Wednesday, December 9, 2009

THE Hook

I’ve been wrestling several days with a “hook” for the proposal for Tangled Strands. Afew minutes ago a wrote a friend that I was torn between working on the hook or working on a blog—and then it occurred to me. Maybe I should write a blog about the hook.

Sorry if that sounds like a bunch of gobbledygook, but I am serious. So let’s back up and talk about the hook. In writing, it is simply a set of words, a devise, by which you try to “hook” a reader the same way a fisherman hooks a fish. The opening of every book needs a hook if we want the reader to take the book home. The end of every chapter needs enough of a hook to keep your reader turning the pages. The back cover on a paperback or the flap on a hardback book are designed to be hooks in themselves.

What I need right now is a hook for the opening of a book proposal. The proposal is what you send to an agent or a publisher (or your agent sends to a publisher) when you are trying to connect with an agent or a publisher. The definition I have at the moment is this: HOOK – the selling hook of 30 words or less; extremely important summary of why the reader should buy the book (italics mine).

In other words, I have thirty words to convince a reader that my book is worth the $$ being asked for it—or, in this circumstance, thirty words to convince an agent that taking a look at my proposal and my synopsis will be worth his time.

What’s the difference between a proposal and a synopsis? The synopsis of course is a summary of the story. A synopsis can be a half page or many pages. A proposal may include the synopsis, but it includes much more—everything from the number of words in the article or synopsis, to who you think will read it, to why the author is qualified to write it, and what plans the author has for trying to sell the final product.

You can see why the hook is important. If it doesn’t catch attention, none of the other “good stuff” in your proposal may be looked at.

So now that I’ve written my blog about the hook, I still need to get back to coming up with the hook itself. I need to find those thirty words that will capture attention and make the reader of the hook say, “Wow! I want to know more about this.”

Friday, December 4, 2009

Trying to Get Back on Track

I know it is bad news, if I consider myself a writer, that I haven’t kept up with my blog. Whether an excuse or a reason, the truth is that my focus the last two months has been on getting that revision done so I can get on with the challenges of finding an agent and a publisher. Is the revision is done? Are you kidding? A novel is never “done” until it goes to press. However, this one of mine is far more done than it has ever been. Most important, it is pretty close to where I want it before I contact the agent again.

I could do many more things to it before considering it “ready,” such as looking at each chapter to see if it begins with something catchy enough to keep the reader reading. Or does every chapter end with a punch or an element of suspense that will keep the reader turning pages. I need to go through the whole thing again looking for those “to be” words that weaken writing, especially when combined with an –ing word (I don’t fully understand why that is bad, so I have more learning to do). I need to do a “deep edit” scouring for excess and unnecessary words (like just, really, and a dozen of their pesky cousins).

Speaking of “to be” words, many of which are linking verbs, I was impressed recently to discover one of my grandsons with an assignment to write an essay without linking verbs. They’re teaching that in seventh grade now? Yikes! I can promise you that it isn’t easy.

I won’t make any bold promises about getting back to writing regularly on this blog. I want to. I have to. I must if I am to broaden my readership and get it to the place where I can use it as a proper author’s tool.