- Books, Literature, and Writing
The Writer's Mailbag: Installment Twenty-Five
Number Twenty-five Coming at You
Who said good things don’t last? Whoever it was never jumped on the Writer’s Mailbag bandwagon. I guarantee that! J
Welcome back. You ask, I answer, and we all go home winners, satiated and basking in the warmth of closure. I’m practicing my creative writing while I write this introduction. How am I doing?
Enough of that silliness. Let’s get started with another installment of this series. We’ve got some great questions and some adequate answers, so let’s begin with a question from Linda.
The First Paragraph
From Linda: “ Perhaps this will find its way into your Monday writer's mailbox. How does one create the perfect first paragraph, or perhaps even the perfect first sentence in a novel. You need to grab your reader's attention at the very start.
Perhaps I have a short attention span, but I know that if I'm not hooked by the end of page 1 I give up and go on to another book. Life is too short to spend time reading something that doesn't rev your engine. “
Linda, I’m actually going to write an entire article on this one, because I see so many writers struggle with the introduction in their articles. Let me briefly say a couple things and then I’ll refer you to the article coming out later this week.
You are absolutely correct, Linda. I call it the Ten Second Rule. A writer has ten seconds to sell me on their book, story, or article, and if they haven’t done it in that time, I’m gone. The same is said by agents, publishers, and editors. Show me the spark early or don’t bother!
So, how do we do that? How do we capture a reader’s attention in ten seconds?
There are obviously many ways to do that, but let me touch on two at this time.
We all share the five senses, so the first thing I would suggest is that you use that knowledge to relate to your readers. Even if you are writing an article about baking meatloaf, you can immediately grab the attention of readers by describing how delectable that meatloaf smells in the oven, or the mouth-watering experience of that first taste.
Find commonalities that most readers can relate to. Use personal experiences that will generate memories in your readers, or….go for the Big Bang Theory. I used this theory in my recently-released novel, “Resurrecting Tobias.” The first line of that novel is:
“I once witnessed a stoning.”
If that doesn’t grab your attention then chances are you are comatose.
I’ll have more on this later in the week. Thank you, Linda! Great question!
From Petri: “Is it possible to overuse social media when promoting our work?”
Of course it is, just as it is possible to overuse television or radio, the newspapers or door-to-door advertising. I’ve got this theory about Facebook and other social media. Would you like to hear it? I think that the average Facebook user ignores 90% of the promotions they see on Facebook. There are just too many, and I think subconsciously, we all just tune that stuff out. If all I posted on Facebook were promotions about my books or articles, nobody would follow me. I am convinced of that. I try to post stuff about my daily life so people will have a chance to get to know me as a human being rather than just a writer who is trying to increase his views.
Beware of over-promotion. You just might be cutting your own throat by force-feeding too much promo on people who are your online friends.
Loving Those Recipes
From Michael: “Bill, you seem to dislike recipe articles. Why is that?”
I’m laughing as I prepare to answer this. Listen, and listen closely: I do not dislike recipe articles, nor do I dislike craft and travel articles. What I dislike are poorly-written, boring recipe, craft, or travel articles. I would read more recipe articles if the writers would take the time to make them interesting and actually use proper grammar, but unfortunately, few do that. My time is too valuable to read a recipe for steamed broccoli when I don’t even like steamed broccoli, so you better give me a great reason to read that message from hell. J
There are quite a few writers who are my friends, and I’ll read anything they write simply because I am loyal, but for those writers who are not my friends, they better rock my world with their words or I’ll be a no-show. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is in Billybuc Land.
From Cheryl: “How important is proper grammar? Do you really think all of those silly little rules need to be followed religiously?”
In the order that they were asked…….vitally….yes….and a qualifier at the end.
I have said this before and I’m sure I’ll say it many times in the future: I am a writing snob. I think writing should be raised to a higher level, and we can’t do that if we toss aside grammar and start bastardizing the language. I have too much respect for the greats who came before us. Writing is an art form, and it needs to be treated like one.
As for the second question…yes, I think those silly little rules need to be followed. If you continually make grammatical errors, what message are you sending to your readers? If I see one grammatical error, I just figure everyone is entitled to a mistake. If I see two in an article, I start to question the intelligence of the writer. If I see three, I start to question my own intelligence for having read that far.
Note to HubPages editors: you should feel the same way when you are choosing the HOTD.
As for the qualifier: I think it is perfectly all right to suspend the rules of grammar for effect, and most definitely when writing dialogue, if you are trying to portray something specific about one of your characters. Other than that, though, it’s just sloppy writing.
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- William Holland | Helping Writers to Spread Their Wings and Fly
Tips and suggestions for writers
How to Find an Editor
From Linda: “ I do have two questions: (1) how do you go about finding an editor for a manuscript, and (2) (regarding your comment under "First Draft"), what do you have against Tolstoy?”
I’m laughing about Tolstoy. I’ll get to him in a second.
Finding editors is as easy as opening up HubPages. I found my current editor, JayeWisdom, on HP and she is a very good one. There are others on that site as well. Bravewarrior comes to mind immediately. These are people I trust and you can trust them as well.
As for Tolstoy, he’s just a bit long-winded for my tastes, and that is a purely subjective opinion. I understand why people consider him one of the Greats, but I’m just not one of those people who can sit through his rambling reflections. Any book over four-hundred pages is a book that is in risk of losing me. Take into consideration, though, that I also don’t like Shakespeare, so I realize that I’m a bit different.
That’s It for This Week
I already have a multi-part question from Sha for next week, so I’m quite certain you’ll see another Mailbag next Monday. Until then, write like your tail-feathers are on fire, and always…always…enjoy the process.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”