Writing a Hook? #Writing #Author #Advice

Hi Jim,

I’m currently trying to write a query for publishing agents. Do you have any advice for me on writing a hook?

Thanks,
Jane


Hi Jane,

YES! I can help with this, though that isn’t really the way I got published, I do have some experience with this. Still, take my advice with a grain of salt as again, I didn’t get published this way.

All right, so you’re writing a hook to try to pull a literary agent in, great! First, let’s start off with why it’s called a hook. A hook is a metaphor to a fish hook. It’s a baited hook designed to entice a fish snatch onto your line. Literary agents are your fish, the letter your sending them is your line, now it’s up to you to give them a hook they’d want to bite into. So how do you do that?

First picture that agent sitting right in front of you. S/he sits back in their chair, folds their hands together, looks at you seriously, and says, “Okay, you’ve got ten seconds. Impress me.”

He quickly checks the time and looks back at you to impress him. What’s the two or three sentences you’re going to give this person that is going to make them want to give you another ten seconds or more? They’re not getting paid to listen to you, so it better be good.

So here’s an example of what I would do if I were writing one on my most recent book:

Changwei Kaori is an Asian Princess, living lavishly in a world still healing from a cataclysmic war. While on a visit to the market, she encounters a pair of fugitive children that open her eyes to the horrific crimes committed by her country. With this knowledge in had, she must mobilize what influence she can, with her mother breathing down her neck, to prevent the genocide of an innocent people. In the process, she befriends people who have been adversely affected by her mother’s policies and uncovers truths about her own past that she was unprepared for. 

Remember, it is absolutely vital to keep the tempo up and the narrative flowing. This is your ONLY chance to impress the agent and if they find your hook boring, guess what? They’re going to assume, rightly or otherwise, that the rest of the book is as well. It may not seem fair, but literary agents get thousands of these queries and they only have time to judge a book by this query. Sometimes not even that.

Jane, I don’t want you to focus entirely on the hook as a whole, I want you to put emphasis on the first sentence. I’m not kidding pour your heart and soul into it. Make it dramatic. Use big, color words. Look at mine for a reference; “Princess” “Cataclysmic” “War” “Lavish”. Believe it or not, I’ve known agents who have to read through so many of these, they’ll throw them out after the first sentence. So that’s where I want your focus to be. Build a strong one that establishes your main character and setting. Then use the second setting to establish the problem your character will face. Instill a sense of urgency here. You want to make it impossible for the agent to pull their eyes away. Finally, make the third sentence about what the main character needs to do in order to resolve their issue, or what about a greater discovery that they make on their journey. Most importantly, though… LEAVE IT AS A CLIFFHANGER!!! Give the agent enough that they want more, but don’t answer all of his or her questions right then and there. Make it clear that if they want to hear more they’re going to need to work for it.

Finally, when all this is said and done, have a bunch of people look at your hook. Make sure they’re non-writers and ask them if this sounds interesting. Ask them straight up if they’ll buy that book when it comes out. Ask someone critical, but someone who is interested in the subject matter.

The importance of doing so cannot be overstated, because when you’re not the writer, you have distance from the work and it’s not something you’re invested in. A great hook should come across as something that was fairly easy to write (whether or not it was) flows easily, and just feels natural.

Think you’ve got an idea of where you’re going now? Awesome. If you get stuck again, just refer to this small list of no-nos:

  • Over 200 words? YOU’RE REVEALING TOO MUCH!!! Look at my example above! It was 97 words!!!
  • Multiple characters in your hook? This is a tough one, especially if you have an ensemble cast. Pick one, the one that you view as the most interesting or important and use them for your hook.
  • Ask a question in the first sentence? This one is strictly my opinion, but this is a tired and cheap way of hooking someone in. It’s best left to, at most, mystery writers. Try to avoid it.
  • Don’t talk about the story, TELL the story. A way to get your hook thrown in the trash is you lecturing the agent about what your book is going to be about rather than walking them through the story itself.
  • Minor plot points? Don’t reveal your hand too soon. Keep it simple, keep it interesting. You’re wasting word count by getting into the minor details of the story. This is supposed to be a summary of the whole thing in three small sentences.
  • Is the Ending of the book in your Hook? Get it out! At most, the synopsis should have that! Again, don’t show more of your hand then you need to!

