advice for authors, advice on manuscript revision, focus in fiction, manuscript revision, subtlety in fiction, techniques to improve pacing, The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman, tone in fiction, using hooks in fiction, writing advice
Based on the number of shares on WordPress, Twitter and Facebook, Manuscript Revision – advice from a pro was quite popular. Here’s part 2 based on Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages.
- Hooks are propellants and help set expectations for readers.
- Hooks can also establish character, narrator, or setting and convey a shocking piece of information
- They apply to opening lines, paragraphs, pages and chapters. Chapter hooks are important.
- Set the tone for the book
- Strive for maintained intensity throughout the story, not just the intensity of the first line/paragraph.
- “Don’t write an opening for the sake of the opening, but for the sake of the story that follows.”
- Dialogue as the opening hook is very hard to do.
- Keep hooks going throughout the novel.
- An unsubtle MS will have an inflated feel—inflated with superfluous words, phrases, dialogue, and run-on scenes (scenes that are far too long)
- Less is more; Leave some things unsaid; be minimalist
- If you underestimate your reader, you alienate him/her.
- Discipline yourself to withhold information
- Embrace confusion; leave a little mystery
- Tone – witty, mocking, sarcastic, serious, intimate, nostalgic, angry, brazen, arrogant, condescending, formal, stuffy, serious, self-important, happy, sad – is the voice behind the sound and style of your work
- Tone needs to suit the manuscript and the purpose of your text
- Tone needs to suit the narrator/protagonist
- “Each chapter must be thought of as its own complete unit, ready to excerpt should a magazine want it.” Keep this thought in mind for paragraphs and sentences as well.
- Do you resolve in the end of the chapter what you establish in the beginning?
- Paragraphs should have a beginning-middle-end just like chapters do.
- Events that are introduced should be resolved.
- If a sentence, paragraph, scene or chapter does not further the intention of progression of the work, it should be cut.
- Don’t introduce characters without telling us what happens to them.
- Don’t introduce a harrowing event without telling the reader the outcome.
- Review every chapter/scene/paragraph to see if it meets the goals set out.
- Check that the puzzle of sentences, paragraphs, scenes and chapters are focused as a whole (like puzzle pieces).
- Settings must not stop the flow of the narrative.
- Settings must come to life.
- Characters should interact with their settings.
- Settings should have an effect on characters.
- Unfold settings slowly.
- Most settings are brought to life through tiny details (a cobweb in the corner, a stain on the carpet, a broken window pane).
- Draw on all five senses when bringing a setting to life – smell, sound, sight/light, feeling, taste.
Pacing and Progression
- High stakes (tension) are part of pacing.
- Pacing is off if you take too long getting from A to B to C in plot development.
- Too much telling and too much description slow the pace.
- Dialogue accelerates pace .. but watch out for too much dialogue in your text.
- Look for places where pacing is too fast and those where it is too slow.
I hope these notes from Noah Lukeman’s book are helpful.
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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE is set in WWI France and is available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is also available from these retailers.