A writing question for you, my lovely circle of friends!

Last Wednesday the lovely Johanna at Once Upon a Novelist was kind enough to pass along the Circle of Friends Award. Thanks Johanna! Blog friends are the best, aren't they? (And you never have to worry about your appearance when you converse with them! For example, for all you know I could be sitting here right now in Lovemuffin's tattered old t-shirt with a huge coffee stain down the front of it, and my hair could be a complete mess! Not that I am. Or anything. But I could be.)

So in keeping with the tradition, I will make sure the circle continues by sharing the award with five more bloggers =) But, you'll have to wait a few more days, as I am working on a few things right now, and haven't figured out who they are, just yet;)

In other news, I took the plunge and entered a contest, in which you post the first 250 words of your MS. I've gotten some very helpful comments so far (and have already figured out how to address some issues), and really appreciate people taking the time to explain how those words made them feel.

That being said, I have a question for my circle of writing friends out there. (Like how I tied the award to this second topic? I try to be entertaining, people, just for you.)

Here goes:

How much should you be explaining in those first 250 words?

I've received many questions as to why this has happened, why that is important, and so on, and I may be naive in saying this, but isn't that the point of the whole thing? To make them turn the page, then the next one, to find the answers?

I realize there's a fine line between leading readers along and explaining specifics. What I'm not sure about, though, is how to walk that fine line.

How about you? Are there any tricks/tools you use in determining what to tell your readers up front, and what to hold onto for another page or two? If so, I'd love to hear them in the comments.

Happy Wednesday, people!


Lila Swann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lila Swann said...

** So sorry to double post, but my last comment was full of typos. It made my eyes bleed, so I'm doing y'all a favor. **

I'm going to say this like I know what I'm talking about, but I don't. So feel free not to listen, and stuff. :)

I started my novel the easy way - with a prologue. Of course, in retrospect, this was rather stupid. My prologue was hard to write because my MC was a baby at the time, so it couldn't be from her POV, and I didn't want to write from her mother's POV and then switch the reader once Chapter 1 arrived, so I ended up cutting the whole thing. (Which, from what I've gleaned from obsessive backreading of agent blogs, is the right thing to do.) So now, it just starts right off with my main character.

I don't think you have to really start the action right away. I mean, the reader has (presumably) read the back cover/inside flap. At least, that's what I always do. So they know the basic plot, and I think a reader would give you a good 25-40 pages to really get things amped up. So, in my opinion, those first 250 words need to give us our main character. He or she needs to be immediately compelling and likable, someone we can sympathize with, be interested in, and want to know more about. If an author can give me an awesome character in the first 5 pages, I'll read 100 more of plotless drivel before the action starts, if need be.

Robyn Bavati said...

Unlike Lila, I won't read plotless drivel - life's too short. I like to know where I'm headed right from the start, though I do think establishing a sympathetic character early on is crucial. The trick is to do both at once - drop little nuggets of info that get the reader wondering and wanting to read on yet maintaining the tension by not revealing too much too soon. Or, as Charles Reade said: 'Make 'em laugh; make 'em cry; make 'em wait.' Easier said than done, I know. But I think it's a matter of raising questions and delaying the answers.

Robyn Bavati said...

Oh, and I forgot to say, Well done Jessica for taking the plunge and entering that competition. And congrats on the Circle of Frieds Award. I totally get what you mean about being able to lounge around in coffee-stained rags and your blogger friends wouldn't have a clue - I generally blog in pyjamas - or an unglamourous tracksuit.