Resource Review: Hooked

publishing querying recommended resource review revising Jul 09, 2021

Post written by Katie Wall.

If you are looking for a handy little book that is an easy read and a great resource on how to write better, Hooked by Les Edgerton is exactly that.

He begins the introduction by writing, "Why a book on just story beginnings? The simple truth is, if your beginning doesn't do the job it needs to, the rest of the story most likely won't be read by the agent or editor or publisher you submit it to" (pg. 1).

While at times the text was slightly repetitive and the humor was a little much for my taste, I think this book is well worth the investment and the space on my and any writer's shelf. Why? Because Edgerton breaks down concepts of good writing and applies them well to the all-important first sentences and first pages. Not only that, but he also illuminates why those first pages are so important, and sets the context for the (now slightly outdated) modern publishing scene. (The book was released in 2007, so I imagine the publishing landscape has continued to change—especially with e-books and self-publishing. However, I still think the trends he identifies here are important for writers to consider.)

One of the biggest takeaways for writers, I think, is that in today's publishing market there is no room for sloppy openings or story beginnings that don't immerse the reader right into the action. As he outlines on page 36, 

"The goals of your opening scene are: (1) to successfully introduce the story-worthy problem; (2) to hook the readers; (3) to establish the rules of the story; and (4) to forecast the ending of the story."

He then goes on to define the necessary terms and help you think through how you can apply this framework to your own writing practice. He covers things such as the inciting incident, setup and backstory, introducing characters, foreshadowing, language, setting, and great opening lines. He also devotes an entire chapter to "red flag openers to avoid" in which he gives examples and discusses why those types of openers are not ideal.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the final chapter, which includes thoughts from agents and editors about what makes beginnings good and why they are so important. In one such contribution, Jodie Rhodes, president of Jodie Rhodes Literary Agency, says, "When it comes to selling your book, the most important words you'll ever write are those on page one. Unless you grab our attention immediately, your book has no chance" (pg. 216).

Wow! First pages really are just that important.

I highly recommend this book for any novel writer who is aiming for traditional publishing. You won't be disappointed by the insights and examples included on the pages.

And if you'd like some guidance and feedback as you polish your first pages, think about signing up for my First Pages Group Coaching Program. I share some insights from Hooked in the workbook I designed for this course, and we read Your First Fifteen Pages by literary agent Sandra O'Donnell together. Learn more and join the waitlist today!

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