Thursday, September 17, 2009

Write Style: Making a Promise to Your Readers

Currently I am reading Catching Fire, the second book in The Hunger Games Series.

Seriously, I am in love with this series and Suzanne Collins writing.

One problem though, is that I feel like a total failure as a writer, when I read her lovely prose on every page.

Fellow writers out there, do you have that feeling reading certain books over others? Like you better just throw in the towel because you don't measure up?

Anyway, I'm coming near the end of the book now and I don't want it to end. You know that feeling?

My favorite line thus far, is from Peeta: "If you die, and I live, there's no life for me at all back in District Twelve. You're my whole life," he says. "I would never be happy again."

Yeah, because I'm a sappy wimp :)

Anyway, speaking of writing and books, I mentioned I attended an SCBWI conference this weekend. It was fabulous. Some great authors and editors were in attendance.

One lecture by editor Harold Underdown, spoke to me:

He said (and I paraphrase here), "Dont worry about all the rules you've heard about the very first page in your book. That it has to have great action, or launch you plot, or introduce your character, or that it can't have any back-story. Just make sure your very first page makes some kind of a promise to the reader (about what's to come in the story)! That promise will make a reader turn the page.

That was profound for me because I have terrible trouble with my first pages.

So anyway, since I have Catching Fire sitting right by me, I have decided to open to the first page, and read:

I clasp the flask between my hands even though the warmth from the tea has long since leached into the frozen air. My muscles are clenched tight against the cold. If a pack of wild dogs were to appear at this moment, the odds of scaling a tree before they attacked are not in my favor. I should get up, move around, and work the stiffness from my limbs. But instead I sit, as motionless as the rocks beneath me, while the dawn begins to lighten the woods. I can't fight the sun. I can only watch helplessly as it drags me into a day that I've been dreading for months.

Does she make a promise to the reader (about what's to come), so that they want to turn the page? She did for me....

7 comments:

bluecottonmemory said...

Don't get bogged down because others have a style you admire. Pull out the style that is just bursting to get out, write it out. That's you. Hone it, polish it, develop it, just like you do your personality and strengths. I admire St. Augustine; it's beautiful and smart. I love Dickens. I love E.E. Cummins. I love Jane Austin. I love Margaret Wise Brown. However, my writing evolves from my experience, my thoughts, my humor, and how I communicate-through the churning of my brain over what I think and spill out.

This is one time where "Be true to yourself" stands--Your writing is a reflection of who you are--live with it, develop it, write it!

AndreaLeigh said...

I read this book in about 4 hours. I started at 11pm, intending to read a little before I went to sleep, and stayed up all night reading and thinking about the book. She's crafted such a surreal world but the beauty of the writing is that she makes you think - "what if?"

The Small Fabric Of My Life said...

I have been a professional writer for 21 years. I teach creative writing and every day I fear I will never be as good as I want/should be.

for a different kind of girl said...

I haven't read this book yet, but it is on my list because I did read the first one. Oh, how I love working at a book store that allows me to check out hard cover books!

I'm currently reading The Death of Bunny Munroe by Nick Cave, and it's a hearbreaking story told in such a beautiful, poetic way. It is ripe with rich comparisons and odd, yet inspired phrase turns that, honestly, as I started reading it, I thought "There is NO WAY I could ever write!"

I am my worst enemy when it comes to writing. I stew over paragrahs (Ha...paragraphs? I mean sentences!) that are inconsequential to things. It takes me so long, and then I'm filled with doubt. Maybe this makes me qualified to call myself a tortured artist?!

Lisa and Laura said...

Oh, I love Suzanne Collins. She's a genius isn't she? I get writer envy all the time. Right now I'm reading Stephen King and he's just the master. It terrifies me a little, but I love what reading a good book teaches me about writing. I try to be inspired instead of terrified, you know?

Imogen Lamport said...

a Professor of creative writing I worked with said "write your book then throw away your first chapter" often writers try to overexplain in the first chapter, rather than going straight in with the action

Stephanie Faris said...

Honestly, I LOVE having that feeling when I read books. It's much better than that feeling that nothing can hold my interest, which happens with most of the books I read these days. But every now and then I come upon a real treasure and immediately rush to get every book that author has published.