[NoNo] Weekly Help #2 – Walking Forward

Hey warriors! Welcome or welcome back to The Novelist’s November! I hope you’ve been making good progress on your books! Today we have another weekly help! Let’s dive in.


Playlist: Classical Goes Pop. I listen to this to study all the time and it’s really helpful! I’m going to keep adding to this playlist, too. Even if you don’t know the songs, it’s instrumental music with the typical musical elements of pop. I personally love it!

Sprint: Sprint on the Beach

Snippet 2: Testing

“Lie down, Sylas. You know the drill,” the official said, much too cheery as her pen etched boring personal details about me she didn’t really need to know onto a page. “Your examiner will be here shortly. In the meantime, put this on and drink this.”

I bit back a reluctant sigh as I attached the device to my head. The ear pieces were extremely uncomfortable and the wires that criss-crossed it to make a sort of hat always tingled ever so slightly when they rested on my head. I disliked tests immensely with good reason, but I accepted the small cup of purplish liquid and poured it down my throat. It was vile, with a bitterness that practically stung. But it began to kick in as I got as comfortable as possible on the small bed low to the ground. Things were about to get weird.

Just as I’d predicted, my body quickly went numb and I felt bleary by the time the ceiling turned on. It was a screen, with a false movie of me and others on it paused. That’s when I realized I’d forgotten to check what the test was really for. I’d assumed it was a job test or a placement test but… there were girls on the screen. Just like my match test, which I’d hated every minute of.

Don’t worry, Sylas. The match test has been improved based on your previous results and your current capabilities, as well as including a few girls who weren’t of age previously. The examiner’s voice entered my brain, also creepily cheery, alerting me that he’d taken control and was testing the device by reading the input. Thankfully, however, he didn’t comment a moment later when I tested the possibility of his presence by falsely observing how ugly the girls were. I knew I was free to think carefully as the movie began and the device beeped.

“Hello, Sylas!” a girl’s voice said in my head. She smiled on the screen, looking sickly like she was in love with me. “I was wondering… would you like to go on a date with me this evening?”

No, I’d rather be studying the atria and the ventricles. They’re what really makes a heart beat, I told the girl in my head, trying to hide the harsh sarcasm from the computer. Conveniently, I smiled on screen. The computer hadn’t caught it.

Another girl laughed, obviously a medical student based on her scrubs and apparently a little older than me. “You’re funny, Sylas. Maybe we should study together some time.”

Perhaps we could, but I don’t believe my ventral tegmental area and my caudate nucleus will be activated. You might want to study with someone else. It was getting harder not to laugh as I roasted the girls with my medical nerd humor.

“Sylas, you do realize that those aren’t the only parts of the brain where you feel love? And the feeling is a hormone, activated by… touch.” And she grabbed my hand with a smile. Now I physically wanted to throw up. But I remained calm.

Unfortunately, however, you have succeeded in triggering my left amygdala, left inferior frontal cortex, and insular cortex. I am experiencing feelings of disgust. I would never actually talk to a girl in this vicious, robotic way, but if I was going to suffer through the test, I might as well have fun with it.

Quotes: Pressing On

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

E. L. Doctorow

First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!

Ray Bradbury

Description begins in the writer’s imagination but should finish in the reader’s.

Stephen King

Never write anything that does not give you great pleasure. Emotion is easily transferred from the writer to the reader.

Joseph Joubert

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

Jack Kerouac

Word of help: Hope

If there’s one thing a writer should have a solid grasp on, it’s hope. Hope is what makes your character press on in the dark hour. Hope is the friend that helps them fight the dragon. Hope is the tie between the reader and the story. Hope is what makes the story flow out of you. Just focus on your hopes for the book and recognize that the journey is unexpected. If you think it’s going nowhere, go read a book, drink a cup of tea, take a walk, and remember all you hope this book will do and stop thinking about what you hope it will be. That can be worried about later.


I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful! The next part of the Gary D. Schmidt interview is coming tomorrow, but if you missed the first part, here it is! How are your books going? Can we get a little snippet? Let us know in the comments!

Advertisement

Dark House: Illustrated Poem Swap with Maggie!

Hey warriors! I know today isn’t a usual post day, but with NaNoWriMo coming up so soon I wanted to get one more fun post in before I share all my tips, tricks, and encouragement! So today I’ll be sharing my poem Dark House again, only this time… it’s illustrated by Maggie from Maggie’s Doodles! (Psst. If you want to see my own pathetic art skills and her poetry, check out her poem with my art here!) Let’s dive in!

The sound of beating hooves

Pound across the cobblestones

Cracked and coated in dirt

From years of heavy burdens

The gate is iron cold,

Squealing dark disapproval.

Angry dogs threaten guests

Til one regrets arrival

Toward the gloomy house,

Up the winding path of stones,

Past the littered garden…

Could those be a human’s bones?

A loud clap of thunder

And dismal drops of cold rain…

The stink of cigar smoke…

Is someone crying from pain?

The door opens slowly:

The light of a fire dying,

A broken chair lies by

A bruised young boy still crying.

The dream is over and

You wake up and think of him

The tired criminal

You thought of as inhuman

His eyes were full of tears

But he never let them flow,

And deep inside he broke

But he never let it show.

Because another man

Had locked the boy deep inside

A prison made of lies

The boy did his best to hide

And as the boy grew up

He did things he knew were wrong

Then bore his punishments

Inwardly weak but so strong

The sin and taunts gather

Weighing on his weary heart

He’s sorry to be this

And longs for a brand new start

How many times have you

Judged this man for his tough face,

Not realizing the boy

Inside him has remained.

If you said you loved him

And gave him just one more chance,

Hugged him when you saw him

And smiled when you just glanced…

Would the old cracks be filled?

