect your Craft BEFORE you submit! No matter what anyone says, you will be REMEMBERED by the editors that turn you down. "Oh, it's her again. I'm not going to bother reading her, I remember her last manuscript..." They may not even open the envelope to look at it.

You only want to deliver your very best work, work that you can be proud of years into your successful career.

All that Work!
Why do "I" do all that work? I LOVE writing stories.

For me, the ACT of writing is just as fulfilling (if not more so,) than the completion of a book. In fact, I usually get a severe case of depression while finishing the last three chapters. I get so involved, I DON'T want to end the story.

If you don't think writing is the neatest, keenest, coolest thing you could possibly do with your time then a Career in Fiction Writing may not be for you. It doesn't mean you shouldn't write -- writing is wonderfully fulfilling, everyone should do it! It just means that writing books that suit a publisher's needs may not be right for You.

Time to make an executive decision.

What is more crucial to your Personal Writing Happiness?

-- If money is what you're after, then you knuckle under and write what the publishers are asking for -- and you KEEP WRITING.

Writing for cash is an ongoing business. Sales only last for a LIMITED amount of time. Seriously, once everyone has already bought your book, then what? (I don't know about you, but I only buy One copy.) To keep that cash flow steady, you MUST write another book Before your sales dip -- and then another, and another...

-- You're screwed. Only a tiny handful of authors achieve fame. No, really . THINK: how many authors can you name off the top of your head? (No cheating and looking at your bookshelf.)

Now, ask your friends, how many authors can They name? Do you honestly think you can compete with the authors THEY list? Hell, do you honestly think you can compete with the authors YOU listed? (I know I can't compare with my favorite authors, but I don't care.)

Truthfully? If you're looking for Fame, get into Acting because writing isn't going to get you there. Seriously.

Writing a damned good Story?
-- BRAVO! Go for it! There are ALWAYS places to publish a damned good story. It may not get you much money and fame, as you know, is iffy to begin with, but to the writer that loves to Write, successfully writing a damned good story is reward enough.

In Conclusion...
-- Writing a whole novel can be scary, and even nerve-wracking, but it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience -- even if you never publish it! All it takes is sheer stubbornness. (Coffee, chocolate, and cigarettes also helps, but that's just how I do it.)

DISCLAIMER: As with all advice, take what you can use and throw out the rest. As a multi-published author, I have been taught some fairly rigid rules on what is publishable and what is not. If my rather straight-laced (and occasionally snotty,) advice does not suit your creative style, by all means, IGNORE IT.

Topic The Editor is Your Friend - by Stefani V. Kelsey
Posted 16 May 2011 11:40

I have one who likes to put commas in all over the place, and another who's a commacidal maniac. Gotta love 'em. :D

NONE of my publishers agree on commas, so I let them put them or pull them as they like.

On the other hand, I actually had to explain to one that an em-dash IS the proper punctuation for a comment that's been cut off in the middle and continues elsewhere - NOT an ellipsis. An ellipses is for Missing, Skipped or Omitted words. If the words are cut off by an action in the middle, they are NOT Missing, Skipped or Omitted.

"What the hell are you--?"
He tenderly bit down on her nipple.
She gasped. "--Doing to me?"

Topic The Editor is Your Friend - by Stefani V. Kelsey
Posted 15 May 2011 20:13

Fun, isn't it? LOL I try to be on the ball and tune each manuscript to the house style *before* I submit it so I don't waste their time or mine, but invariably, there ends up being some tweakage. Can't win for losing, dammit. lol

Just goes to show that Editors are just as different from each other as authors.

Topic The Editor is Your Friend - by Stefani V. Kelsey
Posted 15 May 2011 12:53

Looking for: Domme/editor. Must be willing to tie me down and punish me for grammatical errors, typos, spelling mistakes, and aimless plots. Apply in person.

I HAVE ONE! Stef my editor at Mojo Castle will and HAS worn leather and wielded a paddle just for me. Of course, this was at a convention, but hey...! It still counts!

I have learned far more from my editors than I have from any book or tutorial. Seriously. The only reason I'm as good a writer as I am is because of my editors.

Topic The Editor is Your Friend - by Stefani V. Kelsey
Posted 15 May 2011 12:50

Editors are awesome. I've learned something from every one of them, and the most brutal among my editors have been the best.

Here! here!

And can I just say, it would be wonderful for my sanity if every house in the universe adopted the same house style. It'll never happen, but...a girl can dream. lol (About two weeks ago, I was juggling four sets of edits, all from different publishers, and it was actually funny how many things one house would do one way and another would do completely differently. It was either funny or I was going insane. One of the two.)

I have 4 publishers and NONE Agree with Any of the others!

Topic An Opening HOOK?
Posted 14 May 2011 16:59

I didn't see it! Can we load it into a cannon and fire it across Lushland? lol! Thanks...

LOL! It's kind of hard to miss, I guess. There are three pages of writing tips.

Topic An Opening HOOK?
Posted 14 May 2011 16:24

If you haven't, will you be posting the 'said' article on Lush? It would change literary lives. Just sayin'My 2 cents

I already have. Didn't you see the link?

The Secret to Proper Paragraphing & Dialogue

Topic An Opening HOOK?
Posted 14 May 2011 14:25

Absolutely. I've heard action tags called "beats" elsewhere...
Wow... I've never heard that term. Learn something new every day!

I try to avoid using a dialogue tag wherever I can, but where I do feel I need to use one I stick to said, whispered, cried etc. Nothing fancy.
Different strokes for different folks.
-- Just because "I" loathe something doesn't meant everyone else has to. It's a technique, not a Law.

I read somewhere that the sole purpose of a dialogue tag is to identify the speaker. I find that quite a good rule to work to.
I just don't like the way dialogue tags clog up the word-count. When you have a seriously tight word-count limit, removing all the "said" tags give you room for description or exposition. Also, if there's a "said" tag, that usually means that All Action has Stopped in the story; the background and sound effects have disappeared. I like to SEE the stories I read, not just listen to people talking.

Everything in moderation is my motto. Very few things are inherently wrong, but become so when they are overused. Better to utilize every trick in the book a little bit than one trick all the time.


Topic The Editor is Your Friend - by Stefani V. Kelsey
Posted 14 May 2011 11:36

I am SO going to call in some favours at this point in order to obtain some totally gratuitous ego enhancing posts from people I edit for here at Lush to slavishly tell you how much that article touches them because I have proof-read, critiqued, and edited their writing, which they have always appeciated at some point. Or not. But that is great to read, thank you.

You're welcome!
-- A really good editor is one who can tell what you Meant to write even if it didn't come out that way. Stef is a genius at doing that for me.

Topic The Editor is Your Friend - by Stefani V. Kelsey
Posted 14 May 2011 10:07

The Editor is Your Friend
Or If You Can't Take an Edit, Stay Out of the Publishing House
Stefani V. Kelsey
Editor-in-chief of Mojo Castle Press

Featured in
Xodtica Magazine March 2005

Back in the day, in order to see a book in print, you were forced to do it the old-fashioned way: submit to a major publishing house and use the rejection slips to dab your tears. Repeat the process until you either buried your dreams--and your manuscript--in the bottom of a trunk, or by God and by Golly...Hit the Big Time.

Now, the world is your publishing house. If Doubleday is foolish enough not to recognize your genius, you can hit small press, or POD, or ebook, or even do it yourself, whether by paying someone to do it for you, or truly making it your own. With so many options, finding the right fit is worth taking the time.

A huge factor in the decision-making process is that of the most feared facet of the publishing world: The Editor.

One misapprehension that the editor is out to hack, twist, trash, or otherwise fold, spindle, and mutilate your work. The true job of an editor is to take what you have and make it the best it can be, not to rewrite it in their own image and likeness. Spelling, grammar and sentence structure are standard, as is consistency.

You may get a manuscript back marked with enough red to illustrate the St. Valentine's Massacre, and still find not all that much is changed, as far as the true heart of your work: the story . An editor doesn't bake the cake, just decorates it.

Unfortunately, not all editors know their role. Some want to rewrite a story in a way they like, regardless of author's voice. Others fail to understand the author's world building, and end up literally destroying the carefully wrought storyline. Still more take on the role with a minimum of training and experience, and end up putting in more mistakes than they take out.

