Sunday, July 15, 2012

Books with Hooks

How do you feel after you read a really good book? Inspired? Entertained? Satisfied? Depressed? I guess in some ways, it depends a lot on the particular book.





I used to get down on myself after reading a particularly good book, because it made me realize how far off the mark my own writing was. I’d have to go through a bit of a recovery period before I could write again. Thankfully, nowadays, I’m much more inspired by good writing. I can look at it with discerning eyes and find lessons to take away and employ in my own writing.

I’m reading with “hooks” in mind this week. I’ve read When You Reach Me (MG) by Rebecca Stead, and feel lucky to have gotten my hands on Meant to Be (YA) by Lauren Morill, (thanks, Amanda!) I loved both of these and I’ve also started Time Between Us (YA) by Tamara Ireland Stone – another great “hook” book.




I thought my own novel had a hook. But I was settling for this:  

When what I really need is this:  

Or even this:   

Although I consider myself pretty dreadful at analytical thinking, I’m doing my best to learn from these authors. And though I feel like I’ve stretched and pulled my brain like an overworked wad of clay, I think the hook for my own YA novel is starting to take shape. 



Here are some articles on the subject that I found helpful this week:






Do you have trouble coming up with the hook(s) for your book(s)?



56 comments:

  1. What a great post, Ruth. Am I good at writing a hook? That's yet to be seen. I sure hope so! Thanks for the links :)

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    1. I think it's something a lot of us struggle with.

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  2. I ALWAYS have trouble coming up with a hook, not necessarily in the story itself but in a logline/query. Most of the time I realise it's because I don't know my own story well enough & don't know what the heart of the story is.

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    1. Yep, that's me too. I have trouble getting to the heart of my stories as well.

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  3. The title of your post sure "hooked" me! I'm also working on developing good hooks for my picture book projects and ideas. It's not easy, but reading and analyzing the current picture book market to see what makes an effective hook is very helpful for me.

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    1. Glad the title hooked you =) Now I just need to do that with my novels ;)

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  4. Hooks are so important. Sometimes they come to me right away and other times I really struggle. This is smaller scale, but last night my agent texted me to say she was reading my YA contemporary romance and I hooked her with the first sentence. Yay! That was a great compliment and made my night. Now I just hope the rest of the manuscript keeps her hooked.

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    1. Congrats on a great first sentence, Kelly!

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  5. I love the photos of the hooks. I feel that way all the time. If I can't come up with a good hook before writing my first chapter, then I shelve the book until I can. So far its working for me, but my "shelves" are getting mighty cramped. I maybe need to dust off a few of those ideas and get back to it. Great post! Thanks for the links.

    ctny

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    1. I'll bet those shelved books will be revived eventually, Courtney. Good luck with them!

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  6. I think the hook is what I put in the one sentence opening on cover letters to manuscripts. For me it's easy, especially for PBs. I have no illusions that my hooks are breathtaking, though.

    Of the books you mentioned here I've read and loved When You Reach Me. I've seen it mentioned elsewhere as a time-travel story, which made me wonder- would Ms. Stead mind this, since to it strikes me as a spoiler? The hook must not be a spoiler.
    But that book is much more than time travel. It is a masterful story.

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    1. I agree, Mirka, there is so much to that story. I loved watching it all come together. It's one I'm going to have to read again.

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  7. Just thinking about it makes me shudder. ^_^ For me, the hook comes by the end of page one and I know it's there if it's IMPOSSIBLE for me to stop reading. That's what I'm always after, a voice and a hook that keeps the reader going.

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    1. I guess the fact that they're not easy makes us really appreciate a good one when we read it.

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  8. LOVED When You Reach Me - such a great book! - but haven't read the others. Hooks are so hard, aren't they? I have the same problem you illustrated so cleverly - settling for what I think is good hook when in fact I need a much, much better one! Thanks for the links!

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    1. I'm glad I'm not alone. We must learn not to settle, I guess. Keep striving to make those stories hook-ier =)

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  9. My favorite book on this subject is called Hooked by Les Edgerton. The first time I read it, it was like an a-ha moment! :)

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    1. Thanks so much for the title, Coleen. I'm going to request it from my library.

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  10. Yes, hooks. I am a short story writer, and love beginnings and possibilities. It's the middle that I struggle with. Keeping those micro-hooks coming ...

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    1. I know what you mean, Vijaya. In short stories the hook doesn't have to hold the reader for as long. Maybe that's why I'm having such trouble with the heavy duty hooks.

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  11. Your hook photos made me laugh! The baby hook is me to a 'T' - I have such trouble making it big and bold, and really have to wrestle it into shape. Thanks so much for those great links!

