If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

May Interviews

5/5 Lynn Calhoon, Murder 101
5/12 Annette Dashofy, Death By Equine
5/19 Krista Davis, The Diva Serves Forbidden Fruit
5/25 Debra Goldstein, Four Cuts Too Many

Saturday WWK Bloggers

5/1 V. M. Burns
5/8 Jennifer Chow
5/22 Kait Carson

Guest Blogs

5/15 M. K. Scott


E. B. Davis's "The Pearl Necklace" will appear in the new SinC Guppy anthology The Fish That Got Away to be released in July by Wildside Press. The anthology was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Paula Gail Benson's monologue "Beloved Husband," from the perspective of Norton Baskin the second husband of Marjorie Kinan Rawlings (who wrote The Yearling and Cross Creek), appears in the Red Penguin Collection's An Empty Stage (released March 28, 2021).

Martha Reed's "Death by GPS" will appear in the Spring 2021 issue of Suspense Magazine, which will be released in the second week of April. Congratulations, Martha!

Susan Van Kirk has a new audiobook, A Death at Tippitt Pond, that will be released this month. Marry in Haste will be released in May by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery, as will Death Takes No Bribes in September. Congratulations, Susan.

Congratulations to Martha Reed. Her short story, "The Honor Thief" was chosen for the 2021 Bouchercon Anthology, This Time For Sure. Hank Phillippi Ryan will edit the volume, which will be released in August at the time of the convention.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Killer Weeds," appears in the January 20 edition of Texas Gardener's Seeds: From Our Garden to Yours. Congratulations, Margaret, who, if you follow Facebook know, is a superb gardener herself!

Congratulations to Jennifer J. Chow for garnering a 2021 Lefty Nomination for Best Humorous Mystery Novel. We're crossing our fingers for Jennifer!

Congratulations to Paula Gail Benson whose "Reputation or Soul" has been chosen for Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical anthology to be released this spring.

KM Rockwood's "Stay Safe--Very Safe" appears in this year's 2020 BOULD anthology. Congratulations, KM!

Annette Dashofy signed with agent Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Congratulations, Annette!


Friday, February 18, 2011

Dos and Don'ts in Starting A Book

Dos and Don’ts for Starting a Book

Don’t use more than one exclamation point ! ­­— Okay two at most — on the first page. As a reader I will assume you don’t know how to describe emotion in words!! No doubt, I will be wrong some of the time, but my experience suggests that I will be correct the great majority of the time!!!

Don’t change fonts in an attempt to pique my interest. As a reader I’m interested in words, not software mechanics.

Don’t introduce a new character every page and a half. I will be unable to remember and tell them apart.

Don’t start chapter one with a scene that would fit very well in the middle of chapter three. A friend and quite a good writer once started her book with a very well written description of a woman coming home and playing with her cat. She got consistently good feedback from critique group members until it came to me. I told her the opening would probably entice the entire universe of six people who speak English and are absolutely fascinated by the idea that a woman might have a pet cat. (And, being a forgiving soul, the writer still talks to me.)

Don’t ignore or be completely bound by traditional grammar. Poor grammar, (as well as spelling, punctuation, and formatting) is a turn off but a skillfully used sentence fragment or irregular grammar in dialog that fits a character can be powerfully effective.

Don’t “head hop” from one character’s point of view to another’s rapidly unless you have mastered the technique. Going from unknown baddie to heroine/hero can work extremely well, especially if large sections of the book are told from each point of view and if the transition between them is clear.

Don’t make your heroine the least interesting person in the book. If she floats along passively like a twig in a flowing stream why would anyone want to spend time with her?

Don’t repeat my frequent mistake of not giving enough information about a character. Just because I know all about my characters, their history and how much pocket change they carry, does not excuse me from sharing needed “obvious” information with readers.

Don’t repeat my other frequent mistake of changing a character’s name in mid-story.

Finally, don’t ask why there aren’t any dos.

What persuades you to put a book down before you finish page one?


Laura Stone said...

I have put books down by the end of the first page or two due to poor grammar, spelling and punctuation. Otherwise I will give an author at least one chapter, but I have been known to walk away from books with the following:
* Poor spelling, grammar and punctuation (yep, repeated this one intentionally).
* Boring or slow (your cat scene is on target).
* Jumps into the action so fast that I have absolutely no reason to like or dislike the character.
* A main character whose behavior is idiotic.
* A completely unrealistic plot.
* Head hopping within the same chapter (I began a book that I put down after six pages, because the author had changed point of views 13 times in those six pages, even once in the middle of a paragraph).
* Excessive telling and no (or little) showing.


Warren Bull said...


I agree with all your comments. Changing POVs 13 times in 6 pages must be a world record, don't you think?

E. B. Davis said...

I agree with Silverhearts7 although I'm aware now that not all editing errors are made by the author. Not all publishers are equal.

I have a pet peeve that sometimes makes me crazy--changing tenses during narrative. I've put a book down on the first page once when I saw that, and in that particular case, there was no reason for the switch in tenses, and it wasn't dialogue.

Aside from that, I usually give an author at least the first chapter. Opposite from agents, I really try to like everything I read. Of course, I don't, but try to start out open minded.

Unknown said...

Excellent thinking Warren and your commenters as well.

Warren Bull said...

With my checked past as an editor and a writing contest judge, i have, sadly, gotten past the point when I try to like everything I read. However, It is exciting to find a new author who shows craft and knowledge.

Sue said...

I can overlooks some grammatical and spelling errors, but if forced to muddle through fifty pages of backstory to get to the real action, the book gets tossed.

Warren Bull said...

Sadly, ever the best-known publishers don't edit well anymore. A backstory "dump" is an excellent reason to dump the book. I find it irritating when the mood of a book swings,e.g. from scary to funny within a few pages and with no transition.

Pauline Alldred said...

I'm hooked if I'm presented with an interesting problem I have no idea how to solve. Then the person involved in trying to solve it needs to show intelligence and at least some persistence.

Back story's a turn off because I like getting to know a character gradually.

Maybe I've been lucky but I haven't seen much bad grammar or spelling or head hopping.

Peg Nichols said...

So how do you avoid the problem of changing a character's name in the middle? Apparently this is not a uncommon problem. Writers in the SistersinCrime discussion list have mentioned cases in which the book was actually published withouth the writer, or an editor, catching the error.

Ellis Vidler said...

Good points, Warren. When the first page is badly written and the opening is dull, I won't buy the book. But if one of those is good, I'll read on, at least through several pages or a chapter. As you said, a well-placed fragment or some unusual phrasing can add interest.

Warren Bull said...

Peg, I have not solved the problem of keeping a character's name consistent throughout a story. I changed a name mid-paragraph in the short story I am working on now. That's one of many reasons to have a skilled and trusted reader go over your work. My first reader is my wife. She caught the mistake.

Warren Bull said...

Ellis, I do the same. A good first page is not a guarantee of a good book but I've never read a good book that had a poorly-written first page. I suspect agents and editors who are swamped with manuscripts quickly eliminate many of them for the reasons you mentioned.

Jenny Milchman said...

Only one 'do' for me: Give me a compelling situation right up front. I can get past a lot else--or if it's a WIP, help fix it. And only one don't--don't fail to do that!