Would those cold gates open wide?

Would you find that young boy

Who’s still crying deep inside?

Could you light a fire

Where the flames have long gone cold

And warm every corner

Til heat reaches the threshold?

Could flowers cover up

The dirt and death he feels?

Could some gentle caring

Help a lonely man to heal?

You look in the mirror

And find your child within

Then visit that poor man

And so the healing begins.

I hope you enjoyed seeing that again, this time with Maggie’s amazing doodles! Make sure to check out her poem! Which drawing was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

The Dark House: A Poem

Hey warriors! I recently realized I’ve been trying too hard to create helpful posts when this blog isn’t just for writing tips but for my writing! So here’s a poem I wrote. I hope you enjoy it!


The Dark House

The sound of beating hooves
Pound across the cobblestones
Cracked and coated in dirt.
From years of heavy burdens

The gate is iron cold,
Squealing dark disapproval.
Angry dogs threaten guests
Til one regrets arrival

Toward the gloomy house,
Up the winding path of stones,
Past the littered garden…
Could those be a human’s bones?

A loud clap of thunder
And dismal drops of cold rain…
The stink of cigar smoke…
Is someone crying from pain?

The door opens slowly:
The light of a fire dying,
A broken chair lies by
A bruised young boy still crying.

The dream is over and
You wake up and think of him
The tired criminal
You thought of as inhuman

His eyes were full of tears
But he never let them flow,
And deep inside he broke
But he never let it show.

Because another man
Had locked the boy deep inside
A prison made of lies
The boy did his best to hide

And as the boy grew up
He did things he knew were wrong
Then bore his punishments
Inwardly weak but so strong

The sin and taunts gather
Weighing on his weary heart
He’s sorry to be this
And longs for a brand new start

How many times have you
Judged this man for his tough face,
Not realizing the boy
Inside him has remained.

If you said you loved him
And gave him just one more chance,
Hugged him when you saw him
And smiled when you just glanced…

Would the old cracks be filled?
Would those cold gates open wide?
Would you find that young boy
Who’s still crying deep inside?

Could you light a fire
Where the flames have long gone cold
And warm every corner
Til heat reaches the threshold?

Could flowers cover up
The dirt and death he feels?
Could some gentle caring
Help a lonely man to heal?

You look in the mirror
And find your child within
Then visit that poor man
And so the healing begins.


I hope you enjoyed this poem. What is one way you could love someone today?

Clover’s Thanksgiving: A What Matters Most Deleted Scene

Hey warriors! I’m so sorry it’s been so long since I wrote a regular post, but here we are, back to writing! In this post, I took a What Matter Most deleted scene, edited out any spoilers, and analyzed why I didn’t include it after the first round of edits. Hopefully this post will be fun and perhaps helpful! Let’s dive in.


Clover’s Thanksgiving

“Move out of my way, darlin’! Would you get the casserole out of the oven?” My mom orders, speed-walking past me with a pot of mashed potatoes. It’s Thanksgiving, and, surprisingly, my house is a hectic place. It rarely has any action, but today my mom is waitressing her own family and my dad is praying he won’t be fixing his own things. Having seven cousins, two uncles, and three aunts in your house when you’re used to two adults who aren’t often home and one quiet teenager is a wild adventure. 

I think about this as I pass Uncle Jack and try to ignore Nora and Patrick’s loud arguing on my way to the commercial oven that my mom thankfully talked my dad into buying for her last year. If we didn’t have that, this would be an even more hectic place. Mom’s fabric oven mitts sit on the counter, waiting for me, so I slide them on, smiling at the floral pattern. She really needs new ones, since I bought these for her when I was six, but they’ve protected my mom’s hands as she’s baked many desserts and meals. I pull on the metal handle of the oven, releasing the delicious aroma of the Irish potato casserole. I reach for the casserole, and I’m about to pick it up when Sean grabs my shoulders. I jump, almost launching the casserole, but thankfully it remains in the oven. I glare at Sean as I actually take it out. “You do realize that would have burned both of us, right?” I scold him.

Sean’s green eyes are wide as he stares at me, but as I scold him, he has the decency to blush. He’s taller than me, but he’s only twelve. He, Uncle Joseph, Aunt Maeve, and Nora came all the way from Ireland to visit us on the most family-oriented American holiday of the year. “Sorry, Clovsie,” he says, his voice cracking awkwardly and his Irish accent in full swing. 

I roll my eyes at the nickname. “Just think before you act next time, ok?” I use my foot to knock the oven door closed again and I set the casserole on the counter.

“Thanks, darlin’,” Mom says, giving me a tired smile as she grabs a thermometer to check the casserole. 

I nod. “Anything else I can do?”

She shakes her head, even though I know there’s plenty I could help with. “Just go enjoy your cousins.”

“Ok. Let me know if you need help though,” I tell her. 

She leans over and hugs me, her apron smelling sweet and savory like all the food she’s been cooking.  “Don’t worry about me. I’ve got it under control.”

I don’t really believe her, but I walk into the living room where Nora and Patrick are still arguing, and Makenna, Liam, and Jaime are sitting on the couch on their phones, glancing up at the drama once in a while. Keira, the youngest cousin at age six, is playing with a toy in the corner of the room, but she keeps looking at the older ones, wanting someone to play with. I decide to see what’s happening between Nora and Patrick and then play with Keira, so I walk closer to the war zone.

“YOU BROKE IT! STOP DENYING IT!” Nora screams. Her Irish accent makes it almost feel comical, but in her hand is an iPhone 12 with a cracked screen. She’s sixteen and has a boyfriend who she said she was supposed to call about now, so I can see why she’s mad.

