*Disclaimer - I am not a published author. I am just a dude, one that has written a couple books (again – unpublished) who a few people (waves to wife, mother-in-law, and a few close friends) have found entertaining. Therefore, if you decide to follow me down the path I’m about to describe, make sure you drop a few breadcrumbs along the way.
Kelly Lyman’s First Page Blogfest was a rousing success, especially from my POV. I received 60+ comments (easily a new record) about the first page of Fallen Knight and many very helpful suggestions. In particular, a few of those comments mentioned that maybe my hook should have come a bit earlier. It was convenient because thanks to this blog post by Sierra Godfrey, I had already been planning on writing this article before the Blogfest, so the comments fit into my plan perfectly. Thanks gals (and guys)!
Let me first say that I am not disagreeing with the bloggers who left those comments. After all, this isn’t grammar we’re talking about here, its style and personal choice. The whole topic of pacing can be so subjective anyway. But I’d like to explain my reasoning for the way I layout plot points and maybe my methodology will make sense to somebody struggling in this area.
For me, it’s all about momentum.
A manuscript should begin at whichever point in the story that creates enough forward momentum to engage the reader and keep them engaged. Think of it like riding a scooter. The first thrust is all-important, generating exhilaration and forward motion. Then all subsequent pushes should come at a point where momentum begins to fade. These pushes, or vigorous nudges, are usually in the form of new plot developments. If the story is coasting along as planned, spurred on by the energy already provided, then the introduction of another element designed to prod the story forward is important. Bringing in another plot point, or push, too early can be wasteful. Introducing one too late you run the risk losing that momentum and boring your reader, which leads to skimming.
Let’s take the first page of Fallen Knight as an example. It is 26 lines long (two over the guideline Kelly established, but I couldn’t cut it off in the middle of a paragraph). The hook in question was in the last three lines just before the next page. The first line propelled you into the story (hopefully) and between there and those last three lines we learned the following: Our protagonist is a teenage boy (okay…maybe that could have been explained sooner). He is an eternal optimist. He believed something was about to change for the better on that day. His family was struggling financially. He is probably close to his mom because he is good at reading her mannerisms.
We learned all that about Brady’s situation while just using the momentum created from the first line, and when the crucial time came…and make no mistake, making sure the first page is turned is very crucial…I pushed again and everything changed. Mission accomplished.
In the genre where I live and breathe, mystery-suspense, gaining momentum in the last 3rd of the story is vital. That means that revelations, twists, action and drama should come fast and furious in the final section. If it doesn’t, the work is doomed to fail. The pacing in your genre may be completely different, and that is something you need to discover for yourself. In whichever genre you write, learn how to know when a push is needed. That means also knowing when to save them for the appropriate time.