Usually because of a bad experience such as this, the author goes into the publishing world mistrusting the editor, and the relationship is doomed from the start. The trick is knowing the difference between a professional edit, and the evil alternative.

Editing can seem just handed over your baby, and when you get that book back, you feel like you've been attacked. Sentences you labored over have been hash-marked. The quaint turn of phrase you spent a good amount of time getting just so has been designated "too passive", and there is a detailed note attached asking you all sorts of inane questions you thought were made perfectly clear in line eighteen of page four.

What would bring an otherwise kind person to perform such brutality?

Oddly enough, they're doing it to help you.

If a publisher signs you, they think you have a good bit of writing that the public may enjoy. So their goal is to put out a book that people will want to spend money on. Now, no matter how good you and your crit group are, things will be missed. That's the editor's job. What seems perfectly clear and right to you after fifty readings may not be so to a reader during their first. A certain turn of phrase may read as offensive, or it may just not fit the image the house wants to project.

And of course, two words to strike fear in any wordsmith's heart: House Style .

Every publisher has their own style, terminology, and formatting methods. Which, in most cases, is nothing like yours .

But the end result is not intended to send you into a fit of weeping and bosom-rending, but merely to create a marketable product.

If it's not about the money, or you think your misspellings are creative, and should be left in for emphasis, or you truly fear the evil editor, don't go to a publisher .

Insane advice? No, self-preservation .

You're better off going to a vanity press, or simply doing it yourself because all it will result in is bad blood between you and the publisher. If you sign their contract, you are in essence agreeing to do it their way . If you don't like their way, don't sign the contract .

And yes, an ebook publisher is a real publisher. And a contract is a contract.

Going to an ebook publisher is not a "last resort." It also does not mean you get the right to do or say whatever you like. An epublisher commands the same respect as any other.

- If Doubleday signed you, would you argue with and/or insult the editor?
- Would you ask the publisher after they spent hours editing and putting your book up for sale to dissolve your contract because you want to go to another publisher?
- More important, would they ?

Straight up answer is no , on all counts. You wouldn't do it, and they wouldn't take it. So keep that in mind when you make your decision.

© 2010 Stefani V. Kelsey
Posted with Permission

Topic An Opening HOOK?
Posted 14 May 2011 09:59

...said in your dialogue tags. On the basis that, in theory, your dialogue should speak for itself, and propping it up with diverse, inappropriate verbs and adverbs is just explaining what you should be conveying with the speech itself. Meanwhile "said" is neutral and functional.

This was one example -

I hate ALL dialogue tags.
-- Yes, dialogue should speak for itself, however, I use Actions to denote who is speaking, not Tags.

When you have an action with a line of dialogue, you don't need Dialogue tags, such as "said" at all. You already know through their actions WHO is speaking. Dialogue tags are only ever needed when you don’t have any other way of identifying the speaker. HOWEVER, if you have no other way of knowing who is speaking than dialogue tags, then you have committed the heinous crime of: Dialogue in a Vacuum , also known as “ talking heads syndrome .”

Just for the record, using dialogue tags is Not against the rules. Dialogue tags are a perfectly viable way to identify who is speaking -- it just makes that part of the story BORING. (I don't know about you, but I won't read something that bores me.)

I choose to write my dialogue without using "said" unless I am actually describing a change in voice, tone, or volume in the same paragraph. And even then, I try to avoid them. I use the speaker's actions to define who is speaking to whom. I use ACTION TAGS. What the heck is an Action Tag? BODY LANGUAGE.

Stories are Mental Movies you play in your imagination. I don't know about you, but I HATE to be interrupted when I'm involved in a good movie. If I have to stop and reread a section just to figure out what the heck is going on, I've been interrupted. One too many interruptions and I'm switching to another story -- with no intention of continuing with something that's just too much work to get through.

Action tags keep the mental Movie rolling and the MEANING of what is being said crystal clear. A small simple action can tell you right away, what's going through the speaker's head.