Patrick’s face is red with rage, and his muscles are bulging as he squeezes his hands into fists. He boxes, and I wouldn’t get in his way if I were Nora. Plus he’s almost nineteen.“STOP ACCUSING ME! THE ONLY FREAKIN’ THING I DID WAS TAKE IT FROM THE CAT!” I’m grateful Keira’s in the room, because otherwise Patrick might curse. 

“YOU JERK! A CAT DOESN’T BREAK A PHONE.”

As if to prove her wrong, Cheshire, who’s been sitting on the coffee table, jumps down, swishing his tail, and nearly knocks Patrick’s phone to the floor. 

Patrick’s eyes go wide as I dive for the phone, catching it. 

“Sorry, Nora,” I tell her, getting up and handing Patrick his phone. “Cheshire is a rather obstreperous cat.”

“What the heck does that mean?” she asks. She still looks mad, even though she knows by now that Cheshire’s at fault. “Do I look like I’m in the mood for your big brains stuff?” The way her dark brown hair frames her face and her green eyes shoot daggers, she reminds me of a scarier Ryleigh.

I blush. “Sorry. It just means that he’s hard to control.” I avoid adding that she’s rather obstreperous as well. 

Nora rolls her eyes and sits down to call her boyfriend. Apparently the phone still works.

I turn to walk toward Keira, but Patrick grabs my arm. “Thanks, Clovsie,” he says. “She’s…” He bites his lip, glancing over at Keira. “Crazy.” 

I shrug. “I mean, everyone has their good and bad moments.” I refuse to throw anyone under the bus, especially not my family. 

Patrick grins, his dark eyes lightening up a bit. “I don’t see you having a bad moment though.”

I roll my eyes, smiling. “Thanks, but I’ve had plenty.” It’s all I can do not to think about my stupidity these past few months.

He shrugs. “I haven’t seen any.”

I almost say “do you want to?” but then I realize that Patrick wouldn’t be scared in the slightest and that it would be a curious thing to say, so I shrug back before walking over toward Keira. 

Keira beams at me when I sit down across from her and holds up her stuffed cat. “This is Princess Emily Matthew. You wanna play?”

I nod, keeping a straight face even though I’m laughing inside. Keira and I play with Princess Emily Matthew until Mom calls us for lunch. 

As the cousins and I stampede into the dining room, I smile. I have a lot to be thankful for. Especially the fact that my name isn’t Princess Emily Matthew.


Why I Cut the Scene

Since What Matters Most was a NaNoWriMo novel, I was in the depths of fall and surrounded by preparations for Thanksgiving. The idea of a thanksgiving scene had bubbled below the surface from nearly the beginning, so I finally decided to write it. When I was editing, however, I realized that this scene just confirmed again parts of Clover’s character that were already clear. We met her family, but they weren’t important here. No part of this scene has anything to do with the plot, which is why I’m able to post it. I was sad to cut it because I felt it was written well, but it does much better as an extra scene than as a part of the story.

Thanks for reading this! I’m sorry I missed Middle-of-the-month check-ins this month, but I’m open for September submissions! I’ll be sharing the official guidelines in the next post (along with a Limited Teen’s Guide to Limited Time!), but the guidelines are also on the middle-of-the-month check-ins, which I linked above. Would you have cut this scene? What’s the hardest scene you ever had to cut? What makes you cut a scene? Let me know in the comments! See you next time!

The “What’s Your WIP?” Blog Tag!

Hey warriors! Welcome or welcome back to Words! Today I get to tell you more about my WIP, thanks to Sara at Sparkle Girl! Thanks so much Sara! (And y’all, go check out her blog! It’s amazing!) This will be a long post but I hope you enjoy it. Let’s dive in! (Also… this post looks much better on the actual site, https://kaleykriesel.wordpress.com.)

Rules

  • Thank the person who tagged you & link to their blog. (Thanks again, Sara!)
  • Link back to the creator, Katja @ Little Blossoms for Jesus, & add the tag graphic.
  • List the rules.
  • Answer the questions.
  • Feel free to add snippets!
  • Tag as many or as few people as you wish & let them know they’re tagged.
  • Add a clean copy of the questions at the end of your post for the tagged.

Tag

Note: This tag is long so I tried to keep my answers short but full of information. This book contains some minor trigger warnings but nothing is explicitly mentioned here.

Has your WIP a working title? If so, tell us! If not, have you any idea of what it might be?

My main WIP is titled “What Matters Most.” I’ll be talking about it (and its sequel) for the tag today. The sequel’s title is currently No Matter What but I’m not sure it really fits the story yet.

Have you a synopsis for your WIP? If so, give it to us! If not, can you give us a blurb on what your WIP is about?

Here’s the blurb for the first book:

Trixie Alcaraz doesn’t understand people. Sometimes people care, and sometimes they don’t. Like her parents, who don’t care for each other and left her with her older sister, and like her sister, who seems so caught up in building a future she hardly sees Trixie. So when it seems that the popular kids at her new school are caring, Trixie happily jumps into their midst… only to find out that she still feels alone.

Clover Montgomery is hard on herself. Even as her blog grows in followers, she can’t help but wish that she knew how to speak to people offline the way her best friend Amelia does, and when people say mean things, she’s prone to believe them. When she encounters bullies, she begins to inwardly tear herself apart.

Amelia Standish feels forgotten. As the middle child and only girl in her family, she wonders if she’ll ever be as popular as her best friend, Clover, or the new girl, Trixie. When she sets her mind to get noticed, it hardly seems to matter who’s doing the noticing; as long as they’re popular, she wants them to see her. When popular boy Wyatt begins to pay attention, she’s determined to do whatever it takes to keep it that way.

A little bit of chance and their hidden desires blaze into a fire of friendship when the girls meet. But as each is confronted with the question of who they are and what they believe in, things start to fall apart. Is friendship worth preserving if it exposes your brokenness? And how do you save what already seems gone?

