Nancy's Books

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fishing for a Contract

Want to catch an editor’s attention? Cast a hook.

A hook is a literary device used to grab a reader’s interest. Readers don’t want the story to build to an exciting tale; they want a moving story from the beginning, one that grabs them emotionally with a hold that won’t let go until the last page is read.

Editors spend a few seconds deciding if they want to read a manuscript. The decision is often based on the first paragraph. I once heard an editor state that if she liked the first paragraph, she turned to the last paragraph. If she liked the last paragraph, she began reading the manuscript, once again, from the beginning. Since the first and last paragraphs are so important, try dangling literary bait with a few hooks.

Question. Nonfiction books and articles sometimes begin with a question such as, What is the fastest land animal? The interest is immediate and kids keep reading to find the answer: cheetah. Fiction can also use this angle. The protagonist could question anything and everything. For added interest, make asking questions a quirky part of the character’s personality.

Similes and metaphors. Compare two things that are not alike, such as My day began like a car chase and ended with a crash. Similes add entertainment value by forming a comparison and expressing emotion. A metaphor makes a comparison without the words “like” or “as.” The metaphor—My day was a car crash—creates a mental picture. These sensory details paint vivid pictures.

Next week, I’ll post part II of this three-part series.

Calls for Submissions:

The Blue Pencil Online publishes the work of writers ages 12 to 18
from around the world, with the intention of showcasing the best
and full scope of teen writing.
Details at

Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2011 Short Story CompetitionDetails at
Deadline: February 14, 2011

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