the book stack: leads

One of my goals this summer was to revise and resubmit my query for a young adult novel. Part of the process has been to rewrite my lead again. (What’s the word for again when it’s like the five hundredth time of doing something?) 

One of the best responses I can get as a writer is to know when my writing has energy. At the writing retreat, someone gave me this advice about the lead of my YA project. After giving myself another talking-to about being willing to revise (even if I’ve already revised six thousand times), I tackled the lead again.
I pulled a few books off my mentor text shelf…
This week’s book stack — mentors for writing strong leads.
I wanted to make sure they were diverse titles, because I wanted to study the leads. I read a few pages of each and began to notice some techniques to writing an engaging lead. I was reminded of all kinds of things I already knew about writing leads. Things like…
  1. Make the reader care about the character.
  2. Don’t show all of your cards — make the reader wonder and ask a few questions.
  3. Establish a mood and make it wrap around your reader.
  4. Good writing matters. Craft well. Make the words dance.
The leads of all of these were effective, because even though I’ve read them all several times, I couldn’t stop reading after just a few pages. Yep, I’ve been up into the wee-morning hours reading these stories that captured me the first time and continue to do so each time I open the covers.

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  1. So you made me grab a bunch of books I have near me here, & I see that as you said, the character has to shine quickly, but the ones I accessed were rather vague, just hinted at the character while surrounding him or her with the setting/mood, like in Marty McGuire, we 'hear' her speaking, but it's about school & her favorite things to do, & in Eye of The Storm, although it's first person, it's also all about the storm she's seeing, & we're not even sure of the gender for a few pages. I think this could be such a rich conversation with middle grade & up. Ruth, you always make me start thinking… Thanks! And good luck with 6,001!

  2. I love your notebook! I just wrote this comment but it wouldn't let me post.

    I love this so much. I feel like I found this in an attic. It helps me to see that someone else has to push through as well. thanks.


  3. I love that you walk the walk. What did you do when you didn't know what to do next, looked to your mentors! What an amazing journey. Good luck, the work you are doing is hard but is well worth the struggle.

  4. Thank you for sharing! i love your insight. And I agree, if we believe in mentor texts for students, why not use them ourselves? I already know I need to go back and revise the beginning of my work in progress. I'm just trying to finish the first draft and then I'll go back and let myself make changes. I'm constantly coming up with ideas. What I think is so interesting is that leads have been done in so many different ways and there is never really a wrong or a right way, sometimes one way works and sometimes another way works. If only it was easy.

    I have three ideas for my next book that I want to start. One, I already know I really want to try and write stories or chapters from the perspectives of different characters. I've checked out Valentine's Day and Crazy Stupid Love to watch but also pulled Tom Angleberger's Origami Yoda and Fake Mustache because I think the tone of the book will match those. My Teachers Write post from yesterday talks about being able to tell others what you work in progress is similar to and I was thinking more for purposes of sharing with others. It definitely works to think of other books similar to yours to help in the writing process as well.

    So much thinking you have stirred up!!! 🙂