Don't just SAY it! ~ SHOW IT!
“I love you too.” She rolled her eyes and sighed dramatically. “Oh yes, I truly do love you.”
“I love you too.” She dropped her chin and pouted. “Oh yes, I truly do love you.”
“I love you too.” She glared straight at him. “Oh yes, I truly do love you.”
“I love you too.” She turned away and wiped the tear from her cheek. “Oh yes, I truly do love you.”
And I didn't even need to use the word "said" even once.

from: The Secret to Proper Paragraphing & Dialogue

Topic An Opening HOOK?
Posted 14 May 2011 08:30

Another excellent post, Morgan. Penning a captivating back cover blurb used to render me a glass-eyed omphaloskeptic. Normally I pick up a book, read the back, and if the blurb peaks my interest, then I'll read the first page. So when it came to creating my own, I freaked! ~cue glass eyes~

Writing back blurbs ARE a pain in the ass. I use a Formula.

*YOUR PROTAGONIST* *PURSUES A GOAL*. *YOUR OTHER PROTAGONIST* *PURSUES A GOAL*. *WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS* they are thrown together & sparks fly! To * PURSUE A NEW GOAL*, they are forced to work together & more than sparks fly.


And then there’s the *HINT AT PLOT TWIST*

"A book without an opening hook certainly won't make it past an agent."
Bang on! Agents are peppered with submissions. Manuscripts lacking proper hooks land in litter bins.
Didn't you write a post on the uses of "Said"? 'Said' = nails on a chalkboard. violent1

I did indeed. I LOATHE the word "said."

Topic An Opening HOOK?
Posted 13 May 2011 16:48

...Partial manuscripts, that's 60 pages - 4 chapters - not whole manuscripts.

How standard is that, if at all? I've been reading in writing forums that five chapters and a 1000 word synopsis seems to be the thing these days... Is is different for erotica/romance?

A Partial plus synopsis is standard for brick and mortar publishers and some epublishers like Samhain Press or Ellora's Cave. NONE of those will take a full manuscript without express invitation. How many pages they consider to be a Partial, depends entirely on the individual publisher -- which is why one should ALWAYS read the submission guidelines BEFORE submitting anything to anyone.

However, 60 pages (double-spaced with each page counted as 250 words,) plus a full synopsis was what my agent asked for while she was shopping my manuscript for Kiss of the Wolf to several of the larger publishers. That's what she considers 'standard.'

Just so you know, my chapters tend to be roughly 2500 words each, so 60 pages WAS 4 chapters for me.

My erotic romance publishers are ebook publishers. They prefer a completed manuscript.

Topic An Opening HOOK?
Posted 12 May 2011 12:28

Your first line must make the reader read the first paragraph
Your first paragraph must make them read the first page
Your first page must make them read the first chapter
Your first chapter must make them keep reading

That should be taped to every writer's monitor.

I've found that of the easier ways to try and hook your reader with the first line is to start with a line of dialogue. Drop your readers straight into a conversation.

That is an excellent method. I've used it myself. It's especially good if the line is intriguing or Sarcastic.

The importance of this on Lush is quite visible - when a story appears on the home page it shows about the first three lines, what you put in those three lines will definitely affect whether someone clicks to "read on."

Absolutely! Which is why Author Notes should NEVER go at the beginning of a posted story. It eats up all the space where your story's hook should be.

Topic There's a Story in There Somewhere.
Posted 12 May 2011 12:07

Ooooooh! GOOD Article!
-- I use pictures for inspiration myself. Right here on LUSH there's a huge picture gallery with tons of men and women in interesting situations that simply beg for stories.

Topic An Opening HOOK?
Posted 12 May 2011 11:36

An Opening HOOK?
-----Original Message-----
"We constantly hear people talk about a hook. I was just wondering, how important is an opening hook? How close to the opening does it have to be? Seriously, how many people pick up a book or story and put it back down after the first sentence or paragraph? Do we have some forgiveness here? I would think that a published, well known author might not need one."
-- Writer in Waiting
Let’s break this down and tackle each, one at a time.