 

All right, so there you go. Good luck, and good hunting! Let me know how it turns out and please feel free to email me if you have any more questions. I’m always happy to help.

Let’s open it up to my other readers as there are other writers who follow my blog. Readers, what other advice do you have for Jane? Is there anything else you’d add to the no-no list, or possibly refute? Let me know down in the comments!



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Note:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Drakin, An Empire of Ashes Sample Chapter #Writing #Fantasy #SciFi

Synopsis:

Two hundred years have passed, and the Red War has become a distant memory for most. Dragons and humans now live together in peace… but one powerful woman who has been deranged by her own history unleashes her vengeance on a helpless population.

Now, the world’s only hope for survival rests with Kaori, a naïve and wayward princess of the Eastern Empire. Having been disillusioned with her mother’s rule, she discovers a dark secret about her family that will change the course of history forever. She soon crosses paths with Nayeli and Joaquim, a pair of rogues living within her borders.

Their fight for survival takes an unexpected turn as a shadow of from the past reveals that the situation is more dangerous than they know. The fate of billions of lives rests on these three unlikely companions putting aside their differences to stand against the world.


DRAKIN: An Empire of Ashes


Chapter 1

So few of us left… No matter where we go, no matter how far we run… death always follows. The fires of Old London burned brightly in the distance. They engulfed the buildings in a veil of yellow and orange. They were miles away, but their smoke choked out the stars in the night sky. A dim orange hue added a sinister touch. The pungent odor from the decaying corpses added to the dark scene.Nayeli could hear the crackle of the massive flame like a million pieces of paper being crumpled in the distance. She ignored it and scraped through the rubble, looking for something, anything of value that could be traded for food or supplies. Bodies of dragons, EastCon, and Imperial soldiers littered the ruins. Many of them had been there for years.You would think that with all these bodies, at least one bolt pistol would have been overlooked! Nayeli was familiar with the scene, she’d lived in that horror for years in almost every city along the outskirts of the Imperial Territory. This was the fate of those who dared oppose the Eastern Empire.She kept her head close to the ground as she quickly turned over another body. A relieved sigh escaped her lips as she looked at his belt, “Yes!”Her eyes flared as they focused on a black holster that had been hidden under the fallen soldier’s hip. Unlike the others she’d seen that day, this holster wasn’t empty.Nayeli’s hands shook as she quickly unsnapped the flap that was holding the bolt pistol in place. She paused as a light flashed in the corner of her eye. A massive silhouette loomed in the distance, letting off a menacing hum. Her spine stiffened as a feeling of dread overtook her. An Imperial Hunter-killer… Shit, I need to get out of here.Her left hand wrapped around the pistol and pulled it from its holster. She had no time to check out her prize. The distant hum grew louder as the silhouette approached. She quickly hid the gun under her filthy red cloak and dove behind some rubble as the patrol ship passed overhead. A blue energy beam carefully scanned each piece of rubble.Nayeli pressed herself against the remains of a concrete wall. Like everything else in the area, it was covered in black soot. Small metal pipes protruded from the sides. Where ever it came from, something powerful must have dislodged it.As the hunter-killer passed overhead, her hand clenched her own gun as she held her breath. The ground shook, dislodging small pieces of rock and dust, sending them flying. Her lungs began to ache, but she refused to breathe as she waited.She pressed her back hard against the rough concrete and waited for fate to pass its judgment. If the hunter-killer found her, it was all over. There was no way to escape one of these things. They were fast, maneuverable, and almost completely impervious to ground attack. The curved armor covering the thrusters made shooting it down a difficult task.The ship cruised overhead as though it was ignoring her completely. The debris had blocked her from its field of vision. She was safe for the moment.Her lungs felt like they were about to explode when she finally released her breath. She pulled the dead soldier’s pistol from under her cloak. Though filthy, it looked intact. She pressed the safety in and waited to see what happened. Come on… give me something.The lights on the side flickered off and on a few times. It took a moment for the indicator on the side to come to life. The meter rose out of the red, passed through the yellow bar and stopped with barely a sliver of green illuminated. Yes, plenty of power left!She carefully inspected the markings, using the little rays light that peeked over the concrete, “Mauser T-21… with half a cartridge left. Not a bad piece…”Guns had been a valuable commodity for dissidents since the UPW was forced to withdraw from Europe. If anyone had any hopes of survival, they carried one, but that’s not why Nayeli was looking for it.The right buyer would pay handsomely for a gun. Even a small pistol like the Mauser was worth a small fortune. She quickly returned it to her pocket and focused her situation.The hunter-killer she’d seen in the distance was now passing over another large piece of debris. The sophisticated trackers could sense even the slightest movement from the ground. Even something as gentle as a heartbeat could give someone away.The sleek, black, cone-shaped vehicle passed quietly over the rubble. The blue thrusters glowed as they held the craft a few hundred feet off the ground.Scree! Scree! Scree!