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Ways to Identify If & Why Your Setup Doesn’t Hook

Nobody goes into writing a book and thinks “I’m going to write a story that doesn’t hook.” But everybody worries about writing a story that doesn’t hook. 

And most importantly, you don’t always know you’ve written bad setup. Not only because you’ve been living with the story for a while (whether you’ve been writing it or seriously contemplating the events before you even sit down to write it). But also, there’s very much the possibility that you think you’ve communicated your setup to the reader in a way that makes sense, and the reader won’t perceive it that way.

Either way, it’s always a good idea to temperature check your setup and make sure that it’s doing what it’s supposed to be doing. 

Don’t know what setup is? Check out my video on defining setup!

The safest option for authors who might not know if setup is their strong suit, or writers who just want to incorporate checking the effectiveness of their setup as part of their writing or revising process, is to run a series of diagnostics.

Diagnostics are super helpful in just double-checking whether or not you’re including the right information in your setup, and if your setup is creating the right expectations for the story you intend to tell or have already told.

Whether you run these diagnostics before your book gets edited, during revisions, or use them to inform writing your next book, diagnostics are really there to help you identify your setup strengths and weaknesses.

So, let’s explore some ways you can identify if and why your setup doesn’t hook a reader.

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The Opening Character Moment | #ConvosOnCraft with Mary Calmes


Episode Description

It was super hard not to fangirl over THE Mary Calmes y’all! But we definitely went deep into her backlist, talking about nailing those opening character moments and the things you have to keep in mind when you’re writing and revising them.


Watch this Episode


Show Notes / Episode Transcript

Kate Marope (00:00:00):

This is Kate Marope, and you’re listening to Path to Print.

This week, we have our first guest episode on a segment that I like to fondly call Convos on Craft. Convos on Craft episodes are all about peeling back the curtain and getting into the nitty-gritty of how you put together your story from the developmental side of things. Me and my guests will talk about process, book stats, resources, and advice to help you grow into the amazing author I know you already are.

Today, I’m joined by an amazing author. Someone who is an auto-buy and comfort read author for me. Seriously, as soon as I knew this quarter’s topic would be about setups she was the first person I thought of asking to talk about opening your book with iconic character moments.

She believes in romance, happily ever afters, and the faith it takes for her characters to get there. She bleeds coffee, thinks chocolate should be its own food group, and currently lives in Kentucky with a five pound furry ninja that protects her from baby birds, spiders and neighbors’ dogs.

Welcome to the podcast, Mary Calmes.

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2022 Q1 Anticipated Releases

Happy New Year!

2020 and 2021 were very difficult reading years for me, not just because of the pandemic, but because I was adjusting to not being able to travel as much as I usually do.

Those of you who’ve been with me for a long time know that I am a complete advocate for armchair travel, and not being able to do actual travel kind of put me in a reading slump. Of course, I also had to do a lot of reading for work (comp titles and Carina stuff), but that’s not the same as reading for pure pleasure.

This year I am fully going to sort my reading situation out. If only just to justify my Scribd and Kindle Unlimited subscriptions, because they be taking my coins and I’m only using them three times a week.

I am particularly excited about the debut authors coming out this year. Some good stuff—most of it romcoms — and getting back into the groove of reading authors that I already love. I already let Kresley Cole write fifty ‘leven books ahead of where I’m at, I don’t need to be doing that with anybody else.

With that said, let’s just jump into the 2022 romance book releases I’m really excited about this coming quarter. Let the good times roll.

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Why You Should Write Character-Centric Humor

Picture this.

Alexa is a woman who values honesty, fidelity, and a good nature. She’s good people, always there with a kind word and a helping hand. But don’t get her angry; she’s a firecracker.

She goes for a business lunch, and as she comes back from the bathroom, who does she see, but her boyfriend, Todd, eating with her best friend, Cindy. That would be okay, if she hadn’t left him at their apartment that morning, plied with Hay fever medication to combat the treacherous pollen that decided to wreak havoc on his delicate system. It was so bad, Todd called in sick.

When Todd and Cindy lean in for a kiss, Alexa interjects, “What the hell is going on here?” 

And for a second, Todd and Cindy look very guilty. But slowly, Todd cracks a smile. The smile sets off Cindy’s giggles.

Surprise! It’s a cheating prank.

giphy1

Alexa is hella pissed at the Todd (after finding out it’s a prank). She resents him for thinking infidelity is a laughing matter, and punches him in the face.

The look on Todd’s face? Priceless.

At least she hadn’t grabbed his steak knife.

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The Psychology of Hurt/Comfort Romances

When most people think about romance novels they focus on stories that work toward a HEA or even HFN ending. But recently, Hurt/Comfort (H/C) stories are becoming more and more popular, where the journey to that HEA is painful, torturous, and downright gut-wrenching. These are the epic love stories that make you hurt so bad that you keep on reading in the hopes that the characters will find that HEA, because, Damn it! They deserve it. But what makes this antithesis journey to romance so desirable?

Defining Hurt/Comfort

Hurt/Comfort stories are defined as stories that have one character who has physical/emotional/psychological trauma and another character who heals/nurtures/comforts them through it.

H/C stories go beyond your average alpha male/spunky female couples (or whatever tickles your fancy), in that in there is an intensity and an openness with which the hurt protagonist’s pain and struggle through that pain is explored. It gives the reader an all-access pass in to the character’s world of pain, and their struggle to overcome or deal with that pain.

They showcase how pain is seldom experienced alone. That the ones around us, the ones who care, have a deep-seated desire to comfort and nurture us through the pain. How the nurturing protagonist learns about themselves in comforting the hurt protagonist.

H/C stories are about the reciprocal nature of hurt and comfort, neglect and nurture, and weakness and strength.

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Pacing Yourself

One of the most common critiques authors get from a beta read or content edit of their manuscript is to watch their pacing. Pacing will make or break your book, because it’s what helps keep the reader engaged. If your pacing is off, then you’ll lose your reader as they’ll cease to care what is happening, even if your character is perfectly crafted. Therefore, pacing is one of the things an editor will look at to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Defining Pacing

First let’s look at what an editor means when they say the pacing of your book is off.

Pacing is defined as the speed at which a story’s plot moves forward. Now, the pace of your book doesn’t, and probably shouldn’t, stay the same over the course of the book. You want action scenes that read fast and get your blood pumping, but you also want moments where your character has down time to chill with their friends, or reflect on past events. What matters is consistency. A consistently paced book that has well planned plot points ensures that there isn’t too much action or to little in large chunks that make the readers lose interest. Consistent pacing is a God send because it keeps the reader engaged, builds the suspense, and makes for a smoother read.

The standards for what is considered to be a “good” pace are very much determined by the genre of your book. If you are writing an action-driven thriller, mystery, or urban fantasy novel, then you must have a quicker pace than if you were writing a more emotionally driven romance or spiritual journey book.

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