"I was just wondering, how Important is an Opening Hook?”
How important? Vitally important .
"57% of new books are not read to completion. Most readers do not get past page 18 in a book they have purchased."
--Jerrold Jenkins
This means you have 4500 words to catch your reader's interest in your story. If you can't grab your reader the moment they open to the first page, your chances of them walking that book to the counter and buying it DROP astronomically.

On a story post site, you have ONE PARAGRAPH to grab your reader's interest enough to read more. If you don't catch them IMMEDIATELY, it's all too easy to click on another title to see if that's more interesting.

Just so you know, most potential readers decide what books they’ll purchase by:

-- Cover Art*
-- Back Cover Blurb
-- Inside Excerpt
-- First Page (first 150 words)
-- Last page (A LOT of buyers will not buy a book with an Unhappy Ending no matter how good the meat of the story is -- especially if that book is marketed as a Romance or EROTICA.)

-- In that order.

If your first page is dull and boring, you’re more or less screwed.

When it comes to story post sites, you don't even have that much. You have your opening paragraph -- that's it. (Which is why author notes at the beginning of a story are a BAD IDEA. Put them at the End.)

*Note on Cover Art: Although it is the first thing assessed by a potential buyer, Cover Art actually carries far less weight in the final purchasing decision than any of the others. Cover Art is merely a tool to catch the eye and make the buyer pick up the book for consideration. Most readers have learned that few covers actually have anything to do with what the book is about, so if the cover art stinks, but the rest is interesting, they’ll buy it.

“How close to the opening does it have to be?”
To GET them reading, your hook should be on the first line of the first page. To KEEP them reading, you should have a hook at the end of every single chapter.

Examples from my books:
Kiss of the Wolf

It was so cold…

Her breath steamed from her lips. Naked and shivering, she rose from her crouch. Her long pale brown hair falling over her bare shoulders, and the tall white dog pressed against her side, were her only sources of warmth.

The windowless basement of the abandoned textile factory was thick with shadows. She couldn’t see the walls or ceiling at all. The only light came from the circular design inscribed on the worn plank floor blazing an eerie blue, all the way around them.

She needed to get out of there.


"Might I have your company for the night?"

"Huh?" Elaine glanced up from her belly-down sprawl across the private compartment’s plush banquette sofa. The art deco lamp directly over her was on, but the polished cherry wood walls made the rest of the antique Pullman car very dark. She blinked. Where did he come from?

A tall man in a nearly floor-length black leather coat, stood just inside the deep shadow of her compartment’s door. His hands hung loose at his sides. "Pardon the intrusion." His voice was soft, low, and velvety with a touch of exotic eastern European lilt. He tilted his head toward the closed door. "I did knock, and your door was unlocked."

Hungry Spirits

"This historical mansion is supposed to be haunted. Isn't that cool?"

"What?" The rubber soles of Keiko's pink house slippers caught on the antique, red and gold carpet, making her trip. She barely stopped from pitching into the student directly in front of her. With the entire class crammed in the narrow hallway, there was barely enough walking room, never mind room to fall. She turned to her left, and frowned at her classmate. "Tika, did you say, haunted ?"

"Yep." Tika smiled, showing the boy-grabbing dimple in the heart of her cheek. The light shining through the warm cream of the rice paper wall, they were walking alongside, gave her oval face a warm glow. "The ghost of an old samurai is supposed to be watching over the family."

Thunder boomed, rattling the rattan frames of the long, rice paper sliding walls on the left.

“Seriously, how many people pick up a book or story and put it back down after the first sentence or paragraph? Do we have some forgiveness here?”

Survey says…!

“As a reader I generally give a new book (before I've bought it) the first paragraph to get my interest, sometimes less. I'll almost always put down a book that starts with a description of landscape, as lots of fantasy seem to.”
“As a reader, I always open the book to the first page and start reading (in a book shop before I buy the book). If the writing style is awkward or the wording is boring I'll put the book down and keep looking.”
“Weather report beginnings are a turn off for me. But something subtle, interesting, or thought provoking, in the first paragraph is enough to keep me reading, for a while.”
“I'll only grant ‘forgiveness’ to an author who has entertained me in the past, and even then I'm not all that lenient.”