I won’t reveal anything about the second book’s plot simply because it isn’t written yet and would spoil the first.

Have you a working/mock cover for your WIP? If so, show us! If not, have you an idea in mind?

One is in the works for What Matters Most! It’s going to be a watercolor painting of some key things from the book with some fairy light. My sister will be painting it, once I get a picture of the objects to her. Which… hadn’t quite yet happened. But I’m also brainstorming a similar but different one for the sequel.

How did you get the idea for this story?

I’d wanted to do a story about friendship with three plots that meld into a fourth for a while, but I wasn’t sure how. Then I signed up for my first NaNoWriMo and I decided “Ok, if I’m going to write this, I’ve got to figure it out now.” So I brainstormed some things that affect teen girls today and decided to write a school story as realistically as I could. I didn’t want to load it with stereotypes and mean girls without purpose. But writing a school story realistically when I’m homeschooled is a real challenge. Hopefully I can pull it off. The second book really just came because I couldn’t leave my characters after I finished What Matters Most.

How long do you think it will be? Is it longer or shorter than you thought it would be?

The first is around 50k right now and that’s after the first round of edits. It’s shorter than I wanted it, which is kind of disappointing but I do know some things that I might be able to successfully bring out more to enhance the plot. If they work, I’m expecting it to at least reach 53k. The second might be longer but it will probably be around the same size.

Who’s your favourite character so far?

I want to say all of them but I really have to say Noah Hamilton. He’s in both books, in the first as a side character and in the second as a main character. He. Is. A. MOOD. He looks stoic and unhappy, is extremely intimidating on the outside, and doesn’t speak much. But when he does speak… he’s a total marshmallow on the inside. He just hides it away and sometimes pretends he isn’t. He’s blunt and to the point but not one to hurt with his words without a reason. He’s fiercely loyal and protective as well as gentle and caring. I am obsessed with him…. He has flaws, but man is he the best. Is it bad that I have a crush on a character I created?

What’s your favourite memory related to this WiP?

Ooh… that would probably be the day I wrote 6k and met my NaNo goal. But there’s so many memories of laughing and stressing and pouring everything on this book I don’t exactly have an answer. I don’t yet have much for the sequel, but the first chapter is currently one of my favorite things I’ve written.

Any special person(s) who helped create it?

Oh gosh… I’m going to make you all wait for the acknowledgments page whenever it publishes simply because I have so many people who have helped me and pushed me forward. I’m so insanely lucky.

What’s your favourite scene so far (if you can tell about it without spoilers!)?

I think the least spoiler-y favorite is the scene where Noah and Clover really meet the first time. She’s so scared of him even though he’s just helped her with something. He proves in that moment that there’s a sweet side hiding underneath all the intimidating layers. Clover also surprises herself in this scene, but I think explaining that would spoil. And, as mentioned for the sequel, my favorite scene has to be the first scene in chapter 1. But I won’t spoil…

Can you give us a snippet?

… or maybe I will spoil from the sequel, just a little.

Here’s an edited portion of that scene without major spoilers from Noah’s perspective. Trigger warnings: blood, mention of death.

“I force myself to pack my old guitar into its guitar case slowly, telling myself it isn’t that big of a deal. Guys and girls hang out all the time, and when they’re our age, it normally gets forgotten in about four weeks. I’m dreaming too big. Picking up the case with my right hand, I adjust my hat with my left before walking out the door, through the hall, and into the living room. Nodding at my dad, who’s sitting in the old armchair, I open the front door. “See you, Dad.”

“Love you, Noah,” he says, his deep voice tired. He coughs softly and then falls silent. His eyes are sleepily trying to close, even though his glasses are still on and his book lies open in his lap.

“You too, Dad,” I tell him, not really feeling like smiling now. He over did it at the store stocking shelves again. I can see it in his face, in the way his arms limply sink into the threadbare armrests, in the way he’s just sort of melted into the chair. Frowning, I walk outside and shut the door behind me. Her house is pretty far away, so I start walking quickly, not wanting to be late. The sun that felt so right just a little bit ago feels overly optimistic. A girl shouldn’t be liking me if my dad can’t have my mom because of stupid people. A girl shouldn’t like me if my dad can’t have his leg, an actual part of him. And even more than just a girl, … a beautiful, super smart girl like [her] should definitely never like me. Kicking every crack in the sidewalk in our neighborhood, I ask the cement silently how come I get to have such a good life when my dad can hardly do his job without feeling exhausted. Then I reach The Concrete Block and I force my eyes up and away quickly. I can’t look. I force myself to breathe like I’m fine, but I didn’t mean to see it.

The Concrete Block is a reminder of all I lost, all the stupidity of this world, all the reasons I don’t deserve this. The Concrete Block has splotches of red where nobody bothered to clean the blood and where it’s stained forever. The Concrete Block is where the screams and sounds came from, the ones I heard all that way away and that haunted me for so long since even though I didn’t know the girl. The Concrete Block is where I first really knew what my mom might have suffered when she died. And if I look, I might break. So I don’t look and keep walking, wishing I hadn’t agreed to hang out tonight.

Sorry for any tears caused lol.

Is the story still what you thought it would be or has it thrown you a couple curveballs?

I definitely didn’t see anything from the sequel coming, nor several things from the first book… I couldn’t even begin to list the curveballs if I wanted to.

Is there a Bible verse, poem, hymn, picture, or quote that helped shape this story?

For WMM I think Abbie Emmons’s cover for 100 Days of Sunlight inspired me most, although I know the quote “When people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them,” from Maria Popova sums up the theme of the book fairly well.

When and where have you done most of the writing so far?

Mostly sitting on the floor…. For some reason I work best there. To be specific, I wrote WMM sitting on the floor of the library we have in a corner upstairs. I did most of it in the evenings of last November for NaNoWriMo

Where do you get inspiration for this story?

I remind myself of all the girls out there who keep getting told to ignore what certain people say but still don’t know what they’re worth. I remind myself of all the people reading books that don’t relate to their real lives and wonder “when will I find a book that I can really believe can happen and find help for my situation from?” Those are the biggest ways I’ve been inspired, but not the only ways.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Actually this book has totally changed that. I was a total pantser and now I will never again write a book without plotting it first.

Do you have a little ritual before you start writing?

Not really. I look over the outline and whatever I’ve last written and just dive in.

Are you thinking of publishing this story?

Yes! Both should be out by 2025 at latest, but WMM will be out (hopefully!) next year.

What things have you learned while writing this story?

I can. That’s what I’ve learned. I can write characters I don’t share much experience with. I can write every day for a month. I can write 50k. I can plot. I can write something that can make a difference. I can.


I hope you learned something new and enjoyed this post! I’m going to leave this open to anyone who has yet to share their amazing book with the world. Here are the questions:

  • Has your WIP a working title? If so, tell us! If not, have you any idea of what it might be?
  • Have you a synopsis for your WIP? If so, give it to us! If not, can you give us a blurb on what your WIP is about?
  • Have you a working/mock cover for your WIP? If so, show us! If not, have you an idea in mind?
  • How did you get the idea for this story?
  • How long do you think it will be? Is it longer or shorter than you thought it would be?
  • Who’s your favourite character so far?
  • What’s your favourite memory related to this WiP?
  • Any special person(s) who helped create it?
  • What’s your favourite scene so far (if you can tell about it without spoilers!)?
  • Can you give us a snippet?
  • Is the story still what you thought it would be or has it thrown you a couple curveballs?
  • Is there a Bible verse, poem, hymn, picture, or quote that helped shape this story?
  • When and where have you done most of the writing so far?
  • Where do you get inspiration for this story?
  • Are you a plotter or a pantser?
  • Do you have a little ritual before you start writing?
  • Are you thinking of publishing this story?
  • What things have you learned while writing this story?

Is there anything that surprised you in the post? Anything you’re excited for in my book? Whats your book about? Let me know in the comments!

Snapshot: My Best and Worst Hooks (+ What I’ve Learned)

Hey warriors! This post is the first in what might become a series of snippets from my journey as a writer. This post is on hooks, those first sentences meant to draw you in. A blogger and Ydubber I know, Lydia K, recently posted this post on her blog and it looked like so much fun that I thought I’d give it a go. So here we are today! I’ll be analyzing 10 of my hooks (even from different drafts) from worst to best and explaining why they’re bad or good in my opinion. Then I’ll share some of my favorite hooks from books with what I’ve learned from them! This will be a long post, but I hope it helps you! Let’s dive in!

Note: This is based on my own experience as both a reader and writer. Some things may not match your experience or your audience.


Age 10-12

I began writing when I was about 7, but I really began to treat it as a passion and dream instead of a hobby when I was 12. Not because I knew how or knew what to say but because people began to really enjoy my words and I became more able to write large amounts. Here were some of the hooks of books that encouraged me to think I could:

If, by chance, you read the “Southern Cooking” magazine, you might find a wonderful article.

Cooking Canine, age 10-11


Analysis: This hook is… something. The grammar and arrangement doesn’t present me well because it’s overloaded with comas. The lone adjective I used was nondescript, not drawing much interest.
What I could have done to improve it: If we remove “by chance” we lose two comas that muddy the sentence. We could also replace “wonderful” with a more drawing adjective to make us question what’s within the article.

Maddie Henderson was a student at the prestigious Hailee Quinn academy.

Academy Action, age 11-12


Analysis: We began this one by stating a fact, which is my current favorite way to write a hook. However, this doesn’t leave us with much to question or prove. If I read this sentence now, I wouldn’t want to continue.
What I could have done to improve it: If I had begun with a fact that left room for questioning, the reader would have been forced to continue. “Maddie Henderson wasn’t your average student at your average school,” isn’t perfect either, but by stating something vaguely I make the reader more curious. How do we know this? What does that mean? It encourages them to continue.

“Elizabeth Jackson had always been part of the guardian ponies.”

– The Pony Revenge, age 11-12


Analysis: This one is extremely similar to the previous example and has the same problem. However, I did make it slightly more curious. What are the guardian ponies? Is she a pony? Why has she always been involved?
What I could have done to improve it: This one needs to be vaguer still. “She had always been one of the revenge ponies,” is both clearer and more interesting. Who is she? What are they? We know “she” is a revenge pony, though, which means she is a pony. I prefer it, but that’s a personal preference.

Age 12-14

Once I was 12, I really began typing up my stories. Typing them up instead of writing them by hand was far quicker, meaning I could write much more. I also felt extremely inspired because I could share writing more easily and could get help from new writer friends.

The 13th century scientist Eustace sniggered at the tool before him.

Second Moon, age 12

Analysis: This hook is much better although the subject isn’t vague. Why is he sniggering? What is this tool? What is it for? This hook is one that makes us ask questions by diving straight into the narrative. I enjoy this one.
What I could have done to improve it: It could have done without mentioning that he was a 13th-century scientist in this portion. I could have just said “The scientist Eustace.” I can’t think of any other improvements.

“Intro to Atmosphere’s High School, by Ms. Solar Energy: Welcome to Atmosphere High, home of the Comets!”

