Well I’m a working woman now!
Ok…so I’m an interning woman.
It’s still fun, though! I’m not going to say where I’m interning, but I will say that I’m getting to read a lot of query letters and sample manuscripts, and I’ve learned a lot. One thing I learned I will now share with you here.
A lot of books that come through are nonfiction, though this advice can apply to fiction as well. What these nonfiction writers often do is provide a lot of information about their life, or the life of someone close to them, without giving the reader a reason to care. And I understand why this mistake is made. I mean, you know your life is interesting. You know that the time you found a cure for skin cancer while rescuing a beached whale is the most important moment of your life. And you know that this story is very important, and should be shared with the world.
The only problem is that the readers don’t know. They don’t know what’s happened, and even reading the synopsis on the back of the book isn’t going to captivate them for very long if they’re not given a reason to care. There are exceptions to every rule of course, but for the most part, even nonfiction stories of whale saving/cancer curing need to have more to them than just that one event. They have to have good writing, sure, but I like to see a full story. I wrote before about making a timeline for the various events in a story, and that only works if your book has more than one event to put on the timeline. What kind of person were you before you saved the whale? How did you change after the whale was saved? What’s your whole story? Give me that, and I’ll care much more about the big events in your life. I’ll begin to understand for myself why they’re important, instead of having to take your word for it.
I can tell that I’m on to something here, because I have read some really good nonfiction since I started work last Tuesday, and I’ve read some nonfiction with a lot of potential to be good, that really just couldn’t keep my interest. That’s the difference you want to make. And, as I said, it applies to fiction, too. You’ve got to give your reader some context as to why they’re reading.
Because if you saved a whale, but made a habit of drowning kittens in your youth, that’s something I want to know.
Word of the Day: Captivate (v) – to attract and hold the attention or interest of, as by beauty or excellence; enchant