Hook Readers With Strong Beginnings & Endings, by Sue Bradford Edwards

Writing well means honing your words to fast, furious precision, writing and rewriting. Rewriting often focuses on the beginning and the ending of the manuscript. This isn’t surprising given their importance.

The beginning has to hook your reader—fast. Bore the reader and off they go to the next article, a different book, or a computer game.

The ending must tie things up in a satisfying package. Fail and the reader feels cheated out of both time and effort.

Fortunately, you can learn to excel at both.

A HOOK IS . . .

First and foremost, the very first line of a manuscript has to introduce the reader to the manuscript in such a way that they simply have to read more. This is the same whether you are writing a novel or a picture book.

“The beginning of a picture book is a promise and an invitation to the reader: stick with me, readers, and you will be richly rewarded,” says author Leda Schubert. “So it should ideally provide a character the reader cares about and enough action and tension to propel that page turn. If brilliant, it can contain so much: point of view, trajectory, setting, rhythm, and it can even carry theme. Not an easy task, by any means.”

A novel works much the same way. “An opening has to introduce the main character, establish the setting, and capture the author’s/character’s voice,” says author Chris Eboch. “Ideally, it will clarify the genre and give the reader an idea of what to expect from the rest of the book. That’s a lot to get into a page or two.”

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