Posts tagged ‘thelemonites’

March 15th, 2011

Hooked by Les Edgerton; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One And Never Lets Them Go

Author: Les Edgerton

Published: April 12, 2007 by Writer’s Digest Books

Number of Pages: 256

Rating: 4/5


Breaking rules doesn’t make one original – pick out any juvenile delinquent loitering on the street corner and you’ll see what I mean. Working within the rules and delivering original and creative stories is what makes one original.

And successful.


Agents and editors agree: Improper story beginnings are the single biggest barrier to publication. Why? If a novel or short story has a bad beginning, then no one will keep reading. It’s just that simple. Hooked provides readers with a detailed understanding of what a beginning must include (setup, backstory, the inciting incident, etc.); instruction on how to successfully develop the story problem; tips on how to correct common beginning mistakes; exclusive insider advice from agents, acquiring book editors, and literary journal editors; and much more. [From Goodreads]


I picked up Hooked when I was on a writing-related-books rampage at Borders a few months ago. Among the others I chose to buy that day, Hooked , with its less, well, boring cover and Edgerton’s humorous, lighthearted voice, stood apart.

Writing good (not decent or standard or acceptable) beginnings was something I’d been thinking about. I know that I judge every book’s first sentence (and often the first paragraph) critically. Hand me something like Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry, and I won’t be able to resist buying and finishing the book, even if the first page is the best part in the entire thing.

I wanted a beginning like that. The sort of hook that readers wouldn’t snap at, nibble, or bite, but one they’d swallow. And that’s precisely what Hooked‘s all about.

Edgerton immediately dives into listing the basic components of a good beginning (and how they’ve evolved, particularly over the last 150 years), such as the inciting incident, story-worthy-problem, surface problem, etcetera. He makes a point of addressing the alpha and omega of misused story components, backstory and setup.

He does a fantastic job of highlighting the pros and cons of every aspect of a beginning. Arguably, there are advantages to every facet of a story, but whether their disadvantages outweigh them is the determiner. At no point does he call an approach stupid or an idea ridiculous, but instead warns against the dangers of particular ways of approaching things.

It’s not a secret that I struggle getting through nonfiction, though I do gravitate toward those with the topic of writing. While Hooked is, sadly, definitely nonfiction, Edgerton’s voice and style were exactly what the book needed to make it not only informative but genuinely interesting. He continually approached things with a lighthearted tone. I felt that he was offering advice or lending a hand as opposed to instructing or preaching. The fact that he could transform a potentially dry piece of material into something interesting proved that he can, indeed, write, which made learning from him all the more enjoyable. I had faith that I was in the hands of someone who knows what he’s talking about.

I’ve learned loads from this book and found answers to particular questions of mine in regard to The Lemonites. Edgerton repeatedly stressed the necessity of the writer having a concise idea of the protagonist’s story-worthy problem – the problem that encapsulates the whole of the story or the underlying issue that is really within the character and is not resolved until the very, very end. As my friend Miranda Kenneally can testify, this is a concept I’ve been struggling with every since I started thinking seriously about The Lemonites and what it needs to become great. The examples and guidance Edgerton supplies have helped me wrap my mind around the idea and continue to craft Pepto’s character into the sort that has a story-worthy problem that can actually carry the story to the end.

The aforementioned examples were my very, very favorite aspect of Hooked. There were multiple examples from actual written work for just about everything! I loved learning about a concept and then immediately seeing it at work. It allowed me to keep the idea in the back of my mind while reading the excerpt so that I could identify where it came into play and its effect on me. I know this is the second time I’ve brought her up, but Miranda does the same thing when I come to her with a problem or we’re in the middle of a conversation on writing. Using examples from written work and assessing a technique’s effectiveness was the best way for me to learn. It was this part of the book that made it a truly valuable experience for me.

Essentially, Hooked is a remarkably enjoyable book with a great author’s voice that manages to be hugely informative and inspiring.

January 28th, 2011

Wordbird Says (1): Revisions

by Madeleine Rex

Thanks to Yahong Chi, who took the time to send me a much beloved email to put me out of my misery!

Yahong asked:

Hey Madeleine,

I’d love to see revision tips. In the midst of trying to rewrite a few scenes, and it’s killing me because I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO!
So, yeah, that’d be helpful. 😀


As most of you know, I’ve just begun edits on The Lemonites. A few weeks ago, when I was still daunted by and whimpering at the thought of diving in, I posted a tragic and pathetic post. A woman named Susan Dennard commented and offered her help – and she’s one of my favorite people now.

