Tag Archives: How to Write

A Little Hook

Every writer has his or her own process. Ideas come, sometimes in the form of virtual Mack trucks that appear out of nowhere, usually at the most inopportune of times, creating the need for you to stop whatever it is that you’re doing and run away to write all that good stuff down before it disappears back to wherever it was that it came from. Kind of thing that gets us scribblers labeled as odd, at the very least. The inspiration for new stories is the easy part of writing—I have PILES of fabulous story outlines that are unlikely to ever see the light of day. Getting them going is what’s needed for them ever to become real books. Just those few first paragraphs are often all that we need to give us the push to write on through to the end.

Those first paragraphs are probably the most important part of any book, and the reason why these days I prefer to go back and write them after I’ve finished the first chapter. If you don’t manage to get your readers’ attention right at the start you’re likely going to lose quite a few eyeballs shortly afterwards. My first books don’t have particularly grabby first paragraphs, and even so those first paragraphs sometimes took days and weeks of angst and endless tweaking to be born. Now I find that the best way to get your hook in is to get to know your protagonist a little first, and drop a bombshell right there at the get-go. Take from something epic that’s going to happen further along. Take a little bit of that epic and use it to surprise, pique interest, or shock your reader into really wanting to know more. You don’t have to give the game away—just a little smidgeon of things to come.

Stories don’t have to be written horizontally. There are no rules that say that the writer must start at the beginning and soldier through each page as it happens. One thing I see all the time, both with my own first scribblings and with books that I proof or edit, is that stilted beginning—trying so hard to introduce everyone and everything, from the shades of eyeballs to the colour of the walls in a room. We try to keep our hero’s secrets and to build up slowly, not wanting to drop massive spoilers in our own work, and thereby render reading to the end rather pointless.

I think that once we’ve written the most riveting scene in any book, taking a little from that and whacking it down in the very first paragraph is the best kind of teaser. You might give a tiny bit away, but you don’t have to name names. How about a fantastically short but mind-blowing first chapter? Out the fact that your murderer is a woman to your readers before the cops get to find out. Fly your dragon over the valley that holds the most terrifying secret in the universe in the third sentence. Come face to face with the woman whose husband you accidentally shot. You get the picture— Don’t worry too much about always setting the scene first, although that’s sometimes good too, close your eyes, pinch your nostrils closed and dive in, boots and all.

Writing

Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Stephen King on WritingOne of the books just about every big writer, agent, publisher, or whatever in the industry says you should read as an author is Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. So what if it’s been nearly 17 years since it came out.

King covers everything from his childhood and a very bad case of poison ivy to his being hit by a driver that almost killed him. And from his first earnings as a writer from his mother paying for his childhood stories to his latest works around the year 2000. Mixing the two strings of discussion in such a way that you learn just as much about writing from reading the book as you do from what he says about writing in the book.

One thing I realize from Stephen King is, that no one is right all the time. Even King admits there isn’t a hard fast rule about writing. There are rules about writing, but not about writing.  Did that make sense to you? Welcome to an example of how King sometimes gets his point across although it was my point in this instance.

Great things can be said by great people and garbage by even greater ones, but if you want to learn anything, listen to those who do things rather than talk about them. There is a reason you don’t see dozens of books about writing from King. He didn’t want to say anything unless he had something to say. It had to be different and it had to be useful information.

He succeeds on all counts. His examples are excellent and the encouragement one can get from following his path to success is inspiring. Even King had his moments of doubt but he never gave up. He hated one of the books that he is most identified with. He worked harder than most of us ever has, while continuing to write, write, and write some more.

It’s hard for me to believe I’d ever say that a book about writing is a page turner, but here I am saying exactly that.On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is a page turner. You want to know what example he’ll use next; what nugget of wisdom he will share. You want to see if you are already doing things King mentions and give yourself kudos for it, while telling King he’s wrong about the things you disagree with, but know he’s correct all the same.

