Paths to Publishing: The Lure of a Great Hook by Lynn Crain #amwriting

Paths to publishing

Writing is something that has fascinated me for over forty years and I still find it amazing that it has done so. Other passions have come and gone, writing has kept me in its firm grip from the day that I first picked up a pen. I can remember being read Grimm’s Fairy Tales in one form or another and thinking the endings were dumb even though the beginnings had held great promise. Even then, I knew and understood that an incredible beginning was needed to make a story great.

Since those early years, I have learned the power of the hook as we writers call it. If you don’t get the readers with the first line, you may not get them at all. Therefore, your hook must pull them in from the very first moment and fulfill its promise to the very end. What must one do for a great hook, you might ask…here are some constant elements each and every hook must have. They are:

  • It must be compelling
  • Should be a beginning – The reason I say should here is because some books have started with the ending and have been quite successful. The hook is still there, just not how you expect it.
  • It can start with dialogue.
  • It can start with action.
  • It could be a contrast or something totally unexpected.
  • It could be a character description or a description of a setting.
  • It could be a humorous question or exclamation or even a regular question or exclamation.

So let’s go over some hooks that have intrigued me over the years. Here’s a quick list of what I consider some of the best hooks in the world. See if you can guess who wrote them. The answers are listed below. They are, in no particular order:

  1. Hunting vampires was a bitch.
  1. He was running for his life.
  1. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
  1. Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.
  1. It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance.
  1. Somewhere in the world, time no doubt whistled by on taut and widespread wings, but here in the English countryside it plodded slowly, painfully, as if it trod the rutted road that stretched across the moors on blistered feet.

Each one of those hooks have special meaning for me as I read each of those books at a different time in my life, some for school and some for pleasure. Realize this list ebbs and flows like a river, changing with time and never standing still. What I find inspiring today, I might find dull and boring the next. Notice there is a mix of classic and contemporary pieces. Some are romance and some are not. But each of them have something so compelling which makes me want to read more. And read them I did, some more than once and a few of them I still read yearly if I can remember just where I left my latest copy. LOL!

What comprises a good hook? Notice that with the ones I listed, there is not one standard theme. So just what is it? Like many writers, I can put my finger on how they should be written as well as the steps but not so much on why one is more compelling than another as it is all subjective.

I do know that each and every hook on this list called to something in me that needed to know more about the story and the characters. And that’s what every author needs to do with each and every book.

I’m right there with you as far as making my hooks the most compelling ever. This one has always been one of my personal favorites as it won quite a few contests with the most notable being at the Hawaii RWA conference. Leslie Wanger picked it as one of five from the whole room full of people.

            “Damn, I’m going to lose another one.”

It is from my complete book, Midnight Run about a woman off-road racer. It was my first book ever, all 72K of it. And it sets on my computers in one form or another for the past 15 years at least. It has a great hook but a saggy middle with a kick-ass end. It on my list this year for pulling out and re-editing the heck out of it so it can be published, hopefully this year either by one of my traditional epublishers or maybe even self-published. 

And here are the answers to my original list of hooks.

  1. Hunting vampires was a bitch. – Minion – L.A. Banks
  1. He was running for his life. – Hot Ice – Nora Roberts
  1. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. – Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  1. Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. – Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  1. It wasn’t a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance – Outlander – Diana Galbadon
  1. Somewhere in the world, time no doubt whistled by on taut and widespread wings, but here in the English countryside it plodded slowly, painfully, as if it trod the rutted road that stretched across the moors on blistered feet. – The Flame and the Flower – Kathleen Woodiweiss

After all, isn’t that what a hook is meant to do? Make you as the reader want to read the book?

You betcha!

Worth The Wait ~ MediumTitle: Worth The Wait

Publisher: Shooting Star Books

Date Published: January 24, 2015

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Word Count: 15K

 

The novella will be on sale for through February 14, 2015 at the discounted price of $0.99 then will go up to the price of $2.99.

