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Every Book Deserves a Hook

It’s always struck me as an odd paradox that writers sometimes have the hardest time describing what their book is about. I’ve sat through any number of pitch sessions at writers conferences where a writer with good publishing credits will start to describe her book, and in no time flat she’ll lose me with an overly detailed plot summary or a tortured explanation of what she was trying to achieve.

Do you ever find yourself struggling to sum up your work in a compelling way? Well, then I strongly suggest you check out the writers’ blog Through the Tollbooth, where they’ve got an excellent two-part post on crafting a “hook.” Not only do they provide a persuasive argument for why all books need a hook, but they offer good, concrete steps for coming up with one. I have to admit, I’ve led a number of workshops with authors on how to shape a hook or pitch, and while I’ve been able to suggest ways to improve the pitch they’ve presented, I’ve never had a good answer for how to initiate the process. From here on out, the hundred words and three questions are definitely in my toolbox!

The one point I’d love for them to explore a bit more (and maybe this is a post to come) is where in the writing process do you start thinking about your hook. While the authors talk about how a hook can be a tool in the writing process, they seem to suggest it’s not where a book begins. And most of the focus seems to be on crafting a hook once the book is done.

So, I’ll put it to you: at what point in your writing do you start thinking about your pitch? At the start? Along the way? At the end?

5 Responses to Every Book Deserves a Hook

  1. Joelle says:

    First thing. Right at the beginning. That said, my first two books have solid 1-2 sentence hooks and I guess you could call them more action oriented than emotionally oriented, although they do have…you know…emotions in them. My third book is much more character driven than actin driven, and while it’s done, I still don’t know how to answer, “What’s your book about?” for it. I had more trouble writing it than I did the first two, but think it’s better than either of them. So, essentially, I don’t know which is the way to go! I do know it’s much easier as a writer to have a couple of sentences ready to answer that question whether it’s when you’re writing it or it’s already published. As I start a new book, I definitely see myself coming up with the hook first.

  2. Jude Hardin says:

    I usually don’t think about it until the book is finished. Here’s what I posted on My Amazon page for my next Nicholas Colt book (Thomas and Mercer, November 20)

    Captured and coerced by a wealthy and sadistic megalomaniac, private investigator Nicholas Colt is forced to compete in the most perilous game imaginable…

    SNUFF TAG 9

    There’s a word for the player who wins: Alive

  3. With all three of my books, I had the hook before I even started writing the outline or book proposal. Having a hook before you get started is essential for staying focused when writing. My next book, EcoThrifty, which comes out in a couple weeks, is about saving a fortune while saving the earth! When I was writing the book, if a concept didn’t save money AND save the earth, it wasn’t used.

  4. D.C. DaCosta says:

    First, a good article. I’m glad to have read it.

    Second, an open question (thank you, Joelle!): do you think it’s harder to find/write a hook for a book that’s character-driven, compared to one that’s a real action story?

  5. Kellie Lovegrove says:

    I did not start working on my hook until I was done. Actually, I’m still working on it. I can’t tell you how many times I have said that coming up with my hook has been harder than writing my manuscript. :)

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