King is the antithesis of what so many point to in regards to classic writing, but he’s not really. He still tells tales in that big epic manner while doing so in a modern fast paced way that holds attention. How can you read his books in one sitting? People do it.

Every book is a classroom. You either learn how to write or how not to write. King is the classic read-as-much-as-possible writer. He’s read more books than I’ve heard scanned the titles of and that’s something that needs to change, and I’m doing so.

I recommend Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft to anyone who is or wants to be a writer. The sooner you read it in your career the better. Why waste time doing things the wrong way when we have help out there telling us the right way?Writing the breakout novel by Donald Maass

My next book on writing to speak about will be Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. I started it quite some time ago, but it’s not quite the page turner like King’s. It’s not meant to be, but it does have its merits and I’ve used what Maass said in my debut novel that has pretty good ratings so far. Until next time;

“Read Great to Write Greater.”-Ronovan


by Ronovan Hester

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Dialogue Tags, Beats, and More. Are you using the right one?

As some of you know, I host a Fiction writing challenge on Fridays here on Ronovan Writes. It’s funny how I use Ronovan Writes as if it’s not me. Sometimes I shorten it to RW. That has nothing to do with this article, merely an aside.

Dialogue Tags and More by Ronovan Hester



One of the goals of the Friday Fiction with Ronovan Writes is to improve the writing of those who participate. At the moment my goal with the challenge is to encourage the improvement of the basics of writing Fiction. Some problems I see, not just in a few challenge entries, but in books I review, are the use of Dialogue Tags, Action Beats, and Dialogue Punctuation. Also today I’ll introduce some of you to Grammarly.

This piece today is not just for those doing the challenge. This is for anyone who:

  • Writes.
  • Writes short stories
  • Writes novellas, or novels.

What I have here will help you. For some of you it will be a reminder.


Let’s begin with Dialogue Tags. A Dialogue Tag is when you have a speaker identified along with the dialogue and a word such as ‘said’.

Example: “The dog jumped the fence,” Bob said. OR Bob said, “The dog jumped the fence.”

Example: “Did the dog jump the fence?” Sally asked.

Notice there are words used to show what kind of speaking Bob and Sally are doing. Let’s change one to see what happens.

“The dog jumped the fence.” Bob pointed to Fido racing across the field after the sheep.

We know who is speaking here, Bob because he is the only one mentioned and he is doing an action associated with the act of seeing the dog jump the fence. Now let’s see what happens with Sally.

“Did the dog jump the fence?” Sally pointed to Fido racing across the field after the sheep.

You’ll run into some people who despise Dialogue Tags, regardless of the situation. They would like you to use something like an Action Beat instead. What are Action Beats? An Action Beat is the actions taking place between the dialogues. The two examples above with Bob and Sally pointing are Action Beats. Notice there was no mention of the people speaking. You assumed who was speaking.

My personal opinion is you need a combination of Beats and Tags and nothing at all. Sticking to one and one tool only, in my opinion, would be boring.

Let’s take a look at passage using all three tools.

Example with Dialogue Tags and Action Beats.

“This class is crazy.” Billy ducked the dark rectangular object on its way toward his head.
Larry picked up the weapon, marker dust covered his hand. He threw the eraser back at the offender. “We’re not playing! Find someone else!”
“Thanks, Larry.” Billy’s muffled voice came from the floor.
“You can get up now, Billy.”
“Do you think Ms. Willett will be mad when she sees what they did to her notes on the board?”
“If I were you, I’d be reading a book when she comes in. Act as innocence as possible.”
“Will that work?”
“Did last year. This is my second year in the class. I failed by a point last time. She’s tough. They don’t call her hard butt because she works out so much.”
Billy laughed, and said, “Either way she’s my favorite teacher.”

The above is not the best example, but it gives you an idea of what I’m talking about. I used one dialogue tag, and then only to keep the reader on track. I didn’t want to throw in lots of Action Beats. Action Beats work great, but can be overdone.
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Then you might have a passage with only Dialogue Tags.

