Don’t be coy with your hook

Your hook leads into your story

I’ve critiqued two novels recently where the hook was so deeply buried that I spent the first 8-10k words wondering why I was reading the story.

Don’t do this.

Whatever your story hook is, put it up front.  Be open about it.  Let your reader know that THIS is why they are reading.

Otherwise you are in danger of losing them.

If your reader is saying “so what?” then take a look at your hook.  Where is it, how strong is it, how clear is it.  And if it’s not right there, at least in the first chapter, then put it there.

It does not pay to be vague and mysterious in your opening chapters.


14 thoughts on “Don’t be coy with your hook

  1. Great blog you have going here Merilee and I love the pic and story too. Makes me want to dive into the river and your writing.

    Thanks for the reminder about the hook. We bloggers need to remember it too. I’m still practising and hopefully getting better. I love what Meredith says about lopping off the first or even first few paragraphs. It works. Sometimes we writers ramble a bit before getting to the point and we have to learn to be our own ruthless editors.

  2. I’m almost always stressed about my hook and that all important first paragraph and page. If allowed too, it can cause me a serious form of ‘THE BLOCK”, so I’ve gotten in the habit of writing through it and leaving the slicing and dicing for the edit stage. I won’t begin my first full novel edit until February and I’m almost panicked at the thought of fixing that first page, or two, or six.

  3. Sometimes where we start writing is way before the hook because sometimes that’s where the words flow from the best. But during edits we have to cut off the excess fat, and sometimes a good crit is required to remind us of that. ;P

  4. This is a great point. I know for sure you are correct in assessing such value to an early and obvious hook, because as a reader of novels, I close the book if I am not driven by strong curiosity or another equally pressing motivation inspired by what I have already read. My time to read is precious and I spend it where I get the most out if it. Than you for your helpful post.

  5. I actually learned this lesson well in my newspaper days. I’d write the piece, then on a rewrite, lop off the first few paragraphs. Typically, I’d have buried my hook in the 3rd or 4th one, and the piece would read so much better if I just began with the juicy stuff right up front.

    On a rewrite of a novella I’m working on, that has translated to me cutting the first six pages. I guess when I’m writing a first draft, I have to work myself up to it, like doing a warm-up. But I don’t want to make the reader do that. ;) Great post, Merrilee!

  6. As a reader I’m not the sort who battles on with a book just because I’ve started it. I’ve ditched many books because I couldn’t see the point in reading them… but it can be different with our own writing. We know what’s going on and where it’s going and sometimes I think we’re too keen to try and make our work sound mysterious and failing so thanks for the reminder.

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