Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Guest Post: Some Like It in Handcuffs by Christine Warner

Today I have Christine Warner, author of Some Like It in Handcuffs, here to talk about book beginnings. Here is a quick blurb of her new book:

         Sunny Kennedy is a fledgling private investigator and the only girl in a family of protective male detectives. She’s out to prove testosterone isn’t the main qualification required to solve a cold case. The only things standing in her way are a sexy detective and a killer who will stop at nothing to keep a secret.
Judson Blackwolf, a seasoned homicide detective, thinks women in law enforcement should work behind the scenes. The prospect of working with his Captain’s sexy daughter doesn’t thrill him.
But when their investigation takes a dangerous turn, they realize their feelings for each other, tangled in a web from the past, might not be the only thing to keep them apart.

Now it's your turn, Christine!

          Where to Begin?

Life is full of beginnings.

The beginning of summer, the beginning of school, the beginning of friendships, the beginning of a marriage, the beginning of parenthood, car payments, mortgages, career…the list is endless. But one of the best beginnings is the beginning of a book. There is nothing more relaxing than sitting down to enjoy a good read.

Now, depending on which area you are coming from, the beginning of a book can go two ways. There is the beginning for the reader and the beginning for the writer. Let’s talk about the writer, because in essence what happens at the writer’s level determines what happens at the reader’s level.

For a writer, the beginning of their much anticipated story — the one that has been swirling around in their brain for days, weeks, months, or longer — is a time of worry and painstaking thought. You sit down, an anxious — excited — knot in your belly, a blank computer screen in front of you. Those first few lines you write have to suck the reader into the story and keep them turning page after page until they reach the end. And if they read your book in one sitting — because they couldn’t put it down—then you’ve worked a little bit of writerly magic.

In my opinion the best advice I received when I started writing my debut novel, Some Like it in Handcuffs, was to begin the story and each chapter with a hook — jump right into the action. Don’t begin with background or tell about the scenery or the character’s past. The reader isn’t invested enough in the characters to care — not yet. Begin with a bang and fill in the details as you go along.

Grab them with action! Snappy dialogue, a car chase, an accident, something threatening… the possibilities are endless.

The reader will learn everything to do with background as the story unfolds…as you spoon feed tidbits along the way through the character’s internal thoughts or revealing dialogue. This way the reader is learning about your characters and your characters are becoming their main focus, their friend, someone they will champion. Someone they care about. This, as a writer, is what you want.

So, the next time you pick up a book to read, pay attention if the book starts out with action and if it really draws you into the story. Or if you are a writer and you’re sitting down to start a new project…remember to begin with action to keep your readers attention.


Neecy said...

Great advice, Christine. Action always gets me going in a book. The Who, What, When, Where and Why keep me going.

Cait O'Sullivan said...

Hmm the beginning of a comment :-)...

Fab advice, as ever. I think I'll try practising it even just in conversation, see if I can call someone and deliver a line that makes them immediately sit down and listen to me (as opposed to clearing the table, doing the dishes or putting the kids to bed -- not that I do that, of course lol)

D'Ann said...

Great job! I'm going to get your book read ASAP!

Christine Warner said...

Glad you came by Denice...Action is the key to grabbing the reader at first sentence.

Karen, lol..thanks for the laugh...I think most of us just have that multi-tasker in us that makes us talk on the phone while doing 20 other things. It's in our DNA.

Hi D'Ann..thanks for coming by. Hope you enjoy the book :)

Jennifer Lowery (Kamptner) said...

Fantastic advice and interview!

Brenda said...

Great advice.
The beginning of a story is very tricky. Action can come in many forms. I think some writers get really hung up on starting a story with something crazy--which is good--but then some tend to let the rest of the story slow down too much. Remember, if one is starting with high action the reader will expect high action throughout.

Ally Broadfield said...

This is one of the most important lessons I learned as a writer. Sometimes it takes me many tries to start the story off right, but I can't quite bring myself to write the rest of it until I have the beginning sorted out.

Thanks for the great advice!

Christine Warner said...

Very well said Brenda...how you start out the story is a clue to the reader what they should expect...so you have to keep things in line.

Ally, I have actually changed my beginning on my stories several times...sometimes when I'm well into it. The beginning is a hard part to master and as you are writing it's easy to come up with a better way to start after you get to know your characters better.

Thanks for coming by ladies!

Lynne Marshall said...

Hi Christine - Beginning a book is always tough. Many authors are jumping right into the adventure no holds barred, and that does grab a lot of people. However, other readers are fumbling for footing, trying very hard to figure out why am I here, where am I? Who is this person, etc.
I actually heard about a panel of editors and agents recently who said they wanted more build up in the beginning of a book, that they were seeing too many too fast out of the gate beginnings.

Will we ever please them? sigh.

It is a fine line, isn't it? And some genres, like women's fiction, want a slower build from the beginning.

I like a snappy opening, but I also don't want to feel left out of the loop for long on what is going on.

The subjectiveness of writing drives me loopy!

Thanks for a fun and thought provoking blog.

Lala Land said...

You nailed it, Christine. Do you remember when it was common to read through a good third of a book before you 'got into it'? Then writers knew we had to hook our readers in the first few chapters. Then the first chapter. Lukeman came out with The First Five Pages. Boy, now it's page one, paragraph one, and that first sentence. Sometimes it feels like we're in a game of name that tune!
Nice post!

Kristina Knight said...

Great advice, Christine! Sunny sounds like a fab heroine, good luck with your book.

Rachel said...

Wow, thanks for all the comments!

Sheri Fredricks said...

Too many times I've been eager to start a book and find myself skimming the beginning. Knowing how hard it is for a writer to come up with just the right start, I'll pay closer attention from now on.

teresa said...

Great advice Christine. The beginning is so important and very hard to find just the right opening, but then so is the middle and the end...LOL!

Cheryl said...

You are spot on, Christine.

You have to get them at Hello!

Great interview, great book!


Katherine said...

You described the exact way I feel every time I start a new manuscript. I've had to learn to just start otherwise I could just sit and stare at that blank page on the monitor for days. Thanks for the great post.

Martha Ramirez said...

Yep beginnings can make you or break you. Good advice!

Christine Warner said...

Thanks everyone for your comments...gives me even more to think about. I try and start out right in the action, but like Lynn said that can be confusing for the reader too..but I think you have to have a snappy beginning, but also take the time to weave in the things a reader will need to know at the beginning so that you don't lose them. It's such a delicate cycle.

Love everyone's comments...thanks so much for your support and coming by! xoxox

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