All Dialogue Tags:

“This class is crazy,” Billy said and ducked the dark rectangular object on its way toward his head.
“We’re not playing! Find someone else!” Larry said.
“Thanks, Larry,” Billy said.
“You can get up now, Billy,” Larry said.
“Do you think Ms. Willett will be mad when she sees what they did to her notes on the board?” Billy asked.
“If I were you, I’d be reading a book when she comes in. Act as innocence as possible,” Larry said.
“Will that work?” Billy asked.
“Did last year. This is my second year in the class. I failed by a point last time. She’s tough. They don’t call her hard butt because she works out so much,” Larry said.
“Either way she’s my favorite teacher,” Billy said.
How boring is that? Annoying? Except for the exclamation marks for Larry there is no personality or life to the scene. Now you see why you use dialogue tags as little as possible. You also use Action Beats only when you need to. Of course you can pep up the dialogue itself and accomplish a lot.
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One thing you need to do when writing is, give each character a distinctive voice. I always try to do that in every story I write. One character might speak in short sentences, another in long. This guy doesn’t use contractions, this guy uses them even when they don’t exist.

By giving distinctive voices, you can have a conversation without a lot of tags or beats. Beats are good. You do need them. However, if you can get as much as possible across in your dialogue you are a long way to being a success.

No Dialogue Tags and No Action Beats.

“Billy, duck!”
“These people are insane. That could’ve hit me in the eye. Thanks Larry.”
“We’re not playing! Find someone else!”
“Ooo, you nailed him with that eraser.”
“He shouldn’t’ve thrown it in the first place. Uh, Billy?”
“Yeah?”
“Stop hiding.”
“Oh, yeah. Thanks. Do you think Ms. Willett will be mad when she sees what they did to her notes on the board?”
“Put it this way, if I were you, I’d be reading a book when she comes in. Act like an angel.”
“Will that work? This place is a disaster area. There is no way she will think we didn’t do some of this.”
“Worked last year.”
“Last year?”
“Uh, Billy, I’m a year older than you, remember? I failed by one point last time. But as bad as my grades were, I never got in trouble with Ms. Willett.”
“Larry, you’re always getting into trouble.”
“I know, but every time something happened, I stuck my nose in a book. She’s tough but fair. They don’t call her hard—”
“Larry!”
“Okay, they don’t call her hard ‘butt’ because of how much she works out.”
“I don’t care why they call her that, she’s my favorite teacher.”
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Along with dialogue, one thing I notice in books I read and blogs I read is Dialogue Punctuation. I’ll only mention one form of punctuation at this time.

I’ll also make this as simple as I can. Where does the comma go?

Example: “The dog jumped the fence,” Bob said. OR Bob said, “The dog jumped the fence.”

In dialogue, we all know to use the quotation marks around the speech, the dialogue. Where does the comma go? Yes, there is a comma in most dialogue IF there is a normal expression of speech. Look at the example above. There is no exclamation nor a question mark, therefore you put a comma inside the quotation mark.

If you have an exclamation or question mark, then put the mark and close with the quotation, no comma is required.

Example: “The dog jumped the fence!” Bob said.

Example: “Did the dog jump the fence?” Sally asked.

No comma was required in the examples above.

You can do away with commas by not using Dialogue Tags and sticking with Action Beats. Yawn. Okay, not really yawn, if done correctly. When you have a scene with two people conversing, you can easily do away with Dialogue Tags and stick with Action Beats and no manner of denoting who is speaking at all based on the rhythm of the exchange.
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Grammar and Spelling

For those without Word to help catch spelling and grammar errors, I have a suggestion for you. However, first if you do have Word, I’m going to refer you to Using Proofing To Help Your Fiction Diction & More!, for how you can make the most of Word

Another TOOL to use, if you don’t have Word is Grammarly.com. It can be used inside of WordPress or any place you type, even comments on blogs. Also, they have a FREE version, which I use.
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If you found this helpful, you may also enjoy:

UNDERSTAND THE TOOLS OF YOUR TRADE by Jo Robinson of any of Jo’s articles on Self-Publishing by clicking HERE.

