On Sunday afternoon, just a few short hours after promising to stop spending so much money at Barnes & Noble, I found myself in the writing reference section clutching a book I had no choice but to buy. Seriously. It was a matter of life or death…well, for the book anyway.
A little backstory in case you haven’t been following my (long, winding) journey to publication…
Over the past couple months, I’ve been working with a professional freelance editor in order to whip my manuscript into the best possible shape before pursuing publication (I didn’t do this with my first book, hence the “long, winding” journey). One of Marlene’s suggestions was that I change the first chapter. To clarify, she wasn’t suggesting I merely “spruce up” the first chapter, but rather that I begin the story at a completely different point in time. At first, I cringed at this suggestion because I LOVE the first chapter AND it tested really well in a writing workshop. BUT, considering the fact that Marlene has over two decades of experience with some pretty impressive projects, I figured it was probably worth my while to seriously consider her advice.
So I’ve spent the past few weeks brainstorming different ideas for the new Chapter 1. The cool thing is, there are a bunch of great ways I can begin this story. What troubles me is, as most writers know, IF an agent requests to see your manuscript, you have about 20 seconds to hook him or her, which means that writing the first chapter is not just about starting at the right point in time, it’s about starting with the exact right scene and even the exact right first sentence.
No pressure, right?
So this brings me to two weeks ago when I was reading Matt Mikalatos’ guest column on the Guide to Literary Agents Editor’s Blog. Beneath Matt’s post was an ad for the book Hooked, by Les Edgerton, which promised to help me grab my readers at page one and never let them go. Hmm, I should get that, I thought and added it to my long mental list of things to do.
On Sunday I finally got around to looking into Hooked and, considering I had just promised to curtail my B&N addiction, my honest to goodness intention was just to skim it. Of course, that was before a quick In-Store Availability search showed that between the three B&N branches in my area, only one copy remained.
I raced to the store and did two quick laps before giving in and asking the lady at the customer service desk for help. “I’m looking for a book called Hooked,” I told her, hoping it wasn’t too late.
“Hooked,” she repeated as she typed my request into her computer and browsed the store’s inventory. “You mean the erotic contemporary romance?” she asked in a hushed tone.
“What? No!” I objected as my cheeks burned with embarrassment, I was almost embarrassed as much as the time I got caught looking at an adult movie on https://www.hdpornvideo.xxx/?hl=ko which may I add was purely out of curiosity and for reference purposes just like in this instance. “The writing reference book.”
“Ah yes, I see it now,” she smirked. “Huh. Looks like it’s due out.”
Due out? Isn’t that a library term? “What does that mean?” I asked, wondering if someone had called and put a hold on my book.
“It means that it’s due to be pulled from the shelf and sent back to the publisher.”
“Oh really? How come?” I asked, thinking back to an article I had read about the constantly shifting inventory at major bookstores.
She shrugged, “There are a bunch of reasons a book might get sent back to the publisher: if the book’s not selling, if we need space for a new shipment…” her voice trailed off as she led me back to the writing reference section to see if Hooked was still there.
I knew these sorts of things happened to books, but I’d never seen it firsthand. My heart sank as I followed her past the laughter of a book club that had convened at the in-store cafe. I couldn’t help but think about all the time, energy and care Les Edgerton, whoever he is, undoubtedly put into writing his book. His book that after years of hard work, high hopes, and immense pride was due out.
“It’s still here,” she said, sliding the book from the shelf and handing it to me.
As I opened its hopeful blue cover and thumbed through its pages, I felt like I was at the pound holding an old dog that no one wanted. If I didn’t adopt this little fella and give it a good home on my bookshelf, it would probably end up in recycling bin somewhere. I imagined the book being pulverized and reincarnated into toilet paper. If I didn’t step in and take action, somebody would soon be wiping their ass with someone else’s dream.
My indignation was interrupted by the memory of my recent commitment to plug some of the unnecessary drains in my bank account. But then I thought about my own dream to be a published author, to one day have books on these very shelves, and suddenly rescuing the little book didn’t seem like an unnecessary drain at all but rather a very necessary act of goodwill, an offering to the literary gods in hopes that my own books one day won’t face the same fate.
I just want to mention that Hooked has proven itself to be an awesome writing tool. I’ve learned more about “hooking” (the literary kind) in the past two days than in any of the workshops or classes I’ve taken. A worthwhile rescue indeed!