Book Review: Hooked
The title says a lot: Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One and Never Lets Them Go. I'd never thought there would be enough to say about story beginnings to fill an entire book. Edgerton wonders in the introduction why there's only one book about the start of stories.
I've been chewing through this book for the past week. I'm not done yet, but here are some of the things I've learned.
Edgarton learned about the importance of the hook when he worked as an editor. Facing mountains of slush, he developed a list of red flags to look for in the stories. If a red flag came up, he set the story aside. This is the way virtually every agent and editor reads their slush pile. Though they are looking for a manuscript they can say 'yes' to, in order to get through the volllume of manuscripts, they must look for reasons to say 'no'.
The author, a writer and writer-in-residence at the University of Toledo, helps writers eliminate red flags from their stories. In fact, he writes an entire chapter on the biggest red flags to avoid, and fills another chapter with input from agents and editors, on what causes them to reject a manuscript.
Edgerton explains that there are ten parts to a story's beginning. Ten? Really? I never knew. Once he described each one in detail and their importance, I immediately thought through my own novel's first pages, examining them for each of these critical aspects.
Happily, this is a small volume, which is a blessing for the busy writer whose free time comes in small chunks. I've been reading a little each day, then applying it to my manuscript right away. I think this is one I'll need to buy.
For more on Les Edgerton:
He's got a blog, and it's a good one. Good enough to put in my Google Reader. Then there's his website. You can even hire him as a book coach. Click here for an interview with Edgerton.