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Friday, May 13, 2011

14. Creating a Page Turning Novel (Writing for Success)

Note: This is part 14 in a series of 25 articles from my upcoming 'Writing for Success' series.

14. Creating a Page Turner
There are many ways to create a page turning book and I am sure there are some that probably even I do not know. Having said that however, I know several things you can do to keep readers reading your book. Let’s take a look at some page turning techniques:

  • Writing an interesting story – Yes, you’d be surprised how many people don’t realize you need to keep the story interesting in order to keep readers turning pages. Some authors seem to think that putting in a few boring descriptive chapters in the middle of the book is okay. It’s not – Just so you know!
  • Keep a conflict going – If you have set up a conflict at the beginning of the book; keep it going. The longer you can keep it current and in front of the reader, the more they will want to keep on reading to see how the conflict gets resolved
  • Make things worse – In the same spirit as keeping a conflict going, make things get progressively worse for the hero of the book. If at every turn your hero ends up in a bigger jam than before, the reader will definitely keep reading. Unless of course, it starts to get beyond the realm of belief!
  • Stop a chapter before the end – In the same way as I have written about never starting a story at the beginning; never end a chapter at the end! If a chapter ends with something terrible for the hero, or a new discovery that has to be investigated, or a murdered body that just turned up, guess what – the reader will keep on reading and won’t want to close the book to go to sleep
  • Change the character / plot focus – The story is moving along, hero A is just about to enter the pyramid and… Now the focus of the story is switched to troublemaker B. Of course the reader will want to keep on reading, just to find out what happens to hero A!
  • Combine the last two points – This is guaranteed to keep the reader turning pages! The chapter ends with the hero about to enter the pyramid and all of a sudden the next chapter is about something completely different. But I want to know what happened to the hero! Okay, I’ll keep on reading!

You get the idea. As I said, there are many different ways to create a page turning book and keep the reader hooked. The problem is that as we write, we (the author) want to create logical endings to our chapters. It’s natural. It feels good to finish a chapter and move onto the next. Unfortunately, although it feels good to us, it’s not such an exciting experience for the reader. So, the trick here is not to worry about it when you write your first draft of the manuscript. Just get the story out. Then when you come to edit the manuscript, take a close look at your chapter endings and see if any of them need to be changed. Quite often it’s simply a case of moving a piece of text from one chapter to another, either backwards or forwards. Then also, you may wish to move a complete chapter in between two existing chapters to break up the storyline a little.

The simple test to see whether you’ve got it right or not is to see how you react at the end of each chapter as you read it back. If you go ‘phew’ and breathe a sigh of relief, then you know you’ve got some work to do. If, on the other hand, you want to know what happens next, you’ve got it right. What do your chapter endings look like?

Finally I want to take a brief look at the idea of breaking the story up a little. How many parallel storylines do you usually have in your novels? One, two, three? The correct answer is definitely more than one! Of course at some point in time they are all going to come together, but until that time stopping each one at an exciting point and then switching to another, will create an automatic page turner. Then, as these parallel plots become more frenetic, and switch more and more, the reader has no option but to keep on reading. They can tell that everything is going to collide and believe me they want that collision! Keep writing, keep it exciting, and keep switching. Then finally – bang! The reader is left breathless at the end of your book. It was a page turning success!

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