Buy links:

http://www.shootingstarbooks.com/

Blurb:

Jenny Adams wasn’t a popular girl in high school. No one understood the attraction star-running back Reese MacGyver had for her, least of all Jenny. When it looked as if things were getting hot and heavy before going away to college, Reese put on the brakes by soliciting a promise from her that they would get together, if neither were taken, at their tenth high school reunion. In a split-second decision and because of her love for him, Jenny puts it all in, vowing to make good on a teenage wish.

            But ten years is a long time to wait. While Jenny has had relationships come and go, the promise always remains on her mind even when Reese becomes the man of every woman’s dream. He’s been very busy with his life and has become one of the richest men under thirty in decades. Jenny has done good too but not nearly that good and she wonders if he’ll be a man of his word as their tenth reunion looms.

            And as the day draws every closer, she wonders if it will all be worth the wait…

Excerpt:

          She had done her best to get out of their way but when one big, hunk of a guy mowed her down, she fell. Hard. Trying not to cry, she lifted her eyes to see a hand held out toward her.

            “Sorry, I didn’t mean to mow you down,” the deep voice said.

            Shocked she looked up to see one of the school’s hottest football players smiling down at her. He had the bluest eyes and the darkest hair she had ever seen on a person. He dwarfed her like she had been a China doll. She tentatively lifted her hand to his and her heart beat faster as he helped her up.

            “I sometimes don’t realize just how big I am. And then there are the guys…” He looked over her shoulder to his teammates who continued walking down the hall totally ignoring her like they had always done. It was like she was a gnat which they had to swat away. She blinked rapidly, not willing to let anyone see just how much they bothered her.

            “It’s okay,” she had finally stammered out, brushing some dirt off her clothes as she checked to make sure everything still worked.

            “Guys shouldn’t be knocking down girls no matter what the reason. My name’s Reese MacGyver. Have we met?” She should have been shaking but his intense stare rooted her to the spot.

            “Reese?” She questioned, knowing she looked like a deer in headlights.

            “It’s a family name.” His smile dazzled her.

            “Oh. I’m Jenny and we haven’t met before.” She lowered her eyes, willing herself not to drool. The few friends she had would never believe it. She had been face to face with the cutest boy in high school and he wanted to know her name.

Author info:

Lynn Crain #4 - 300 DPIAward winning author Lynn Crain has done it all in her life. From nursing to geology, her life experiences have added to her detail rich stories. She loves writing full time as she weaves contemporary, fantasy, futuristic and paranormal tales, tame to erotic, for various publishers. Her home is in the desert southwest though her latest adventure has taken her to Vienna, Austria with her husband of many years as he works his dream job. You can follow her adventures there in her blog, A Writer In Vienna (www.awriterinvienna.blogspot.com) or on twitter (www.twitter.com/oddlynn3) as well as her usual old hangouts. (www.lynncrain.com; www.lynncrain.blogspot.com and www.facebook.com/oddlynn3)

 

25 thoughts on “Paths to Publishing: The Lure of a Great Hook by Lynn Crain #amwriting

  1. Great stuff, Lynn. I’ve always thought the hook was important. The ending is too — it’s good to leave readers with a feeling that all is well, even if a book doesn’t have a happy ending. But getting them to pick it up and read… that takes a great hook.

    • You’re absolutely correct, Kayelle, endings and beginnings are incredibly important. If we can’t get them to even pick up the book, it really doesn’t matter about the ending at all. That’s one of the reasons I place a lot of importance on getting them with hopefully the first line and at least the very first page.

  2. Great post, Lynn. As I writer I struggle for that opening line because I know as a reader it’s what I’m looking for.

    • Thanks, Maureen. Writers do struggle with opening lines and it is one of the reasons that I’ve always tried especially hard with the hook. It made me study them in great depth and hopefully impart some of that information to others.

  3. missy.snark@gmail.com

    Hi Lynn,
    Welcome to the Snarkology. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us today. I enjoyed your article. I’ve realized after writing in two genres for a while that I tend to open books a character’s life in a state of flux or churn. My books are largely character-driven so openings tend to ask questions about who the MC really is and how they need to grow over the course of the book .

    • Thanks for having me, Melissa! I really enjoy talking about hooks and it was so appropriate that I got the first day…how awesome is that…LOL! I’ve always been happy that hooks come in all shapes and sizes. Some are character driven with questions just like you’re mentioning, while others can be part of conversations or part of a narrative. As long as we do something that intrigues the reader, they’re all fine in my book.