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    1. It's so nice to hear from others who struggle with the same issues. Thanks for chiming in, Dawn.

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  12. I always struggle with the opening hook for chapter one... the others tend to come easily, but for chapter one I usually change it a billion times and even then I'm not certain:)

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    1. My first chapter definitely gets the most rewrites as well!

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  13. I've rewritten my hook a gazillion times... maybe a gazillion trillion times ;)

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    1. A gazillion trillion?! Oh good, I have a few more to go before I catch up to you ;)

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  14. Thanks for sharing those articles, Ruth. They were very helpful.

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  15. Thanks for the post and for sharing the articles.

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  16. Interesting post! I always worry my hooks will not sound as good as they seem when I'm writing the story (if that makes sense). But don't forget, it comes down to the personal preference of the person reading it too - although it's definitely good to get as many opinions as possible.

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    1. Haha, that could be true of anything we write, Nick. It often sounds better as we're putting it down on paper than it does on the reread. But that's what revisions are for ;)

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  17. Thanks for the articles...this is something I love working on with my students. Once they are introduced to the idea of a hook, they spend the rest of the year sharing good ones they've found.

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    1. Oooo, that sounds like fun. I'd love to hear which hooks the kids actually think are good.

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  18. It's amazing how your "writer's eye" kicks in when you start reading a book. I tend to look at first lines very analytically these days, seeing how different and "hookish" they all are. I also look at style, how someone says something that makes me think, "Wow! That was lyrical and PERFECT!"

    Lovely advice, and thanks ever so much for the articles. Waaaaaay helpful. :_

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    1. You're welcome, Cat. Glad you found them helpful =)

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  19. I have trouble with hooks sometimes - for articles and posts, and yes, even the WIP. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the links. It's time for a review, so I appreciate it! :)

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  20. Wow, thanks for the great links. I could use them! I struggle with good hooks too and strongly believe they are definitely needed. If a book doesnt grab me in the first few paragraphs, then I'll just set it down. I also believe the ending has to be strong.

    And here's another hook for ya, I've tagged you for the Be Inspired Meme'. Check it out! http://www.allynstotz.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thanks for the tag, Allyn. Sounds like a fun one =)

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  21. Love those pictures! I'm learning to get hook-ier as time goes on. However, I'm not ALL about hook. I get impatient with books that reel me in and then don't seem to go anywhere.

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    1. I agree, Marcia. We can't "trick" readers into staying with the story. We have to hook them with something substantial that really matters throughout the story. I guess that's part of why they're so hard to come up with.

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  22. Ruth - Your big and little hook photos are hilarious! I usually have the same problem: I can come up with a hook, but then later realize it doesn't have enough "grab" to it. Thanks for the awesome post!

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    1. I like the way you put it, Victoria. Does your hook have enough grab? That's a good test for our ideas. Thanks!

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  23. Those are great visuals. I'm getting better at chapter beginnings and endings. I'm really liking how my current WIPs are turning out.

    I loved When You Reach Me and I'll check out the other books.

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    1. Glad to hear that you're getting better at hooks. I guess we just need to keep on trying. We'll get there eventually.

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  24. I so understand that feeling of reading something and saying, " I can never write that well!" Do not do that to yourself. That's what I tell ME when I'm thinking that. There are no comparisons to be made. We all write what we write. We are different and we should embrace that difference.

    Loved the images and had a good laugh. I really loved the "hooks!"

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    1. I learned the "do not compare" lesson (in writing and in life in general) long ago. But sometimes, I'll admit, I slip. Thankfully, those occasions are rare. You are so right. We need to embrace our differences.

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  25. I need to write a pitch for my newest book and I want to bang my head over and over against the wall. That would be a lot less painful than writing a pitch! So that's how I feel about them!

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    1. Ack! Take lots of Tylenol ;) and good luck with that pitch!

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  26. Hope you're having a good summer, Ruth!

    For me, I can write decent hooks though I find that what comes after the hook is what I sometimes struggle with. I can make a piano drop from the sky to make the reader look, but then after that, I think, now what? Don't know if that makes sense or not!

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    1. It makes perfect sense, Cynthia.

      Good to hear from you. Hope you and the new baby are well!

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  27. Thanks for the links, Ruth. I'm constantly trying to strengthen my hook muscles. I'm reading WHERE IT BEGAN By Ann Stampler - great hook!

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    1. Oooooo, that one's on my list. Can't wait to get my hands on it.

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  28. I'd also recommend Hooked by Les Edgerton.

    I loved When you Reach Me. I hope one day to write a book that gets a chance to connect with readers.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Theresa. I'm hoping to pick Hooked up at the library tomorrow.

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