-Universe draft 1, age 12

Analysis: This isn’t a good hook at all, at least not in my opinion. It’s full of information we never see again in the story. We never again mention the Comets, so that shouldn’t matter. Ms. Solar Energy never appears again either. Those are about the most fascinating things in this hook. I also repeated “Atmosphere High” twice. It’s wordy and doesn’t have much connection to the plot.
What I could have done to improve it: This sentence really can’t be fixed. It’s the first sentence of a snippet the main character reads from a pamphlet so I could introduce the school. However I didn’t need to introduce it in that way. Always start with the protagonist in a chapter 1. If you do a prologue in third person, you can choose another character, but this strategy can cause us to fall in love with another character first and that can cause problems. The main character is meant to be most important, so starting with them makes it clear who’s priority from the beginning.

The short man with white hair that practically glowed smiled as he stared at the large map in front of him.

Universe draft 2, age 13

Analysis: This is an example of starting a story with a prologue from the perspective of the villain. It works, but it can cause us to start sympathizing with him before we meet the main character. While you do want a villain you can believe in or even feel bad for, they can not be more loved than the main character.
What I could have done to improve it: Why is his hair important? I could easily have made it less central: “The short white-haired man smiled as he stared at the large map in front of him.” I also should have made it clear that he is not the protagonist. I need him to appear sinister or at least a little less likeable. “The short white-haired man smirked at the large map in front of him and gave it a quick nod.” This shows he has a plan and the smirk makes his intentions seem less friendly.

The long braid of periwinkle hair with silver highlights swung back and forth as Foggy Skye walked up the stairs nervously.

Universe draft 3, age 14

Analysis: Again with the hair…. When you start with physical details, the reader is given random information that isn’t relevant to them yet. They haven’t had a reason to care about the character, let alone care what they look like.
What I could have done to improve it: Instead of using the hair for description, it could have set the mood. “The long braid swung back and forth gently across her back as Foggy Skye nervously walked up the stairs,” is a more interesting sentence. Why is she nervous? But it still doesn’t grab me as much. It’s not my favorite.

It was strange, but it was her.

Little Red, age 13-14

Analysis: This is short and sweet, a declaration that we don’t understand unless we read more. This is much better. What’s strange? What does it mean, that it was her? However, the opening scene that followed had little relevance to the plot and did little for character building.
What I could have done to improve it: The sentence itself is good. However, I needed to put more thought into keeping the reader hooked and connecting the scene to the plot. The hook may be the first one or two sentences, but the reader needs to remain hooked throughout the story. Confusion and poorly written scenes don’t help that.

Age 14-15


After I joined The Young Writers’ Workshop my writing greatly improved. I wrote my first novel-length story in less than a year.

As she gazed into the box, Eloise felt a tear fall.

Box of Leaves, age 14

Analysis: This sentence isn’t awful, but it isn’t too drawing either. Yes, we wonder what this box is and why she’s crying, but we don’t care much for her yet. Our first impression of her is that she’s crying over a box.
What I could have done to improve it: This sentence comes across as quite dramatic and unnecessary. It would have been better to write something from just before that moment as the hook. “She hadn’t expected to find the box. But as she gazed into it, Eloise felt a tear fall, frozen in time.” This one is personal preference, though.

“When everyone you love runs from you, you start wondering if anyone will ever stay.”

What Matters Most, age 15

Analysis: This one is the best hook I think I’ve ever written. Why? Because it states a thought as fact that makes you wonder who the character is, why they know this, and how they know this is true. It points us to their past as we dive into the present story. It uses simple language to describe a feeling, meaning it cuts deeper than flowery language. I recently revised this one and currently have no thoughts on how to improve it.

Some Favorite Hooks and Why They Work

These are some of my favorite hooks from best-selling authors.

The old woman remembered a swan she had bought many years ago in Shanghai for a foolish sum.

The Joy-Luck Club, Amy Tan

Analysis: This one is powerful because it supplies interesting information but leaves us asking questions. Who is she? Why did she buy a swan? What did she buy it for? To find out, we have to keep reading.

“Before you agree to have Joseph come live with you, ” Mrs. Stroud said, “there are one or two things you ought to understand. “

Orbiting Jupiter, Gary D. Schmidt

Analysis: When I read this line, I instantly wonder about many things. Who is Joseph? Who is he coming to live with? Who is Mrs. Stroud? What ought they understand? He also instantly makes Mrs. Stroud seem realistic by using common speech. We also are instantly plummeted into the narrator’s perspective. This is done extremely well.

Henry Smith’s father told him that if you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you.

Trouble, Gary D. Schmidt

Analysis: Trouble immediately begins with the character and a belief he and his family have that directly affects the plot. This is actually one of the character’s misbeliefs. We also wonder who their father is and why he believes this. I definitely am hooked by a story starting with a fact or opinion that needs to be proved.

When did this fairytale become a nightmare?

Dust, Kara Swanson

Analysis: By asking a vague question, Swanson plants the question and more questions in our minds. When did this fairytale become a nightmare? What fairytale? What happened? Who’s speaking? We are eager to learn more.

Conclusion

When writing a hook, consider these points:

  • The hook is the first impression readers get of your story and your writing, right after the cover.
  • The hook should be clear and express your writer’s voice clearly.
  • If you begin with poor grammar and confusing words, your reader will not enjoy your story as much.
  • The hook should not satisfy the reader. It is meant to pull them in by causing them to have questions that are only answered by reading further.
  • A hook filled with information that doesn’t matter to the reader will not draw a reader.
  • A hook that is irrelevant to the plot will lead the reader to the left when you need them to go right. It is more of a flashy distraction than a hook.
  • Be careful who you use first in your story as they are the first person in the story the reader might get attached to.
  • Short hooks and questions that are written well can cause the reader to ask lots of questions in a few words.
  • Too much emotion in a hook is like switching channels to a death scene halfway through a show. You don’t care enough about the character to really feel the emotion and be affected by it.
  • Facts and opinions make great hooks because a reader wonders how the character knows that or why they believe it. If these facts or opinions are meant to relate to your audience, they instantly attract those people.
  • Using a misbelief or past pain in a hook can plunge us into the plot, although you don’t want to do this too quickly. Jumping into ice water isn’t fun.
  • If you are writing in first person, the hook should instantly establish what the character thinks, hears, or sees.