HOW TO AVOID MANUSCRIPT MENTAL FATIGUE. by Ronovan Hester.



Ronovan Hester is an author, with his debut historical adventure novel Amber Wake: Gabriel Falling due out in February 14, 2016. He shares his life through his blog RonovanWrites.WordPress.com. His love of poetry, authors and community through his online world has lead to the creation of a site dedicated to book reviews, interviews and author resources known as LitWorldInterviews.com.

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@RonovanWrites

© Copyright-All rights reserved by ronovanwrites.wordpress.com 2016

Book Reviews Versus Critiques

An article I found by visiting our friend Jo Robinson’s blog. Okay, so I found it last week but I decided to share it today.

Have We Had Help?

book-review

Since sites like Amazon gave the general public the opportunity to review any book they have read, what many still fail to understand, or indeed appreciate, is the difference between writing a review and what amounts to a critique.

***

Here is a typical example of a professional newspaper review:

The Secret History of the Blitz by Joshua Levine, review: ‘tunnels behind clichés’.

Next is an example of a critique by an individual who quite simply failed to appreciate the book they read:

A second weakness in Frankl’s writing is in the assumptions he sometimes makes to prove his point. He makes overarching generalizations several times in his book, making statements that, although may have been true for himself and those around him, might not have been true for every prisoner in every concentration camp during the Holocaust. For example, in one instance, he says, “The prisoner of Auschwitz …

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Get Book Sales with your Book Description.

There are foods out there that I love, but they look awful. I can cook some of the best tasting things you will ever eat, but they may just not look that great.

“What’s is this?” My son asked.

“Diced chicken, rice, condensed cream of mushroom soup, broccoli, garlic powder, salt, pepper…”

“Daddy, can I have a sandwich?”

I was describing a delicious casserole dish that is seriously amazing, but I lost my audience. I was giving him not what he wanted, I was giving him the chef’s description of the dish. He didn’t ask for the recipe, he wanted to know what it was and what it tasted like.

As Authors we need to keep this in mind when we come up with our “Book Descriptions”.

Did anyone else shudder or get a bad taste in their mouth when I said those last two words? They are almost as bad as the words “synopsis” or “hook” or . . .  NOOOOO “pitch” or Sally Fields forbid-“query letter“.

I look through Amazon a lot as I look for Author Interviews.

Straight Talk Time from Ronovan

There are some seriously B.A.D. Book Descriptions. What’s B.A.D.? Oh, that means Badly Authored Descriptions. These Book Descriptions have been by Authors. When I read them it makes me wonder one of two things;

  1. Did the Author use up all their talent in the book writing or
  2. Does the Author just not know how to write

Sorry, I know, that was bad, but you have to admit when you are looking at a book description and you see two or three lines or you see a recipe of the book you wonder the same things. And this is Straight Talk, not Sweet Talk.

You have to stand out from the crowd. If you ever look at ‘Amazon Best Sellers Rank’ and then look at the Book Descriptions, most often there is a correlation.

How to Write a Book Description

Establish Who You Are

Who the heck are you? Why should I trust you to write this book and believe I am getting quality?

I have several Author friends who are award winning. Mention it right off the bat. Show the reader you are legit.

The LWI: Book Description is from Award Winning author Ronovan Writes.

You don’t have Awards?

The LWI: Book Description is Ronovan Writes third novel.

Ronovan Writes brings us the first in his NEW series “The LWI: Book Descriptors”.

Or

Author Historian  Ronovan Writes delivers his newest jump into adventure with “The LWI: Book Descriptors”

Okay, so they might not be the best but I think you see what I mean. You need to give them a piece of you. Connect somehow. Pretend you are reading and think what would catch your eye. Read those Amazon Best Seller Book Descriptions.

