Thursday, November 1, 2018
NEW REVIEW OF HOOKED
A new review of my craft book, HOOKED, has just appeared on European author Damien Seaman's blog. Here is how it appeared:
How to write better, faster and more successfully
How to get publishers to *really* read your book
IN-DEPTH REVIEW: Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers From Page One And Never Lets Them Go, by Les Edgerton
I won’t mince words.
Hooked! is a writing guide you need to own if you are serious about your fiction writing.
What do I mean by serious?
Well, the book sets out to help you write something “publishable” and is very clear about what that means in terms of story structure.
So, serious means if you want to get a publishing deal (or a good agent to represent you).
Or if you want to sell more self-published books – because what publishers want is dictated by what readers seem to want.
Either way, this book is for you.
Author Les Edgerton has published 20 books plus innumerable short stories and magazine articles during his career. He has also taught creative writing, and been nominated for several awards for his fiction.
He has a good idea of what sells, in other words.
How to write a sellable manuscript to a quality press
Although here I introduce a note of caution.
Les is not a huge bestseller, and he does not teach how to write the doorstep blockbuster novels you buy in airport bookstores. He knows how to write a sellable manuscript to what he calls a “quality press”.
He’s also very clear that the technical limitations of what publishers will buy are strict.
“Novels and short stories, no matter how complex their plots may appear, are almost always based on a simple underlying structure: A character begins in stability in his world; this word becomes unstable after the introduction of an inciting incident; the character struggles to restore his stability; and a new stability is established at the conclusion,” Edgerton writes.
So far, so uncontroversial. At least to most of us. But then Edgerton continues:
“What is different about today’s story structure is that the first part of the equation – stability – has been shortened considerably and, in many cases, completely omitted.”
In other words, this book is a master class on story structure as expressed through the microcosm of a book’s opening.
Readers – and publishers – want to be hooked from the very first line, Edgerton explains. They want an opening that grabs them and pulls them through the book.
What an inciting incident is – and how to get it right
So, we get a lot here about the importance of the inciting incident – what it is and how to use it properly.
This is essential reading. Also essential to read more than once. Why? Because it’s actually pretty hard to grasp in practice. Or, at least, I’ve found it to be so.
It’s a concept that seems laughably simple. Until you try to apply it to your own work and you realise you have a certain blindness – or lack of ruthlessness – about what an inciting incident really is, and whether or not your book has one.
As a result of this, Les asserts that a great many books start in the “wrong place”. Indeed, he has said this to me about one of my books – one that was previously published.
So believe me when I say this is essential knowledge and essential to apply over and over until you are utterly confident that you get it.
A lot of tricky concepts, each one explained with practical examples
From the inciting incident idea, Edgerton takes through related concepts:
· Story-worthy problems – what they are, how to come up with them and how to write them into your manuscript
· Surface problems – how they differ from story-worthy problems, and why, and how to juggle the two
· How these problems relate to your character – and to your reader
· Setup and backstory – how much the modern manuscript should contain, plus exceptions to the rule
· How to combine the inciting incident, story-worthy problem, initial surface problem, setup and backstory in a way that seems natural and engages your reader
As you can see, there’s a lot to take in. Which is why it’s not just worth buying this, but reading through multiple times and then applying to your work in progress as soon as you can.
I speak from recent experience, as at the time of writing Les has been eviscerating a story opening of mine. And I thought I knew this stuff!
As I said, this is a book for writers who are serious about improving their craft. But not just that. It’s for writers at all levels of experience.
I’ve published two novels with two different small publishers and there’s material in here that I only now realise I didn’t grasp as thoroughly as I thought I did.
I would wager it’s the same for you.
Read this book at least twice if you’re serious about your writing
In summary, buy this book. Read it at least twice. First time for pleasure. Second time, make notes. As many as you need to. Ask questions. Read it a third time to look for the answers to your questions.
Now apply it to what you’re working on. And go back through the book with your specific work in progress in mind.
That’s how important and how useful this book is. Also how important it is that you fully understand how to apply it.
Anyway, do make sure you buy it. I cannot recommend it highly enough. And, once you’ve read it, nor will you. Be able to recommend highly enough, I mean.
Also, come back to the blog next week for my two-part interview with Les, and my in-depth analysis of his fantastic memoir, Adrenaline Junkie.