Someone wanted to know how a reader could tell if a book wasn't his cup of tea. I thought about that for a second or two, and here's what I said in response.
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That's an easy one. You know a book is not for you if …
- You hate the subject matter
- You hate the genre
- You hate the author's literary style
- You hate the author
- You have the author's family
Seriously, speaking from experience, I know a book isn't for me if it takes me longer than a few pages to get into it.
Yes, really. I know there are writers "out there" who feel that building a book is like building a house. You have to start out slowly and laboriously by excavating for the foundation and gradually build to the climax—moving into your newly completed home. But, nothing about writing and nothing about storytelling should be slow and laborious. As for me, I'd rather start building a house by locating the perfect building site after hiking through freezing cold and blistering heat, only to be attacked by a grizzly and left for dead before I fell the very first tree. And, of course, before the young and beautiful Cherokee maiden finds me near death and nurses me back to health, vowing to remain by my side for eternity.
See what I mean?
There is never only one way to do something, including writing a book. Come up with a dynamite, shocking, grabby opening line (or ten), and build from there. Even if it means opening with a flash back or, more likely, a flash forward. Even if it means going back to the opening once you have completed the writing to add an introductory chapter. Short and shocking. Hook the reader early and hard, and he or she will be around until the book's dynamite, climactic conclusion.
As for that Cherokee maiden … what was her name again?
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D. J. Herda is author of the new series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available in eBook, paperback, and hardcover formats at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his weekly column, "The Author-Ethicist," at Substack.