“Shit!”Had she been detected? No, it was too far away for the sensors to have caught her movements. The craft immediately turned and headed towards another pile of rubble where a second hunter-killer was hovering.At that moment, Nayeli saw what it was going after. A female dragon and two lings had tried to take refuge in a collapsed building. They raised their hands with terrified looks on their faces.Even at a distance, Nayeli could make out the sheer horror. The eyes of the dragonlings were soaked with tears. The older one trembled with fear while trying to hide it. They were fully aware of the fate that was likely waiting for them, Nayeli was sure of it.The older one threw her hands in the air, “No, wait, plea…”The terrible robotic sound of a rapid-fire pulse cannon cut off her screams. Nayeli immediately turned away and closed her eyes. She knew what was happening. The body of the female dragon hit the ground with a loud thud.A second later, the firing ceased and was replaced by the screams and sobs of the juvenile dragons. Nayeli closed her eyes, waiting for the next shots that would end their lives, but to her surprise, it never came. The pilot had apparently decided to spare the lings, but why?Their voices were quickly overpowered by an older, far more intense one, “Don’t move or we’ll open fire!”Nayeli turned back to see that two soldiers had apparently been winched down from the hunter-killer. They were dressed in heavy black armor and brandished massive rifles. Their masks made them look like fearsome monsters.The children obeyed the commands, likely more out of terror than obedience. Nayeli reached into a second pocket in her cloak and withdrew a larger pistol with a scope and significantly larger muzzle.The rubble crumbled as she rested her stomach against it and peered into the scope on the pistol. She steadied her grip and slowly moved the crosshairs so that they lined up with one of the primary thrusters on the hunter-killer. It was a narrow slit between the armor and the thruster itself.She sucked down a deep breath, waiting until she was ready. It was nearly an impossible shot, but she had to try. A scream from one of the dragonlings prompted her into action, “Let’s see how you like this, Imp scum!”She squeezed the trigger, unleashing three blasts from the pistol. The blue bolts screamed through the air, striking the hunter-killer on the port side primary thruster. The engine sputtered and died out, causing the ship to lose altitude and pull away. Yes, got it! Oh man, Joaquim will never believe that!The startled soldiers turned their attention to the rubble where the gunshot had come from. One of them raised his rifle, “We’re under attack, take cover!”Not happening! Nayeli grabbed something under her cloak. It was a smooth, round, device with red lights on it. She depressed a small button on top. The light changed to blue as it released a high-pitched sound. Here we go!She quickly stood up and threw it. Her body was only exposed for a moment, but it was all the soldiers needed. One of them took aim and opened fire, hitting her in the shoulder before the small orb exploded in a flash of light.She yelped and collapsed behind the rubble again, nursing her shoulder. She only had moments to deal with the pain and did her best to ignore it. It’s okay… it’s just pain… just pain… it’s not bad.Her hand squeezed the wound as she turned and looked back over to see what had happened. Both soldiers had been knocked out by the concussion grenade, while the dragonlings were sobbing a few feet away. They were both shaking, afraid to move from their spot.Nayeli sucked down a deep breath before moving over to the soldiers. She quickly grabbed their rifles and sidearms and threw them in her pack.A small flicker of light caught her eye from the side pouch on one of the soldier’s hips. He was carrying four replacement power cells for the guns. She grabbed the cartridges and tucked them away. Jackpot! Having grabbed everything she could carry, Nayeli turned to leave. The sobbing of the dragonlings stopped her in her path. She looked back at them with an indifferent stare, “You should get out of here. They’ve only been knocked out.”The two dragonlings curled up together but refused to speak. Nayeli frowned, “Don’t you have someplace to take refuge? A home somewhere?”One of them shook its head.“Nowhere?” She demanded.The dragonling again shook its head, “No.”Nayeli looked at the dead dragonkin a few feet away, “Was that your mother?”The tears in the dragonlings’ eyes answered the question for her, “Oh… I see…”“They came for us in the night… they killed our daddy! He never even…”The dragonling lowered its eyes, too upset to say anything else. Nayeli clenched her fists as she looked back at the two soldiers she’d knocked out, “I’m sorry…”This was nothing new. Several dragon refugees at her camp had similar stories to tell. She had slowly become numb to them over time. However, she couldn’t leave these babies where they were.She reached out her hand to the nearest dragonling, “Come on, I’ll take you somewhere safe.”The dragonlings looked up at her in fear. They looked at her hand but didn’t take it. The smaller of the two recoiled nervously.Nayeli sighed, “What’s your name?”The larger of the two blinked as it timidly looked up at her, “Eutera, and this is Ixen…”“Eutera, those people are going to come back. If they catch you, they’ll take you somewhere that will not be pleasant. I can’t stick around and make you feel better. I’m really sorry about your mother, but she gave her life to try to save you. I can help take you somewhere safe, but you have to come with me now.”In the distance, she could hear the smooth engine of a hunter-killer. Ixen sucked down a deep breath and quivered, “They’re… they’re coming back?”Nayeli looked into out towards the crumbling buildings as a shadow passed by. The damaged ship must have sent out a distress call, “It won’t be long now.”Nayeli turned back to the dragonlings, “You have to trust me! We don’t have any time, you’ve seen what these people will do! Now, are you coming or not?”Her eyes flared as she spoke. The dragonlings looked at her oddly for a moment before Ixen grabbed Eutera’s hand and then reached out for Nayeli’s.She smiled, “Okay, good. Let’s get out of here!”Readers,Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.jimthewritingwizard@gmail.comI’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTUNote:
If you have read my books, PLEASE log into Amazon and post a review. I really love to hear everyone’s thoughts and constructive criticisms. Reviews help get my book attention and word of mouth is everything in this business!
Thanks friends!Catch you on the flip side!-Jim

