Wednesday, November 7, 2018
WRITER 2 WRITER: WHAT IS A PAGE-TURNER?
HOW TO WRITE A REAL-PAGE TURNER, PART I
WHAT IS A PAGE-TURNER?
This term is probably one of the most sought-after compliments an author can receive about our books. It means we have succeeded in keeping our readers engaged from the first page to the last, and that they have connected with our story in a way that is both satisfying and invigorating. Books like that are never forgotten and are most likely to be the ones readers will rave to their friends about.
Here are some quotes from reviews of page-turners, quotes we authors all want to hear about our books:
“I just couldn’t put it down!”
“I have to know what happens next.”
“Kept my attention to the last page.”
“A book I would definitely read again.”
“Holy Moly! Read this book now!”
Now, you may be thinking that writing a page-turner applies only to specific genres like thrillers, action-adventure, or horror. If you think that you could never write one because you write romance novels, kidlit, or even non-fiction, think again.
Page-turners transcend genre and target audiences. The Da Vinci Code, an action-packed suspense/mystery, is definitely a page-turner. But so are Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen, a non-fiction narrative about the history of the 1898 World’s Fair and America’s first serial killer; The Hunger Games, a young adult dystopian about kids who kill each other in an arena; Wonder by R.J. Palacio, a contemporary middle grade novel about a boy with a facial deformity; The Help, a historical novel about the racial tensions of 1960s south; and If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, a picture book about a very demanding little mouse. In other words, it doesn’t matter what kind of book you are writing or who you are writing it for, you CAN write a real page-turner.
Not every book has to be a page-turner. There are plenty of wonderful, slow-burning books out there, and many readers enjoy the kind of tomes they can snuggle up with in front of a cozy fire, or pace their read over several weeks or months. If that’s the sort of book you want to write, then read no further. Butt if you want your readers to gnaw at their fingernails late into the night because they can’t wait to find out what happens next, then this series is for you.
For the next four weeks, I’ll be sharing my tips on how to turn your book into a real page-turner. For starters, the two most important elements your book should have are:
— COMPELLING WRITING
— CLEAN WRITING
First, a compelling piece of fiction or non-fiction means that the narrative (the writing) has a fluid feel to it. The genre, the style, the voice will naturally vary from author to author. Some books will have short chapters, others long. Some will be written in first person, others in third. There is no specific kind of book that is guaranteed to hook readers. What is important is that you write your story, whatever that entails. Once it is written, however, it is essential that you take your manuscript through an intense revision process. But before you send it to a professional editor (and you should) what can you, the author, do to make sure your book “flows” well?
Whenever I reach the point when I feel like my book is finished, I print it out on paper and read the entire book out loud – with a pen in my hand. As I read, I make revisions in the text. I’m listening to make sure each sentence reads smoothly, that the dialogue sounds natural, and that there are no spots that would trip up a reader.
Another technique is to have someone else read the text to you. However, few people are willing to sit and read an entire book-length work verbally. So, an alternative is to read it out loud and record it. Then play the recording back to yourself.
Second, what do I mean by clean writing? I’m not talking about making your book ‘G-rated’. Instead, a clean manuscript means it is free of typographical errors: spelling, grammar, missing words, capitalization, punctuation, etc. Far too many otherwise good self-published books fall flat because the authors skimped on the proofreading process.
If you think you’re a good proofreader, think again. I have been editing other people’s work for many years, but I never rely on my own skills to proofread my books. I always hire a professional. Why? Because by the time I’ve reached that point in a project, I have read the manuscript dozens of times. I’m too close to it. I simply cannot see the mistakes anymore.
Our brains have the uncanny ability to fill in the blanks, so to speak. When we read something with which we are familiar, our brain knows what the words should say and what the sentences should look like, even when they don’t. The brain actually “fixes” the problems, and we are not even aware of it.
So, step one to creating a dazzling page-turner is to make sure your writing is compelling and clean.
Next week, we will dive into the “5 Sure-fire Fun-Suckers”, the things you should avoid while writing your book.