Les Edgerton knows what he’s talking about. His eBook, Hooked, lays down the law about how to begin your novel—and how, most likely, your beginning could be much, much better. Making things worse, he doesn’t just expect you to take his word for it. He gives plenty of examples that buttress his point, like Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore, a book now on my to-read list. Look, here’s the deal: I know my writing has been changed for the better as a result of having read Hooked. I now approach everything differently.
Having said all that, it’s not that Edgerton’s research is the last word on how you should write your novel. After all, that’s up to you, and he doesn’t pretend it should be anything otherwise. What he offers is a kind of road map on story—a little like Bickham did—except with far more emphasis on the opening bits, which are, at least in the sense of one’s writing being a commercial endeavor, the most important.
At first the terms are a bit overwhelming (especially when Edgerton talks about the ten core components of an opening scene, blasting you upside the head with shoptalk terms you’ve probably never dreamt of), but as one reads on it becomes clearer. In fact, I highlighted the crap out of my Kindle edition because Edgerton constantly drops in these little nuggets of truth and profundity that sit up and beg for it. Examples? Sure:
“The first time a scene ends in success, the story is over.”
I’m like, WHAT?!
“A protagonist should not gain anything easily.”
Okay, yeah. I knew that. No really. I did.
“Summary doesn’t convince anyone of anything. Write that down.”
Hey Les, look: I wrote it down. And now I have a bunch of fluffy crap I need to go and delete elsewhere. Thanks a lot.
In fact, Edgerton’s book is so chock-full of great resources, you should stop what you’re doing right now and download it. Seriously. If you fancy yourself a writer, if you’re an indie author, if you’re published and agented and signed and successful, you should read it. It can only help you, and Edgerton points out other excellent resources too, like Bickham’s Scene and Structure, and like another I haven’t quite gotten to yet, On Writing Well by William Zinsser (I’ll just take Les’s word for it that it’s going to be outstanding when I finally do get round to it).
I’m not joking, this book will change your professional life as a writer. What I found most alarming as I read through Hooked is that I’d been trading mostly on instinct and raw talent. The emotional quotient to that, at least as an author, is pretty much just stark terror. I was ignorant of the structure, the rules, the order of Story. And I called myself an author?! Now that my mind has been peeled open a bit, I’m soaking this stuff up like crazy. I really can’t recommend it highly enough. Go get yours now.