Tuesday, February 9, 2010

15 Days to Rewrite the Hook

It took me 20 days to write my hook . I like it, so do my sister and some other folks that were forced to read it. So it must be great, right? Well, I can tell myself that all day and watch the rejection letters pour in, or worse, watch nothing pour in. Or I can stomp on my masterpiece, cut its head off, and stretch its arms out until it looks better than it did before.

My sister says to use my instincts and never mind what others say, but my instincts have taken a long vacation from hook-reading. So maybe Mom was right, maybe the last part of the hook was too harsh:

“...leading to the realization that her family is far from normal and she is not so different from the woman she wishes would die.”

It was a little misleading, but literal. I think it was fair, but I don’t want to sound like a hag, or do I? Why does she want her grandmother to die, they ask themselves? I mean, really, isn’t the goal of the hook to make you want to read more? So, I admit, mom wasn’t the only reviewer to gasp when she read that line. “Not from the mouth of my sweet, Buffi!” But that made me want to keep it even more.

And then there was the little problem of my run-on sentence, but what the hell do my reviewers know about hooks? I have read almost 80 hooks on the internet at this point and I would say most of them are run-on sentences. I insist that no one can use the When Formula without creating a run-on. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating, but I’ve seen plenty of super-long hooks. OK, I’ll admit I had trouble reading to the end of them. “But mine is different,” I insist.

So, with lack of instincts, a 50/50 review rate, and a five-line run-on, I decided to write some new hooks to see if I could come up with something better and when I finished, guess who decided to show up? Instincts, that’s who. My feeling went from “I hope they like the hook” to “I can’t wait till they read my hook.”  So much for writing the hook in 20 days !
I looked to my peers for examples of good hooks and found some answers here:

Fiction Factor says, “The key to a good hook is hiding as much information as possible while revealing enough to interest a reader.”

Rites of Submission: Cover Letters and Query Letters includes a fabulous section entitled “What not to do.” Hey, did she read my hook?

Writing and Selling the Personal Essay: How to Write a Hook That Hooks Kristin Bair O’Keeffe says, “Not a paragraph. Not an entire essay. Not even, in most cases, two sentences.” She will not like my new hook, but she has really great information. Check out her new website: Christina Katz ~ The Prosperous Writer

So, with the help of stranger’s generous advice, family support, and lots of caffeine, it only took me 15 days to rewrite the hook. I managed to also include the remainder of the query in that time.  Mom thinks it's a winner! Here it is:

Wonderfully Dysfunctional - It Must be Genetic

A woman who laughs at funerals. A gypsy mother who refuses to wear a bra and a father who has two wives. A brother who sleeps under the coffee table and a sister who was kidnapped. A homosexual minister, a missing child, a pedophile grandfather and a feisty, sharp-tongued, red-headed grandmother who was longing to leave it all.

Buffi always knew her family was unusual, but she was lucky enough to escape that gene. Or was she? Joined by her siblings at the bedside of their dying grandmother, Buffi begins on a journey of self discovery as they recall stories of their youth including juicy family secrets, inappropriate practical jokes, abuse and betrayal. She is on a quest to find Normal but finds herself instead.

It Must be Genetic is about acceptance, forgiveness and the great capacity of love. The story is written from the perspective of a third generation divorced mother, Buffi, who realizes that the very traits that make her family dysfunctional may be the same traits that make it so wonderful. At 64,000 words, it is paced for a quick-and-easy read.
You did it Mom!!

I’m finally ready to submit to an agent. Wish me luck. Please support me with your honesty



  1. Hey Buffi! I just stumbled upon your blog and I can't quite remember how. I, like you, are an aspiring author trying to get my words published and with that, spend more hours than I would care to admit reading (stalking) blogs for whatever tips I can glean and I'm sure I clicked on yours from somewhere. Anyway, I'm right there with you- am new to this thing, am trying to get someone to believe in me, and started a blog about a month ago to help me do that! I'll be following you and cheering on for your success!

    p.s. The query sounded great. Really.

  2. Sarah,
    Thanks for reading. I can relate to the stalking blogs part because I have spent the better part of this month doing just that. I am learning how this all works day by day. I read your blog and liked the tar that you cooked .. LOL... but now I can't find your blog anymore.. where did it go??

  3. Well I'm hooked.
    From what I've seen in the time I've known her "you just can't make this stuff up" - her real life events were beyond the imagination of fiction. A rollercoaster ride of comedy, tragedy, wonderful achievements and desperate lows. Utterly captivating - and I can't wait to read the book!

  4. Well said Graham...It's funny because "You can't make this s--- up" is something we always say to people when recounting stories of our youth! And those people say..."You should right a book."

  5. write a book...sorry bad editing...