By Cynthia Ruchti
How many of us live quiet lives in quiet homes with a comfortable reading chair we use strictly for our quiet post-dinner hour reading sessions?
A few of us.
Most read on planes, in waiting rooms, before falling asleep at night, during kids’ soccer or gymnastics practices, while watching television or waiting for the potatoes to boil.
What does that mean for writers?
More than ever, our stories can’t be ordinary, forgettable, or easy to walk away from. Something in the plot or characters has to draw the reader back to the book, since he or she is likely reading in fits and starts.
We all know readers who start our books and abandon all other responsibilities and interests until the last word of the last page. But many readers’ schedules and habits keep them from those long, luxurious hours curled into a favorite reading chair. Instead, it’s grab-and-go reading. That change in how we read challenges the author to:
• Create compelling scenes that pull readers into the next scene.
• Make our readers care so deeply about our characters and their plights that they can’t wait to return to their stories.
• Write tight, so even if the reader only has ten minutes, he or she will feel the time is well spent in the pages.
• Write noveliciously for a sound-bite culture.
• Make each page, each paragraph, read like a potato chip tastes. You can’t eat just one (example from prolific author and ACFW member Becky Melby).
How do we write noveliciously?
Try this. Print out or view two random pages of your manuscript. Start anywhere on either page and read for fifteen seconds. Anything interesting? If not, pick another spot and try again. Depending on the genre, did you find anything quotable? Something surprising? A memorable description? An intriguing use of one or more of the senses? A compelling snippet of dialogue? A passage that hinted at the character’s motives, internal or external conflict, or dilemma?
Choose another couple of pages later in the story. Does it sound like a repeat of the earlier passage? After reading a total of thirty seconds worth of the story, would a reader naturally feel drawn to want to read more?*
That’s one way to tell if you’re writing a book that will keep calling to the reader, even when he or she has to walk away for a few minutes, a few hours, or a day.
* I experimented with the technique when writing my latest release-As Waters Gone By. Random spot. Fifteen seconds. This is what I found.
“You’d make a great mom,” he said.
Were there no safe subjects in the world anymore? No topics that wouldn’t stir sediment from the bottom of the well of the uncomfortable? “I left some things in the car. Be right back.”
She moved past him and out the back door. Was it raining again or were the trees dripping? She swiped at her face. No, that was her.
Award-winning author and speaker Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope through her novels, novellas, devotions, nonfiction, and speaking events for women. She and her husband of 43 years live in the heart of Wisconsin.