Imagine a wormhole in all its beguiling, seductive allure. Two twisting ends in interstellar space joined by a funnel. Two entirely different universes connected by a seemingly implausible conduit of empty space. Two sets of space-time coordinates separated by an esoteric bridge.
You have here a freaky concept that debunks all logical premises and promises to transport you magically to a world that is otherwise beyond reach and imagination. You are allowed access to a universe that had hitherto existed only in your imagination. Or one that you couldn’t imagine.
It is every author’s dream to suck the reader into his story and transport her to the universe of bewilderment and intrigue the minute the reader lays her hand on his book. Newbie authors often admit to a twinge of wistfulness when a browsing reader picks up his baby, gives it the once-over and promptly moves on to the book next to it.
Enter the author’s wormhole – the back cover blurb.
Do you dive into a swimming pool straight away without dipping your foot in first? Do you buy a perfume without doing a skin-test first? If not, then why do you expect a reader to fall for your novel without skimming through the opening first?
There are three ‘hooks’ that can grip the reader as she browses through the millions of titles available for purchase on a given day – the book cover, the blurb at the back of the book, and the first three chapters (or the opening). Well, make that four if you want to include reviews on the cover, but many authors, especially newbies, do not have the luxury of having marquee reviews to crow about.
While the other hooks can be the subject of separate posts by themselves, the opening or the first three chapters are really your first, and perhaps your only, chance to grab the reader and throw her headlong into your story.
Anybody who’s somebody that matters to your book’s publication and its success – agents, publishers, reviewers, readers – is going to invariably sniff at the opening first. Smells good? They dive right in. Stinks? They throw your book back where it belongs – in the pile along with the others.
So, here are some quick and simple ways that newbie writers can use to create that irresistible hook.
I’ve had quite a few wannabe writers coming to me with that pin-up one-liner: “You know, I have a lot of ideas but I don’t know where to start.”
Or this: “I don’t know if my writing’s any good.”
I didn’t either, when I started out. I still don’t. And that’s what eggs us writers on. To better ourselves (and not to become another King, Rowling, or Hemingway).
Here are a few ways you could get off that butt and put actual words on paper.
Someone once asked me what writing was all about. I was tempted to answer in superlatives of prose – a fulfilling reverie, a cathartic epiphany, a literary orgasm that leaves you happily spent.
But, I bit back the momentary gush of verbiose. For writing is none of those glorified, intellectually rarefied and abstract moments of feathery flourish that people will have you believe.
No, writing is far messier. It’s about having your nose to the grindstone, not knowing when the grinding will stop. I remember laboring over one of my manuscripts for ten months. Yes, you read that right. TEN MONTHS. That’s like eons in writing years.