Tuesday, August 06, 2019

How to Write A Real-Page Turner, Part 3

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 a sure-fire page-turner technique to keep readers hooked in your story

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.

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Take it away Laurisa...

In my first post in this series, I defined what being a Page-Turner is and why writers should seriously consider writing one. In my second post, I shared what I call “Sure Fire Fun-Suckers”, things that make books boring. Today I’ll talk about the first of three “Page-Turner Techniques” that are sure to make your work in progress a “can’t-put-it-down” book.

Shorter Chapters

Seems obvious, doesn’t it? But the truth is that some readers will give up on your book after just a few pages. Your objective, as a writer, is hook your reader in those first few pages instead.

How many times have you opened a book and counted the pages in the first chapter to see if you really felt like committing yourself to it? If the chapter was too long, you may have put the book down and reached for something else. A lot of people do.

Pick up a few titles you consider “page-turners.” Chances are most of them have pretty short chapters. For example, Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code, the second best-selling book of 2003 (bested only by Harry Potter), has chapters as short as a single page. Many other popular books have chapters under ten pages. The overall length of two books may be exactly the same, but the fact remains that short chapters achieve two very important things for your reader:
  • Creates the illusion of a “fast read.”
  • Increases the likelihood that the reader will read multiple chapters in a single sitting.
When asked about whether or not the act of reading books is in danger of giving way to electronic media, Author Hernan Casciari said the following:
“What’s important right now is our lack of concentration, our inability to be able to read, listen or write for more than 20 minutes.”
Actually, Casciari hit the nail on the head, and here’s why.

In 2012, the Associated Press published research revealing that the attention span of the average person (adult or child) is a mere eight second. Eight seconds! That’s how long you have to capture your readers’ attention – and KEEP IT!

To give you an idea of what we’re up against, in the year 2000, the average attention span was 12 seconds, and the attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds.

Now, we can bemoan the damage to our brains caused by video games and TV shows all we want, but as writers, we need to look at this information through different lenses. Our readers’ attention spans are shrinking. So, the question is not how do we stop this, but how can we best connect to our readers on their level?


If you are working on a manuscript right now, try these tweaks to help make your story more “bite-sized.”

1. Write chapters that are between three and five pages (800-1300 words, or even less)

2. Divide longer chapters into two or more shorter chapters.

3. Utilize one of the following Framing Devices to separate shorter scenes within a longer chapter:
  • White Space (add an extra blank line)
  • Varied Font (use italics to identify quotes, different forms of text such as journal entries or letters, or for dreams, flash backs, etc.)
  • Asterisks * (can be used within white space)
In my next post, we’ll dive into another proven technique for helping your book become a page-turner. In the meantime, I recommend reading Page-Turner: Your Path To Writing A Novel That Publishers Want And Readers Buy by Barbara Kyle.

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.

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  1. How long a chapter is can make a difference as to whether or not I read an extra chapter during a particular sitting. But I also look for how long a scene is for the same reason. One chapter can easily have two or three scenes in it. With a scene defining a time and or place, I can determine where I want to take a break in the story until the next time I read.

    1. Exactly, Glynis. It is human nature to search for natural breaks. But the shorter the text is between those breaks, the more willing we are to "read just one more". :)

  2. I tried to read a book recently that had three pages for ONE PARAGRAPH and this was how the book continued. I lasted two chapters and then gave up. Interestingly this book won a major international book prize for 2018. Go figure??