Off Of My Writing Playlist #Music #Writing #Advice

Yeah this should come as no surprise to anyone. This is Tobias Sammet’s band. For those that don’t know, Sammet is the creative genius behind Avantasia and a number of other Metal performances. He’s lent his talents to several other creative works and compilations as well. This is simply one of his latest songs, but I encourage everyone to look into his other work…

When to Listen: Hmm… well this one is on my general playlist, but if we’re talking about a harmony segment like @3:54… then perhaps either when the hero discovers a terrible truth… or as he makes his way down the dark path to the final confrontation?

Thoughts?



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.
jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com
I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

You can also add me on Twitter!

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!
Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim

Qira’s Lineage. A Drakin Question #Fantasy #Dragons #Writing #SciFi

Hi Jim,

I was wondering about Qira. According to your book, literally all of the dragons are descended from the original six dragons that landed on Earth. I was curious about which of the elders Qira descended from? Have you ever put any thought into that?

Best
Lorena


Hi Lorena,

Yes, I’m planning on adding that into another book, though I’m not sure whether or not it will be published. Qira shares a partial bloodline with Raiya. They are both descended from Eutherys. I thought it would make a nice touch to the story. For having such a dark family history, between the leader of the dragon faction that attacked Earth, to the Butcher that slaughtered people mercilessly, now to have Qira not only working with humans to create a peaceful society, but to have her mated to a human is a great 180* on her family.

It’s technically not a redemption story as Qira has literally done nothing wrong, but at the very least, it helps wash a little of the blood from her family’s hands.

Hope this answers your question! Glad you liked the book!



Readers,

Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.

jimthewritingwizard@gmail.com

I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

Also, feel free to check out my works of Fantasy and Historical Fiction, Available on Amazon and where ever books are sold. See the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/James-Harrington/e/B00P7FBXTU

Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!

-Jim