By Lori Freeland
Have you ever read a book where the story (or romance, mystery, character arcs, or any major plot) is leading up to something big but when you get there, instead of a BIG BANG, you get a baby blip?
It’s frustrating, for sure. You’re invested. You’re sucked in. You’re racing through the book to the big finish line. Then . . . nothing. Or pretty close to nothing.
What a huge disappointment that makes you wish you could get back the hours you spent. And you’re probably not going to be searching for any more of that author’s books.
As writers, we don’t want our readers to have that experience. We want to hook them and keep them coming back for more of our books. Being aware of why the blip steals the BANG’s thunder can help. Here are a few reasons:
When you first start writing, there’s a lot to learn, and you can’t do it all at once. So while you’re working on perfecting your wordsmith skills, you might postpone learning story structure. Sometimes it takes writing an entire book—or two—to figure out your storytelling skills need work.
It’s worth it to invest in a book, a webinar, a video, or a class to learn how to get this right. Sadly, a good story with mediocre writing usually does better than a bad story with stellar writing.
You’ve been crafting a story for ages. You’ve edited each chapter seventy thousand times. And you’re—understandably—tired of the characters, the world, the dialogue, the words, and just want it to be done. It’s good enough at this point, right?
Not always. Put the story away and revisit it when you’re not exhausted. Give it to beta readers or critique partner and ask for honest, specific feedback. They can catch what you miss.
You might be on deadline and rushing. Or pushing yourself to write too fast. Or maybe your goal is to release a book a month. All of it leads to things that are missed.
If you have no control over the time crunch (you’re on a publisher’s deadline), finding those editing partners/beta readers is crucial. And next time, plan ahead on pacing.
We writers tend to procrastinate and then freak out when our book is due. If the time crunch is self-imposed, slow down. It’s okay to not release so many books a year. It’s better to have a few (or one) great book than twelve not-so-great books.
Readers devour your story with fresh eyes and excitement. It’s their first time on this ride. But you know everything that happens. And your “eyes” fill in things that aren’t there. This is an issue at a line-editing level but also on a story level. Or maybe you’ve changed the story and taken things out that you forgot need to be rewritten or put back in. Either way, you’ve unintentionally missed the BANG.
Putting the story away for a week or more and then rereading can help you spot what needs to be fixed. Beta readers or critique partners are great for this as well.
Writers never aim for the baby blip. But we may also forget to aim for the BIG BANG. In addition to the suggestions above, here are 3 more things you can do to be intentional about hitting that end target:
Be consistent. Make notecards or a story map. Ensure that the reader is seeing important pieces of the story (or relationship or mystery) pop up on a regular basis. Think of it as a trail of breadcrumbs leading up to that BANG. If there’s too much space between each crumb, the reader will veer off on the wrong trail or get lost entirely and then when the BANG happens, it will be random and unexpected, and not in a good way.
As you’re being consistent with the breadcrumbs, there will be moments that need to stick out. If they don’t stick out for the characters (the characters don’t react to them on an appropriate level), they won’t stick out for the reader. They’ll be glossed over and filed away.
When the BANG finally comes, build it out. Build it up. Make it into a show. Readers have been waiting all 356 pages for this moment. Make it count. Don’t skim over it or skip the important parts. This is where “show, don’t tell” is huge. Let the reader feel and experience everything that’s happening. Make sure you put the reader deep into the POV character’s head. And take enough time to give a satisfying climax.
Next time you read a book, make mental or take physical notes about what’s working or not working as the author’s leading you toward the BANG. Being intentional is more than half the battle when it comes to writing a satisfying story that has an ending worth waiting for.
Lori Freeland wrote her first story at age five. It wasn’t good, but it left her with the belief that everyone has a story to tell. An author, editor, and writing coach, she writes everything from articles to short stories to novels, has taught at conferences across the country, and helped many new writers find their voices.
An eclectic writer and finicky mood reader, she loves happy endings, thrills and chills, unexpected twists, and anything a little weird—as long as it has a touch of romance. When she’s not curled up with her dogs stressing about her life choices and drinking too much coffee, you can find her messing with the lives of the imaginary people living inside her head.
Jess is everything Gabe wants. Gabe is everything Jess doesn’t know she needs. Some accidents were meant to be.
Gabe isn't a werewolf. He just plays one on TV. Jess isn't a guy magnet. She just writes teen romance. TV heartthrob Gabriel Wade has never met a party he couldn't rock, a problem he couldn't dodge, or a crowd he couldn't play. Homeschooled Jessica Thorne has never met a party she couldn't wallflower, a problem she couldn't stress over, or a crowd she couldn't escape. But they both know what it's like to lose someone . . . someone who's still here.
After a hotel escalator dumps Jess into Gabe's spotlight and he unknowingly hijacks her first kiss, he decides she'll be the perfect decoy for the paparazzi. If he can convince her to play his "girlfriend of the week." Except Jess isn’t about to be anyone’s fangirl and doesn’t care about TV's Hottest Hairball or his Hollywood ego. And by the time she figures out he isn't who she thought, it might be too late to say she needs him as much as he needs her. Even if he wants her for real.
More than just a romance, The Accidental Boyfriend is the story of what happens when two people from very different worlds are thrown together only to discover they’re both struggling to figure out who they are and how to navigate a loss they didn’t plan.
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