by Jody Feldman
One thing has become abundantly clear to me over the past six weeks: The most important task I have as I write my books is ...
Oops. Not gonna tell you yet.
Let me backtrack to the reason for my new conclusion. Recently and in a strange, world-converging set of circumstances, I simultaneously* turned two novels in to my agent. And while I thought I’d nailed the task of which I’m about to explain, her notes suggested I didn’t. Essentially, it’s this:
When the reader is on page 38, what will make him or her turn the page to 39? 140? 241? What gives your reader the impetus to keep reading until The End?
By now, you might be yawning and rolling your eyes and wondering why you even bothered to read this far. That’s a given, right? It’s such an obvious essential. It’s even old news to me; very, very old. It’s what my schoolgirl-self longed for every time I opened a book. Not consciously, but still.
Well, I need to be conscious now. The fact is, when you’re writing alone in your own little cave, utterly invested in the lives of your characters, everything can feel important. And while we may excel at putting ourselves in the shoes of our characters, we often forget to put ourselves in those of our audience. Starting now, that’s my #1 task.
Some will argue: No. Your #1 priority should be creating strong...
- characters or
- plot or
- themes or
- voice or
- (chose your favorite literary quality)
But if you truly think about it, doesn’t page-turn-ability truly mean the convergence of every aspect that makes a book stand out?
Sure, the reader occasionally needs a beat to absorb what we’ve thrown at them. Even so, aren’t our readers important enough to have us take those extra steps that make the breathers and other assorted down-times just as fascinating?
That’s why I hope to craft every scene with my readers in mind. Figure out ways to make them pull out their flashlights to finish just one more chapter under their covers, way past bedtime. I owe it to them. I owe it to myself.
*To me, having two novel-length works ready within a two-month period is about as simultaneous as you can get in this business.