Mistake 19: Not Having a Hook

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer, from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit

Why this is a mistake: If you don’t hook the reader, she will stop reading, which means your career as a writer will be a short one. It doesn’t matter what kind of writing you do. A newspaper reporter has to hook a reader within a few words. A novelist within a few pages. It does appear that people’s attention spans are getting shorter,
so hooking your reader early is becoming even more important. Whatever field of writing you are in, you are competing with a lot of other media for the reader’s attention.

The solution:
A hook is emotional, as well as intellectual. The Da Vinci Code had a great intellectual hook in its opening chapter: a puzzle that drew readers in. You need something in your opening that will grab the reader.

Go to a bookstore and walk to the new fiction section. Pick up the hardcovers and read the opening pages. See how many of those hook you with just the first page. Examine why those pages hook you. Examine which ones don’t hook you and ask why not. Is it the setting? The characters? The writing? See how the opening scene in each book ends. How does the author draw you in and keep your drawn into the book?

If you want to write an article or essay, look through magazines and literary journals and read pieces similar to the one you’re working on. Study each piece and think about what draws you, as well as what turns you off.

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