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Nose to the grindstone writing Neophyte’s beat sheet

Written by Greg Turnquist

Greg is a member of the Spring team, an author of several books on Spring Boot, conference speaker, and the lead for Spring Data JPA.

January 27, 2014

I previously talked about first thoughts of a sequel to Darklight. So far, I drafted the opening hook. This is basically the part of the book where you set the tone and try to rope in a potential reader by “hooking” them such that they can’t put it down. You want someone to pick up your book at the store, read two or three pages, and then HAVE to buy it.

Well, I had an entire sequence of action in my head, and so I went and captured it. It was delicious, except it was missing something. I thought about what I had read in the past year and what “hooked” me. Nothing stood out more so than the intro to Killing Floor, the first of the Jack Reacher series. That book has a bold introduction where you are thrown into the action. I reviewed what it was about that book that made me want to read every one after it.

It didn’t waste time with boring monologues, but instead dove straight into action. You didn’t know everything about Jack Reacher, but from what he was saying, I was getting hints left and right. But the thing that really added spice to the sauce was its first person narrative.

So I took what I originally wrote for an opening hook and rewrote it in first person. That seemed hard at first. It forced me to really avoid dumb monologues and instead communicate voice and action. Once I got into the groove, it almost seemed easier. Almost. When I finished, the whole section seemed more exciting, which was what I wanted. Every time I open the manuscript to work on it, I debate whether I can write the whole novel this way. And I keep saying yes!

But a hook isn’t a novel. I have an idea. I know where point A is as well as point Z, but how will my character get there from here? This where I have to put my head down and start knocking out a beat sheet. This is hard work, because I have to think out lots of parts. I need to stitch things together. I have some big plot points, but I haven’t figured out how it all connects together.

I can easily see this being the point where many potential authors fizzle. It just isn’t fun. Writing action and dialog is fun. But thinking about what to write is flat out boring. But without this structure, my novel won’t come into being. Some authors really can write from the seat of their pants. I can’t. It doesn’t work that way for me. But hopefully the excitement of that hook will provide motivation to finish out the beat sheet and then get cracking on the writing.

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