It’s been a while I’ve done one of these. I’m gonna make an effort to be more consistent with my post on writing to offer encouragement. If you are not already, follow me on IG, I try and teach something new everyday.
If you’ve been part of my community for a while, you’ll know how strongly I feel about encouraging writers to just get to THE END. Anything that is on a paper can be fixed.
For me the most painful thing is the first draft and so I know that that is where you can get caught up or stuck.
My last book and my upcoming release took me a month each..4 weeks to get the first draft down. Years ago that would have taken me close to 12 weeks per manuscript, all because I kept fixing the manuscript instead of just getting to the END.
I live for rewrites, they are a beautiful thing. Wanna finish that book? Just get the story down.
Mine vice was always fixing the manuscript. What stops you from getting to the end? Drop me a comment let me know your thoughts. Also share you might be helping someone else in need.
So I saw this quote by Tim Gordon a film critic and it resonated with me down to my marrow.
My tag line is #fusingfaithromanceandAfricanspice for a reason. It encompasses all that is in me… My personality. I love talking about my faith, I’m a sucker for a happily ever after and no matter where I live, I’m a #Naijachick through and through so when I decided to write that was the only thing that could come outta me. It’s my heart.
Are you feeling stuck? What stories are in your heart to write? There are only so many plots but what comes out of your heart makes it yours.
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Over the past ten years, we’ve been inundated with a number of talent and reality shows. While I don’t particularly indulge in any, (personal preference & time) one that has caught my attention over the years is NBC’s The Voice.
Now if you’re like me and is always late to the party, The Voice is a singing competition where the contestant sings to a group of 4 judges who while they are singing cant see them. Simply put, blind auditions. The only thing the judge has to go on is…The Voice( brilliant naming right?) any ways. What I’m trying to say is that they accept or decline a person based on what they hear ONLY.
When I first started writing, it was drummed into my by the internet and a host of my wonderful mentors that the first page, in fact the first sentence of your manuscript is EXTREMELY important. It is all you have to hook your reader. At first I was like huh? why? but then as I have come to understand that the competition for the attention span of readers is being stretched by so many other means of entertainment or other authors. A new reader only has so much time to give you to prove yourself.
Just like with THE VOICE, the reader is more than likely judging the rest of your book by those couple of pages. Will they stick around? While I don’t really stress about the first line, I should, but hey I am picking my battles…I try to do justice to the first chapter. Here are some tips that can help.
- Avoid too much detail: the setting and larger problem can be weaved into the story later but in those first couple of pages…less is more.
- Tension: The lack of tension is a fatal mistake. This is what will make the reader turn to the next page. If after 2 pages, they have no immediate question that they are just dying to find out the answer to, they will put the book down. Now here is where established authors have an advantage because readers already know to expect with their stories. But for fairly new( like me) or new authors there is no such luxury. The flip side of this is not to create mayhem that will more than likely confuse the reader.
- Boring characters: While we shouldn’t know the character’s life story just there and then but there has to be something that makes the reader want to know more about them. Some amount of their identity should be revealed.
- Core Plot: Okay, since I’m an avid reader this is so important for me to…I cannot stress how important it is for me to read the first chapter of a book and know what the core of the plot is trying to answer…Give me something…
- Where : Am I in the 21st Century or the 18th? Is it Winter or Spring? Am I in America, Europe or Africa…I gotta know where.
Now this is a freebie. There is some arguments on the importance of the prologue in a story. A lot of people claim it shows laziness in the author. I think not. 2 of my books have prologues and they were short but needed. So if it’s needed…knock yourself out but don’t make it too long.
Readers any advice to authors on crafting the perfect first chapter?
Writers add the tips you use below.
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As you know by now, my books are mainly set in Nigeria or most recently Kenya and some US cities. When a reader tells me that when they read my book they felt like they were there..in Nigeria or Kenya I smile.
Apart from the obvious compliment, it means I have done my job. You see apart from the Nigerian cities & Atlanta, I haven’t been to some of the other cities I write about. And I write for an international audience. It is a tricky to balance being authentic to my work and giving the reader an enjoyable experience.
Here are 3 things I do to take my international audience from here to there;
- Characters & Plot: I aim to weave tales where the plot and character interaction is universal. So although there may be certain concepts that are different to my readers, I don’t get too detailed about the details of the customs. That’s what book discussions are for 🙂
- Scenery & Setting: I try to describe the location, village or city the story is set in only once. I don’t want my reader stuck in trying to figure it out but I try not to short change my readers either. Earlier on in my writing, I struggled with over description but that’s what good editors are for.
- Theme: Whether my characters are from the East, West, North or South they share something in common. They struggle with their faith and are need to be restored. The common theme in all my books are faith, hope & love…those are universal themes.
Of course at the end of the day, I’m that writer that fuses faith, romance & African spice 🙂 , so I give my readers what they expect when they pick up one of my books…entertainment,romance, faith filled fiction, and the ability to learn something different about the culture…that I do through dress, food, music & language.
Those are my little tricks… if you are a reader, is it important for you to feel the true essence of the book without getting lost? If you are a writer, how do you take your readers to places you have never been?