Journey to a Polished Manuscript – October: Pacing Part Two: Hooks and Tight Prose (RewriteItClub)

This year, RewriteItClub are doing a monthly series on writing a book, and I’m joining in with my adult political fantasy. To find out more about RewriteItClub’s series click here, or to see this month’s post, click here.

We’re about a month into the new term of uni here, trying to adapt to this new way of teaching. I am writing this from self-isolation while we wait on a housemate’s test results (fingers crossed a negative result arrives before this goes live!)

I have now switched projects to a retelling of 1380-1398 England – with dragons – as I think I’m ready to query so need something else to work on. However, for consistency’s sake, I’m going to keep talking about GRIFFINS here.


Hooks

I laughed a little when I saw this was one of the topics as I am awful at good first and last chapter/scene lines. Almost every single chapter comes back from my CP with “need a better ending line” because there was rarely any tension at the end of a chapter to make the reader want to go on.

My problem with GRIFFINS was that, given the way the chapters fell thanks to the 5 POVs and the time spacing, I usually couldn’t end a chapter mid-action or mid-moment, because it would be several chapters before that POV returned and the intervening chapters would have moved the time on by several weeks. So I had to resolve a lot of things (also there weren’t many “action moments” in the book to stop mid-way through anyway).

As nearly every chapter ended with a resolution of some form, I had to look for a different sort of end hook. As it’s political fantasy, I chose to go with the consequences hook – given X, y and Z has happened, what will come next? Sometimes I could do this with the character ruminating, but that would have gotten repetitive quickly, so I needed to find other ways of doing it. Mostly, I relied on referencing back to earlier parts of the chapter, where a discussion of consequences had been, to remind the reader. Failing both of those way, I tried to find a character note.

I am hoping this new project, as it’s dual POV, will have easier end hooks!

When it comes to starting chapters, I admit I often fall into scene setting – and frankly, I don’t mind that much when I read. So I just aim for a pretty sounding line with atmosphere or character tension.

I’m currently reading a book (S.T.A.G.S.) where the first line is a “scene” all of it’s own. It does make it stand out and they are usually punchy sentences, but it’s a pretty extreme way to do it and can start to feel like a gimmick after a while.


Prose

About two weeks ago, I went through GRIFFINS and tightened the prose. My reasoning behind it was to try and cut words (got 7k off). I’d already removed most of the filter words (see, hear) etc, so I needed a new technique and a friend gave me the brilliant advice of looking at every instance of “of” and seeing if it could be reworded. It worked a treat. (*insert unavoidable writer’s fear that this has ruined voice* seriously, though, this is something I’m worried about, but there does come a time when you need to let a book go and I think meddling any more myself alone is probably not a good idea.)

On filter words, I think that sometimes you need them. Most of the time you can remove them, but sometimes it’s more powerful to have them, particularly in speech.


Do you notice chapter ends? How do you go about tightening prose


Read the other posts in this series:

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