Tuesday, May 07, 2019

How to Write A Real-Page Turner, Part 2: Five Things to Avoid

By Laurisa White Reyes, @lwreyes

Part of the How They Do It Series 

JH: Laurisa White Reyes continues her How to Write a Page-Turner series today with five things that will make readers
not want to turn the page.

The sub-title of this post is “5 Sure Fire Fun-Suckers.” This is what my son calls books that are too boring to read all the way through. You know what I’m talking about—those books you started with good intentions only to lose interest part way and consign them to the abyss of novels unfinished.

As authors, we don’t want our books to be boring. We want readers to feel excited about our stories, to keep turning those pages. So, what can we do to make our books real page-turners? Well, first we should know what NOT to do.

Here are the top 5 fun-suckers:

1. Excessively Long Chapters

My 11-year-old daughter was once assigned a Newbery Award winning book to read for class. It’s a great book. I know because I’ve read it, but she is slogging through it, groaning the whole way. I asked her why she didn’t like the book. Her answer: “The chapters are so looooooong!”

While many readers do enjoy long, detailed chapters, the fact is that shorter chapters create the illusion, if not the reality, of a faster read. Every time a reader gets to the end of a chapter, he feels like he has accomplished something, that progress is being made. When the chapters are short, a reader will be more willing to read on into the next chapter, and the next.

(Here's more on And...End Scene: When to Add a Scene Break)

2. Waking and Sleeping

When writing scenes, new writers often fall into the trap of starting a scene when a character wakes up and ending it when they go to sleep. Boring. In essence, if your character falls asleep, so will your reader. This also holds true for going unconscious. Nothing is more aggravating for a reader than when there has been all this build up to a climactic moment only to have the protagonist black out and wake up when the action is over. Don’t cheat your reader that way.

(Here's more on Studying the Waking Up Scene: Is it Really That Bad?)

3. Tidy Chapter Endings

While closure is expected for the end of a novel, too much closure at the end of chapters creates the sense that this is a good point to stop reading. Page-turners do not have tidy chapter endings. They are messy. They are exciting. They leave you hanging. The goal is for readers to reach the end of a chapter and feel compelled to turn the page to see what happens next. We will discuss this in greater detail when I post Part 3 of this series.

(Here's more on Make it Stick – The Art of the Chapter Ending)

4. Unvarying Pace

Reading a novel is not like long distance running, where the runner sets his pace and keeps that same rhythm for miles and miles. Nor is it a sprint to the finish line, one quick heart-pounding dash. If a story is slow and detailed and thoughtful all the way through, the reader will get bored. But the reader will also get burned out if there is nothing but action-packed thrill on every single page. You want to vary the pace, with some chapters being fast and exciting, and others slower and more introspective. These slower scenes allow your readers to catch their breath, so to speak, to recharge for the next adrenalin surge.

(Here's more on And the Pace is On: Understanding and Controlling Your Pacing)

5. Too Much Description

Long ago, authors used to be paid based on the word count. The longer the book, the more money they earned. So, books were tomes of lengthy descriptions that really had nothing to do with the plot. Times have changed. We live in a fast-paced society where we are used to getting what we want right now. Many readers expect to get to the heart of the story without having to slog through pages of unnecessary description. Of course, some description is important to set the scene, but where authors once would expound about a woman’s dress or the architecture of a building for pages on end, now a line or two, or even in some cases a few words, will do just as well. Leave the rest up to your reader’s imagination.

(Here's more on Is Your Description Helping Your Story or Holding it Back?)

So, there you have them. 5 Sure Fire Fun-Suckers, and some tips on how to avoid them.

Laurisa White Reyes is the Senior Editor of Skyrocket Press & Author Services. She has published sixteen books, including 8 Secrets to Successful Self-Publishing and the SCBWI Spark Award winner The Storytellers. Laurisa also provides personal coaching for writers. To connect with her, visit Skyrocket Press.

About The Storytellers

12-year-old Elena Barrios' father has AIDS, a new disease in 1991 with a 100% fatality rate. Rather than face certain ridicule and ostracism, Elena tells her friends anything but the truth, fabricating stories about her father being a writer and researcher. But the reality is that Elena resents her father’s illness and can’t face the fact that he is dying. When she is befriended by a woman named Ang who tells stories about her own father, Elena is transported into these stories, allowing her to experience them first hand. With Ang's help, Elena gains the courage to stand up to the bully at her school, mend her relationship with her father, and finally say goodbye.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound

1 comment:

  1. Great points! As a kid, long chapters did make it seem like I was getting nowhere in a book. Silly, but you're right.