Thursday, November 19, 2015

Author RA McCandless: Three Ways to Hook Your Reader in the First 500 Words #specufic

Today we're visited by spec fic author RA McCandless. He's launching his newest book today so be sure to check out Hell Becomes Her. Hope you enjoy!

Well there's something you don't see every day.
Plot, characters,
complexity—none of that matters on the first page.  What's important is to hook your
readers.  The cliche is that you need a
very good first line, but the truth is that if a reader has picked up your book
(or read the synopsis enough to buy the ebook/download a sample) they're
already invested and willing to give you some of their time.  Usually, a page at least.  So you have that much time to set the hook
and start to reel them in.  Then,
complexity and layers and characters can all do their work.

Here's a few things that I try
to do with my first page (about the first 300 to 500 words:

1 - Establish my world.  Obviously, I'm going to need a couple ten
thousand words to really build out the world, but I want to give my readers a
real sense of what they're reading.  So,
a steampunk books gets some steamalicious gears, or brass patina, or leather
and tin goggles out of the gate—even if it's only in passing.

Tension!  Conflict!  Character!

Meet the Trifecta!
2 - Establish my main
character.  The primary character, even
if he/she later fades to the background or is subsumed by other character POVs,
is introduced and the solid core of that characters is introduced on the first
page.  Scoundrels are doing
skullduggery.  Paladins are shining their
white cloaks.  Harrison Ford is being a
good man under extreme pressure.  You get
the idea.

3 - Tension/Conflict.  You don't want your readers on the edge of
their seat throughout the entire story, they need some breathing room every now
and then.  BUT in introducing the book,
there should be some kind of conflict, even minor and easily overcome, that
will draw them in and keep the pages turning.
Witnessing an airship docking.
Winning (or losing) a high stakes poker game.  Being confronted by a police captain for a
bust gone horribly wrong.  All of these
create tension or establish conflict that will (hopefully) pique readers'

It is me, or did it just get complicated in here?
Of course, you don't do these
separately.  With 300 to 500 words to
work in, you weave these elements together to create a tapestry of world,
characters and tension.  With any luck,
this informs your first line, and you've laid the bait, allowed the reader to
nibble, and by word 301 (or 501) you'd set the hook so firmly that no matter
how complex, layered or characterific your story, everyone is along for the
roller coaster ride. 

R.A. McCandless is the author of the urban fantasy Flames of Perdition series.  His first book, Tears of Heaven, was named a 2015 EPIC eBook finalist and winner of the 2014 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Reader's Poll by Preditors & Editors.  His latest book, Hell Becomes Her, is available now.  He continues to write genre and historical fiction, battle sprinklers and play with his three boys.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Writer's Tool of the Month: NaNoWriMo

Being an indie author means I have a hard time defining what I do with a single word.

I'm a writer.
I'm a blogger.
I'm a cover designer.
I'm a book formatter.
I'm a promoter.
I'm a marketer.
I'm a publisher.
And now I've successfully gotten an author friend on their way to seeing their own book in both ebook and (soon to come) print formats so I guess I should call myself an enabler, too. 

But there is no word that seems to capture all that in a neat, succinct word.

I've heard "authorpreneur", which, while fitting, doesn't roll out of my mouth without me tripping over it. (Hey, I'm a writer, not a speaker!) And I like the word "creative" but calling myself a creative seems both fantastically sci-fi and terribly vague.

However, I get a 30-day respite from my identity crisis because…It's November! And I'm a NaNoer!
(Yes, it does deserve two explanation points. I give myself three to use a day and just blew through two in one line. I REGRET NOTHING.)

Originally, I was going to use NaNoWriMo to charge on through my serial-in-progress, CHARM CITY. In fact, I already had my profile up and ready to go for this past Sunday's start. It was going to be me, my exorcist, and his personal demons locked in a room for thirty days. I was coming out of that room with the second set of episodes come hell or holy water.

And then…Saturday happened.

I'd been reading an article on the seven points of story structure. I began musing how well it clarified some of the elements of the 15-count beat sheet I had recently starting working with. And then I read a submission call for a press looking for ghost stories and this little noise went off in my head.

Bing! Don't you have a story idea in your file already? said my brain.

I did. I brainstormed an idea several years ago that I'd really liked but I was too busy with other books to do anything about it. I'm glad I tucked it away in my writer's notebook because I decided that maybe I should use my story plotting tools to see if there was an actual story there.

horror, supernatural, paranormal, romantic elements
My ten-minute cover. (No teasing allowed.)

And, good Lord, there actually was a story. It just needed a little structure to make it stand up for itself.

So I spent Saturday thinking about that old story idea and started talking and plotting and coming up with the plot points needed to follow a solid, satisfying story flow.

And it looks like a lot of fun.

So, I told my exorcist his story could wait for a month. I have a new story that wants to be written.

It will be an experimental because generally, I'm a pantser. I like to write freely, to capture the scenes and sequels that preoccupy my thoughts and bring it all into story form once I've got a ton on paper and I know that the story won't go away until I finish it.

But this is plotting. Complete and utter outlined order. No chaos. No surprises. (I'd already written them.)

While I'd never NaNo'ed a novel from scratch, I have used the month to get a lot of words down in current projects. Two of my NaNo books are now published (Words That Bind and The Heartbeat Thief) so I know the power of inspiration and encouragement. That's why I want to try something completely new: armed with a solid plot outline, I want to harness the power of NaNoWriMo and see if I can get this book written. I have clear goals. I have full ideas.

All I need is the time to write it.

I have 30 days. Let's see if I can whip something up with those ingredients.

Writers: Do you participate in NaNoWriMo? I'm on as ashkrafton ( so look me up. Let's encourage each other for a month and see what all we get written.

Let's be writers. It's a wonderful word.