Most if not ALL potential buyers have only one interest when buying a book to read: PERSONAL ENTERTAINMENT. If the reader is not grabbed on the first page, your book goes back on the shelf in favor of one that DOES grab them.

The only books allowed to be dull and boring on the first page, are text books designed strictly for education. (They’re expected to be dull and boring.)

“…I would think that a published well known author might not need ."
Being published and well known does NOT mean that a reader won't put a book down that doesn't interest them, and there are ALWAYS people that have never heard of you.

“If a book is going nowhere after initially getting my interest, I'll stop reading, and never pick up another book by that author again.”
“If I'm not ‘into’ it after 15 pages I usually give up.”
“It's the author's job to keep me interested from the very first line to the very last, because if they can't, there are plenty that can and I'd rather be reading their books.”

Never forget! Your book is in direct competition with every other book in that store, therefore you should avail yourself of every trick you can think of to Get that Reader – and then Keep that Reader.

“What is a HOOK anyway?”
Very simply, it’s what makes the reader turn the page. It’s the Mysterious Circumstance, the Precarious Situation, the Horrible Turn of Events, etc. that drives the Reader to Keep Reading to discover: “What will happen NEXT?” More commonly known as: SUSPENSE.

There is a Reason why MYSTERIES are a top selling genre – they keep the reader guessing right up to the last page.

“But I’m not writing a Mystery!”
So what? I don’t write mysteries either, but I do have a Mysterious Circumstance, a Precarious Situation, a Horrible Turn of Events -- a hook -- at the end of every chapter. And I never give anything away until the last possible second.

“But what if I'm writing Literature? They rarely (if ever) have hooks.”
Once upon a time they didn't, (like 10 years or more ago.) They DO NOW or they don't get past the publication editor. A book without an opening hook certainly won't make it past an agent.

These days agents and editors ask for Partial manuscripts, that's 60 pages - 4 chapters - not whole manuscripts. Not a whole lot of room to impress someone. What they DON'T tell you, is if you don't hook them on the First Page, they won't even bother reading the REST of the partial.

Publishers toss Booker winners into the reject pile.
They can’t judge a book without its cover.
Jonathan Calvert and Will Iredale

The Sunday Times, London UK, January 01, 2006
Publishers and agents have rejected two Booker prize-winning novels submitted as works by aspiring authors. One of the books considered unworthy by the publishing industry was by VS Naipaul, one of Britain’s greatest living writers, who won the Nobel Prize for literature.

The exercise by The Sunday Times draws attention to concerns that the industry has become incapable of spotting genuine literary talent.

Typed manuscripts of the opening chapters of Naipaul’s “ In a Free State ” and a second novel, “ Holiday ,” by Stanley Middleton, were sent to 20 publishers and agents. None appears to have recognized them as Booker prizewinners from the 1970s that were lauded as British novel writing at its best. Of the 21 replies, all but one were rejections .
Read the Entire Article:

In Conclusion:
If you expect your manuscript to get past an agent, or a publishing editor, you need to make your story engaging, and compelling to read right from the Opening Line.

If you want to make your READERS ask for More, you you need to make your story engaging, and compelling to read, from Opening Line to the Closing Chapter.

DISCLAIMER: As with all advice, take what you can use and throw out the rest. As a multi-published author, I have been taught some fairly rigid rules on what is publishable and what is not. If my rather straight-laced (and occasionally snotty,) advice does not suit your creative style, by all means, IGNORE IT.

Topic BURNOUT ~ SUCCESS is Out to Get You!
Posted 09 May 2011 18:56

...why would we want to put our names on something half-assed?


Topic BURNOUT ~ SUCCESS is Out to Get You!
Posted 09 May 2011 06:48

There are similarities from book to book, but I can't get into the whole "change the names and a few adjectives" routine. So far, no one's asked me to, so here's hoping it stays this way. :D

Wait til you get: "Just write anything, it doesn't matter what, as long as you give them something ."

I got that from my Agent. (The one I don't have anymore.) She was more than a little obvious about being interested in "as much as possible, as fast as possible" than a decent story.

Unfortunately, (for her,) I have fans that WILL give me shit of the story isn't the best I can produce. Happily those same fans have no problem waiting for something "good".