The Element of your novel that should present the best of your novel and the best of you as a writer, in a few short words that catch the reader’s attention and sets the mood for your entire book. Much easier said than done.
If you can’t think of a title, try writing the shortest description of your story possible. Note which words pop out, take them aside and rearrange them till you’re satisfied.
If you get stuck between a few good titles, ask for input from others. Give them a short two-line description of your novel and present the titles. The popular choice might be your best option.
Your first sentence is your handshake with your reader: firm, but not too hard, presenting a confident, trustworthy narrative with its own style and flair (also not too cold or warm). It needs to be just the right combination of everything the reader wants in a friend.
Put simply: Your first sentence must be the very best it can possibly be so that you persuade your reader to continue reading.
Start each chapter as if it needs to hook your reader for the first time. Never, ever get lazy because it will show in your writing. Your reader will feel it through the ink and pages. Hook your reader again and again and never take their attention, time and effort for granted. Remember that the connection is more than just a reader and a book. It’s your vision and a stranger whom you invite in.
Create an arc to build suspense. I’ve heard before to make every sentence fight for its life and I think that’s invaluable advice, especially when taken beyond sentences into characters, setting, and plots. Why do you need them? Why that specific one?
You need to keep your reader entertained and wanting more. How do you get them to want more? By creating subplots and loops that keep them engaged, focused and invested. These loops will build to the ultimate boss fight or critical turning point for the whole novel.
You have to get your reader in the ‘hungry’ state of mind. You need to make every moment in your book fight for its life instead of boring your reader. Remember that if you’re bored writing it, your reader is bored reading it.
Loops and Subplots:
Sometimes as a writer, you have to get in really close to a moment within the narrative. Smaller, tension-driven moments where your character experiences setbacks on the road to their final destination.
These in and of themselves are like mini story arcs that don’t resolve the main issue but lead to the climax and make it more compelling because of the difficulty it took to get there.
Added up, those moments build your story, but don’t lose sight of the end. Keeping your loops from wildly overthrowing your story is critical to keeping your reader on track and heading to the final showdown. You want to bring your reader to the end. Give them a reason to stay.
Learn what drives your characters and bring it into play early on. Your characters are “real” people in “real” situations, or at least they should feel like it. What would your characters do?
Fear and Love are fantastic motivators, but that isn’t all there is to your character. Drive them with money, desire, ego, curiosity. Bring us on their mental journey so we too understand why they do something and what that means for the story-line and the other characters.
How will the other characters react to the first’s actions and how does that drive your plot?
You’re building with blocks or Legos to create something big and wonderful.
Save the Best for Last:
The coolest moves, the best machinery, the hottest weapons, the best fighting, the longest fight sequence, save your well-crafted crescendo for the climax. Pull out all the stops here.
This is what you’ve been building towards for an entire book! Make your readers excited for it and then give them what you promised.
So, you and your readers have fought through to the bitter end. The victory was hard won and at a high cost. Now, it’s time to say goodbye until the next adventure.
Your resolution should create a happy, satisfied feeling. Leave your readers happy, leave them smiling. People like to feel good. They chase the good feelings.
I re-watch movies over and over because of how they make me feel. I reread books because they leave me happy and satisfied.
Your end is just as important as your beginning. Don’t rush it, don’t phone it in. Make it sing. Make it worth the effort of getting through your entire book. Give the reader something to come back to. Give the end that feeling of coming home after a long day of work, hopping into comfy clothes and just existing in the moment.
Rewrite Your Scenes:
Write your scenes and then write them again.
What you’ll recognize is that things are happening in your story, that your mind sees, but you haven’t written them down because you haven’t really seen them.
When your characters become real to you, they automatically do things pertinent to their attitudes and behavior and the scene. The more familiar you get with a scene, the more you work with it, the less your mind worries about what you’ve written down and begins to pick out the little things you missed the first or second time around.
In my second draft, I rake through each scene as many times as it takes, making each sentence, each image, each word fight for its life. I go through the text as a reader to make it flow in a way that will make sense to them. When I read the scene without changing anything it’s done, and I move on to the next one.
Spend the time making quality work. Take it slow. It’s worth putting your best foot forward into the world.