      Again, thanks for allowing me to be part of this wonderful series on publishing.

  4. People have very short attention spans these days, so a great hook is a must!

    • Absolutely, Jana! Thanks for stopping by.

  5. The first line of P and P is my favorite. It promises conflict, humor, and suspense in one line. It’s perfect. Loved the excerpt!

    • Pride and Prejudice is one of my all time favorite books. And you’re absolutely correct that it has everything in just one line. The part that drew me in was the humor aspect, in part because I was looking at it with a modern eye. Still, it pulled me in and I’ve read the book many, many times since that hook first called to me.

      Thanks for stopping by, Kara!

  6. Great post, Lynn – I thinks hooks are so important – they should always raise some sort of question in the readers mind. Your new book sounds fabulous – good luck!

    • Thanks, Nina! And your are absolutely correct…hooks are very important…I know that yours have drawn me into you stories over and over again.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Fab subject, Lynn.

    I know tons of readers/writers go nuts for the opening hook line and believe it’s most important, but I never bothered about hook lines when I choose a book to read. By the time I’ve read the premise, I’ve already decided to read the book. By then the first line is just a line. To me, the important part is whether the author created an exciting enough opening scene to snag and hold my interest. I’ve read first pages with great opening lines at the beginning of a stagnant scene. Great opening… boring scene… I never got any further into the book.

    I guess what I’m saying is: it’s wonderful to have a brilliant hook line providing it precedes an exciting opening scene.

    Your book sounds fab! And I love the cover. Best luck with sales 🙂

    • Thanks, Monique. It’s so true what you’re saying…even if you hook draws you in…the next scene has to be just as wonderful to keep a reader reading. It’s one of the reasons that I haven’t gone back to my first book…the saggy middle…LOL!

      Thanks for dropping by…and I love my new cover too!

  8. Wonderful post! Gone with the Wind and The Flame and the Flower are two of my favorite all-time books. I don’t always come up with a compelling first line, but it’s lots of fun to try. And, I love it when I do, or when I read one in another book. Your opening line was indeed a good one. Nice job. Your latest release sounds like a winner!

    • Thanks, Alicia. Those books are definitely two of my all-time favorites as well. First lines are hard and sometimes it takes me many tried but I always end up with one I think is appropriate for the book. Midnight Run’s first line was great but I’ve definitely got to work on the saggy middle. LOL! The new novella is definitely better.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Lynn, you are spot-on about the importance of the hook. Your examples include some of my faves, too. Jane Austen was a genius! Thanks for a great post.

    • Thanks, Susan…I definitely feel that hooks are really important…and I’m happy I hit on some of your favorites as well.

      Again, thanks for stopping by.

  10. A very interesting and in-depth post, Lynn – lots to think about!

    • Thanks, Rosemary…glad I could give you some things to think about as far as hooks are concerned…writers definitely need to keep those things in mind.

      Glad you could stop by!

  11. Loved this post!!! Good hooks at the beginning of a book are essential. Since thinking of something really catchy is tough, I try to use dialogue as often as possible. You’ve given me some new insights!

    • Thanks, Hebby! It makes me very happy you loved the post. I tried to write something that would appeal to everyone. And yes, thinking of something that will pull people in can be hard. It takes practice and I know that I’ve thrown away perfectly great first lines to try again as I want to get as close to perfect, for that particular book, as possible.

      Glad you dropped by to read my article.

  12. Great post, Lyn. I couldn’t agree more about hooking your reader. Good luck with your release.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Judy. Hooks are important and I try to remember that each time I write a new one.

  13. Just thought I’d leave one of my favorite first lines:

    IT IS THE colour of a bleached skull, his flesh; and the long hair which flows below his shoulders
    is milk-white.

    If I were picking a best first line from lots of samples I may not have chosen it. But I read the book 30 years ago and I’ve never forgotten the opening. So I figure, worked on me.

    And since you, Lynn, made us guess the first lines, I’ll do the same. Hint, I’m a fantasy reader so it’s from an epic fantasy series. Any guesses?

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