I hope this post was helpful to you! Which hook was your favorite? What was something you learned? Was there anything you disagreed with? What’s your best hook? Let me know in the comments!

Worth It: A Story

Hey warriors! Today I have a unique piece of writing for you. I will warn you that it is a mix of fact, imagination, and a little bit of inner experience. You may not agree with everything I say, still, I hope it speaks to every one of you.


Trigger warning: blood, death, drunkenness, mention of smoking, mention of torture, a romantic relationship, and mention of storms.

A heavy wood beam drags in the sand. Slowly it digs deeper as the one carrying it grows weaker. A soldier walks nearby, eager to taunt and torture the 33 year old man as he carries it onward. In the soldier’s eyes, the man is crazy and weakening. But what he doesn’t know is that, as the man slowly lets the beam down and another man picks it up, this exhausted and bleeding prisoner destined to die is neither crazy nor weak. In fact, this man has already broken through the highest thoughts of his time and is about to do more than has ever been done. All while being hated.

***

In the far future, a woman is surrounded by her peers. She is just over 30 and has never drunk alcohol, not because she’s so strong to resist it but because she’s never been around it and has never been interested in it. She knows it isn’t good for her and doesn’t intend to drink because she believes it’s better not to but she’s never had friends who drink, or at least not friends who cared if she did or not. But tonight she’s surrounded by partially drunk men and women, laughing and joking and telling her to lighten up. Just a sip. One sip. Only one! And it tastes so good… it feels so good…. Blind to the woman getting sick in the corner of the room, unthreatened by weapons but pressured by words, she hesitantly reaches for a cup and slowly presses it to her lips.

***

The man stumbles forward until they reach a hill called Golgotha by Jews and Calvary by Romans, where the solider and another one of the men pound the wood beam into the ground. It’s tall, with another beam across it at the top. Slowly the two men lift this dying man up and jam nails into each hand, piercing them through and through the wood beam. Then they put one of his feet over the other and nail through them both, again piercing both even through the cross. Beside this cross and this dying man are two other crosses, one on each side, with two other men hanging on them. Painfully, the men gasp for breath as gravity slowly pushes their weight against their lungs. They’re going to suffocate before too long, and they know it. But while the other two men are primarily in pain from their lack of air and the piercings in their hands and feet, the middle one has even more reason to be dying: his back is covered in bleeding wounds, as is his scalp. They tortured him to the point where he almost died already today: they whipped him with a sharp lash, leaving deep bleeding cuts. One more lash of the whip and he would have died. They taunted him for calling himself the Christ, the king of the Jews, and wrapped his bleeding body in a purple robe and placed a crown made of thorns on his head. Then, after the robe had dried onto his bloody back, they ripped it away. They took off the crown of thorns. And they made him carry his cross like the other two, the rough and heavy wood digging into his torn back as he walked up hill under the burning late morning sun. Still he has not refuted his claim.

***

The woman doesn’t like the first cup, but as the drunk people encourage her to drink more, she continues. Then she begins to lose herself in the feeling, the freeness of it for a moment. It seems so good… and she continues, feeling like she fits in, like she is a part of the crowd. It feels so good to forget the pain and stress. She begins to party too, looking just like one of them.

***

This man has limited time to live, but in the six agonizing hours he suffers on the cross, he comforts the man beside him, tells one of his followers to look after his sobbing mother and her to look after the follower, and cries out to God for forgiveness on behalf of those killing him. He is in great pain and torment, but not only because of the horrific torture he is suffering physically. No, because in his heart he feels the weight of every sin ever committed. Not his own sins, but the evils of others. Thousands and thousands of people and their millions and millions of sins weigh heavy on his heart. He knows he is dying for these people, these wrongs. And he loves them. So right now, his holy God and Father has left him for the first time in his life. Though he never once sinned, he is covered in the filth of others and his righteous Father is unable to be with him. He cries, “My God, my God! Why have You forsaken me?” but he knows the answer. His Father can do anything but touch sin, and now, as the sky becomes dark and it becomes harder and harder to breathe, His son is sin itself.

***

When the party finishes, her friends drive her back to the hotel she’s been staying at. She opens the door to her room and collapses to the ground, sick and feeling awful. Her boyfriend hears the door and her body hitting the floor and runs to see what the matter is. When he finds her drunk, he’s disgusted. He found her smoking a couple days ago, too. This isn’t the woman he fell in love with! Why did he agree to come on this trip so she could visit friends? He reluctantly puts her in bed and lies down beside her, angry and planning to confront her about it in the morning. As he closes his eyes, he’s given up on her. One more thing like this and he’s leaving. Or maybe sooner. He can’t take this.

***

As he begins to still, he knows that this is a part of the plan. He isn’t crazy. He really is the Christ, the king of the Jews. He isn’t weak, either. He is the only human ever to have lived a life without any sin or failure. Not because He’s been so good out of His own humanity, but because He has God’s life within His spirit, a goal within His heart, and a plan in His mind. He was born by the Spirit in the womb of His mother as a human who is God. It hasn’t been easy; He has been a man of suffering. He spent weeks in a wilderness without bread, confronted by the devil himself. He was taunted by those who thought He blasphemed the God He was, who thought He broke laws He created to last until He came. He was sold by a follower and betrayed with a kiss to the failing leaders of His precious people. He asked His Father to take away this death He knew He would suffer, crying tears so distressed that they were made of blood, but He knew this was the only way. And He knew what would come next. He knew why He needed to die because He never stopped speaking with God. He knew God’s heart well because it was His own. Though humans would never understand fully while on Earth how it was possible, He and the Father were one. And as He ended His human life, He was strong. Knowing this, He breathed His last and His body hung limp against the wooden cross.