Susan has a fantastic take on edits, one that makes the horrific experience much, much easier. I have finished part one of her six step process and will begin part two today.

Susan’s plan is deliberate and methodical, which may or may not work for you. In essence, my views on editing efficiently and writing efficiently are similar. There are a few things that are crucial to writing anything:

  • Try on different options. Approach outlining/free-writing/whatever in a myriad of ways before designating one as your personal process. There are so many ways to write a novel, and only one (or a few if you’re lucky) that works for you. I wrote my first novel after completing an outline so detailed that it amounted to a novel (though terrible) in and of itself. The magic of writing and the fun of it was diminished. Similarly, there are plenty of ways to edit, but only a few that are yours.
  • Set a goal. I wasn’t writing productively until I set myself a strict word count or time period to write. The daily goals (could be a week or a month, depending on what you prefer) motivated me and allowed me to feel spurts of success that encouraged me to keep moving. When working through part one of edits, I told myself I’d be done by the end of a particular week, and I was.
  • Diligence is key. Without pushing yourself to work even when it sounds unexciting, you lose the self-discipline that you need to drive you. As unemployed/unagented/etc. writers, we don’t have someone whipping us into shape and keeping us in line. There’s only me, myself, and I to keep me from slacking.
  • I know you were probably looking for something more specific. I can’t divulge Susan’s process here – it’s hers entirely – but it’s likely you could come up with something on your own. Sit down in front of a word document and type a ten-step process. Read through it. Could you handle those goals? Is the process too analytical, methodical, or laid-back? What do your personality and your tendencies warrant?

    If you’d still like to see others’ plans, I’d check out Susan’s blog. She goes into her editing process, though she only skims through it. If you like what you see, I’m sure she’d be willing to lend a hand.

    I hope I helped! If anybody else would like to ask a question/leave a comment/say something seemingly random, click the “Contact Me” to the left (please, please do)!

    November 26th, 2010

    Have You Ever Lost It?

    by Madeleine Rex

    Despite the picture above, today’s been a good day.

    It began with waking up to the task of helping a friend decorate for Christmas. I’d slept over at her house for this purpose. It took over three hours to decorate because her house is magical at this time of year. Then, I went home and watched Eat, Pray, Love with my mom. What’s not to love?

    It wasn’t until about 20 minutes ago, when I found myself contemplating what to do next, that something dawned on me. Not necessarily like a light bulb flickering to life in my head, but one turning off –

    I’ve lost it.

    The desire to do homework, tidy the house, bake, read, write. I’ve lost the motivation to do any of the things I used to fill my spare time with. Having four hours on my hands doesn’t bring with it the excitement it used to – the excitement surrounding free time in which to write or read or blog. It’s hard to connect to the me that wrote this – Why I Write – a few months ago.

    I’ve lost the motivation to do the thing I thought made me who I was. I say I’m a writer. I think about my book and feel the desire to see it finished, but I don’t want to finish it. I don’t want to edit it. I can’t even fathom how I would if I did want to. There’s not a single person around me who can help with this. No one close – who I have easy access to – that can come over and help me dig in. Can actually sit down with me and give me the advice I need.

    I feel terrible. I don’t blog as much anymore. I get home from school and feel like collapsing and doing absolutley nothing. The odd thing is, though, that I hate doing nothing. It’s counterproductive. It’s ending the day before it’s begun.

    All summer, I lived in a dreamland. I cleaned the house, did the laundry, exercised, dreamed, wrote thousands of words every day, blogged every day, kept the house in order – in other words, overachieved. The contrast between now and then – when I’m lucky if I get the bird cage cleaned at weekly intervals – is heartbreaking to me. All I do is dream about doing instead of actually doing.

    I want so badly to make The Lemonites beautiful. I want to feel as though I’ve accomplished something every day. I want to meet or exceed my expectations of myself. And yet I sit and sit and sit and live life as though it’s all in my head – as though dreaming and thinking about my ambitions and hopes and goals will help me achieve them.

    Have you lost your motivation before? Have you ever been horrified by the fact that you can, indeed, do nothing? That you can not do the thing you thought was necessarily for you to live (writing, in my case)? What in the world happened to the person who did so much? Who used to put off meals so that she could finish doing the laundry? Who spent 6 hours a day for one week in the middle of the summer writing? How on earth did my books get written in the first place?

    Maybe it’s my lack of guidance and the intimidating prospect of months of editing – a truly foreign concept to me – or maybe it’s that I’m just overtired, but something’s missing. Have you ever lost it, too? And, more importantly, did you ever run into it again?

    Just For You: