I've been thinking about books that are classified as 'page-turners' and what it is about them that propels you through the book.
And something I've realised, by analysing a few best-selling chicklit books, is that most chapters have a compelling hook at the beginning and another one at the end.
What's a hook? An unanswered question, an unusual situation, a dilemma, a revelation - basically anything that gets the reader's attention. It's all very well hooking the reader (or agent!) at the start of your novel but if you want them to keep turning the pages without falling into a coma you need to do the same for each and every chapter.
And when that chapters ends?
You need to give them a reason to move on to the next one.
Let's look at Can You Keep a Secret?by Sophie Kinsella.
Chapter 1 beginning
"Of course I have secrets.
Of course I do. Everyone has secrets. It's completely normal. I'm sure I don't have any more than anyone else."
Hook: What are her secrets? I have secrets too. Are her secrets abnormal? Has she got more than me? What are they?
Chapter 1 end
"His voice is dry and has an American accent. I'm about to ask him politely where he's from, but he immediately turns back and stares out of the window again.
Which is fine, because to be honest, I'm not much in the mood for talking either."
Hook: Who is the man sitting next her? Is she going to try talking to him again?
Chapter 2 beginning
"OK. The truth is, I don't like this.
I know it's business class, I know it's all lovely luxury. But my stomach is still a tight knot of fear."
Hook: Is the main character going to survive the flight? Is something going to happen? Is she going to freak out and do something weird?
Chapter 2 ending
"I'd love to move in with you, Connor," I whisper, and to my utter astonishment, burst into tears.
Hook: She's just agreed to move in with someone she's not sure she's in love with. Why did she burst into tears? How's he going to react to the fact she's just burst into tears? What's going to happen next?
And so on and so forth. Of course not all the chapters start with a hugely compelling opening line. The questions/dilemmas/mysteries the author has raised within each of the chapters should propel the reader onwards, desperate to find out the answers, but too many dull, unimaginative chapter openings and their attention is going to start to wane.
But you get the idea.
What I found interesting when I analysed my chapter openings and endings is how dull the ones I haven't rewritten yet are. Out of the 10 chapter (or so) I've got to rewrite 4 of them open with the main character waking up and one of them starts with a comment about the weather.
Cut, cut, cut and start with the action. Give the reader a reason to read on.
On the plus side the ones I've already re-written are tons better (which is a relief).
Hmmm...maybe I'll do a bit more rewriting tonight after all.