Review Blurbs

I had a comment in a recent article asking if regular people read the long reviews on Amazon. If they get that far they just might.  How do you let the potential purchaser of your book know people like it?

Okay, so there is the star review they can see but you want them to see the words.

Take review quotes and put them in your Book Description. Not a lot of them. Pick those which keep the energy going in your “pitch”. Always remember your Book Description is a sales pitch.

“Ronovan Writes nails the book to the wall with non-stop action and keeps you guessing every step of the way. I started reading it and could not put it down until I was finished. Who needs sleep?”

“The LWI: Book Descriptors had me pacing the floor wondering what would happen next. I loved and hated the author at the same time as he pulled me through every emotion and made me question what I believed.”

“I started reading this as a night time read and the next thing I know I am wide awake. My wife hit me to turn out the light. Ronovan Writes “The LWI: Book Descriptors” is worth a night on the couch, or two.”

Keep the quotes short and not many.  You only have a little time of the modern day person’s short attention span.

The Story

Now tell about your book. Give the nutshell version. The commercial, the “hook”. You threw out the line with Who You Are, you baited them with the Review Blurbs, now hook them with your pitch of the book. The real description of the story. Forget the little parts, the recipe. Tell them what you have for them.

“The LWI: Book Descriptors” races you through the dark places that we thought we knew to be true, but in reality were all a devastating plan from on high. If you can handle surprise, revelations and being kept on the edge of your seat in the world of political espionage, you’re in the right place.

How to Conclude

There are various methods. The comparison, just like you do with a literary agent or publisher where you mention how your book is similar to some other super star author’s.

or

Close with your best review quote blurb or blurbs.

“Not since The DaVinci Code have I read such a reality shaking story. Ronovan Writes delivers a gripping tale of intrigue and desperation. I can’t wait for his next book.”

Length of Book Description

Get the job done.  After this point do all the quotes you want, or whatever else, but get the job done quickly and if you want more quotes or then add comparisons, go ahead and do it.

Formatting the Description

Wake people up. Bold, symbols like asterisks. Do something to wake the reader up from looking through dozens of descriptions already.

Let’s see what it might look like:

Author Historian  Ronovan Writes delivers his newest jump into adventure with “The LWI: Book Descriptors”

5 out of 5 Star Reviews

*****“Ronovan Writes nails the book to the wall with non-stop action and keeps you guessing every step of the way. I started reading it and could not put it down until I was finished. Who needs sleep?”– Joe Contrare-Amazon Review

“The LWI: Book Descriptors had me pacing the floor wondering what would happen next. I loved and hated the author at the same time as he pulled me through every emotion and made me question what I believed.”-Michele Mabell-Amazon Review

“I started reading this as a night time read and the next thing I know I am wide awake. My wife hit me to turn out the light. Ronovan Writes “The LWI: Book Descriptors” is worth a night on the couch, or two.”-Leonardo Comaround herenomor-Amazon Review*****

“The LWI: Book Descriptors” races you through the dark places that we thought we knew to be true, but in reality were all a devastating plan from on high. If you can handle surprise, revelations and being kept on the edge of your seat in the world of political espionage, you’re in the right place. This IS The DaVinci Code of what people thought was American politics but turns out to be much, much more.”

More Reader Praise:

“Not since The DaVinci Code have I read such a reality shaking story. Ronovan Writes delivers a gripping tale of intrigue and desperation. I can’t wait for his next book.”-Daniel Constano-Amazon Reviewer

 

These are suggestions. The idea to take away from this is to put some effort into the Book Description or your months of writing a book will not get read by many. All that time and effort and you waste it away with soup can ingredients.

Make your Book Description as good as if not BETTER than your Book!

 

Much Respect

Ronovan

Ron_LWI

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 And as always . . .

Read a Book, Write a Review.

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