***

When the woman awakes, she sees her boyfriend’s suitcase by the door and fear fills her heart. He’s leaving her. She begins to cry softly, hating what she’s done. Why did she give in? Why?
Meanwhile her boyfriend notices the sound of her breathing change from where he stands in the entryway of the bathroom. She’s awake. He feels a twinge of pity. If he leaves, who will she have left? She’ll be alone. But he tries to push it away as he returns to packing silently. He’s leaving.

***

His followers mourn at the loss of their Teacher while the crowd rejoices at being rid of a man they believe to have blasphemed their God. The triumphant cheers of the crowd are cut short. Not only is this man dead, but the ground has begun to shake violently beneath them. Rocks split into bits. Cries rise across the city, whether or not they can be heard from Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. The veil between the Holy of Holies and the rest of the temple, the veil between God and man, is split from top to bottom. It’s as if a hand from above tears it in two. No more is there a barrier between them. In the distance, even more has happened: the earthquake has opened tombs and, though no one is aware, dead followers of this Jesus of Nazareth rise to life once more. They will come out soon, when He too rises to life. In three days He will conquer death.

***

The woman’s boyfriend picks up his suitcase and looks her in the eye. Too exhausted and overwhelmed with emotion and sickness to speak, she doesn’t say a word. But he does.
“You changed. And I can’t do that.” With that, he leaves.
A sob escapes her lips. Desperate for some comfort, the woman remembers a Sunday school class long ago. There had been a loud storm, and the children were afraid. The kind old woman who taught the class had told them that Jesus brought peace in the storm and had told them stories of storms in the Bible where Jesus kept His precious children safe, from Noah to Paul. All this time she’d been running from Jesus, thinking life was meant for fun. But it just got her here, alone in a hotel room and sick from drinking. “Lord, she whispers now. I don’t know what to pray, but I’m sorry. I need peace. Please come into this storm. I keep messing up and I want to be free. Save me from this mess, Lord!” And even as she lies in bed, tears streaming down her face, peace and joy fill her heart. Everything she once believed that kept her from Christ is shaken, every sin that drew her away is now torn into nonexistence. A part of her heart that once was dead now lives, loving this Jesus who can calm the most violent storm. “Praise You Lord!” She can’t stop the comfort. She is safe now. Safe in His arms.

As He floods into her heart, shining His light into the dark and filling the cracks with Himself as the Spirit, He smiles. This is what it was for. This is why He died. Kissing her broken pieces and holding them tight, He whispers, This is why I died. This is why I rose. This was My heart’s desire. To gain you. To gain others through you. To love you as My bride and see your beautiful smile as you begin to reflect Me. All that suffering was worth it, because now I have you. You are Mine, precious child, forevermore.


If you haven’t yet experienced the joy of the earth-shaking veil-tearing dead-raising Son of God, it’s as simple as whispering that you believe He died for your sins and rose that He might live in you as a new life, a different life. If you have received Him, what’s your story? Let me know in the comments!

Freedom: A Snippet of What Matters Most

Hey, writer and readers! Welcome or welcome back to Words! Today’s post is a snippet from my book, What Matters Most, that I plan to self publish later this year. I hope you enjoy!


I’m still not sure what love is, even though I’ve lived with my mom in New York City for years; why would Oklahoma be any better? The same sister who didn’t care in the Big Apple isn’t about to care in her fancy house in Oklahoma, will she? The mom who seemed to care so much even when she was busy doesn’t want me gone now, does she? I don’t have any answers. But as I stare at my room in the first apartment in the United States I ever lived in, I do have memories, both in the room and in the city.

This is where I first spoke English, where I learned what the United States meant. 

This is where I broke my first bone, where I lost my baby teeth, where I started dance, where I met Chloe and Belle and Emma, where I became a citizen of my country.

This is where Chloe taught me how to sneak out without my mom knowing, where Liam first said he liked me, where Liam first hugged me goodnight, where Liam and Chloe and Belle and Emma all said goodbye, angry that I would leave them for middle-of-pathetic Moore, Oklahoma. 

This is where we first smiled at a U.S. sunset, where my dad left, and where my sister fled.

And now Mama is making me leave. I don’t understand, and maybe I never will. I sigh deeply as I gaze around the room, the moonlight and the lights of the city shining through my small window to illuminate my whole life thus far: my dresser, where all my fashion dreams live. My desk, where my art is randomly splayed across the top.  My closet, filled with my books and more clothes and a trunk full of childhood memories.

Tears creep down my cheeks, angry and afraid and… relieved. I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to see Bianca, my sister that ran away. But maybe… maybe I do want a new start. Maybe I do want to heal. Maybe… maybe this is my chance.

I close my eyes, allowing the tears to flow from my heart onto my worn quilt as I snuggle deeper into the blankets. Freedom. Wasn’t that what Mama wanted, all those years ago?

Maybe now I know what she felt. Maybe now I understand, even though I’m angry.

Funny how the more I get mad at her, the more I see her in the mirror. Funny how our stories cross. Funny how she’s ready to give up a part of herself… even if the part of herself isn’t ready to leave.

Delirium sets in, filling my mind with memories mixed with dreams. 

Goodnight, New York City. Goodnight, childhood. Goodnight, world. Goodnight, future. I’ll face you tomorrow.


Sorry to keep today’s post so short, but let me know what you think! Did you like it? Do you have any questions or comments on the passage? Do you want to see more? Let me know in the comments!