Fiction That Wows Your Reader

Wow Beginnings

Last time we discussed the effective use of tags and beats to make your dialogue flow well and your characters come alive in any fiction, or nonfiction, you are writing.

 This time we’re going to look at how to “hook” your reader with your openings sentences or paragraphs in your stories, articles, or book manuscripts. First, I’ll give you some Ho-Hum examples of boring beginnings that will either put your reader into a deep sleep or will inspire him to toss your book in the trash can. Then I’ll give you some WOW beginnings, a technique which can be used in nonfiction as well as fiction.

What makes a wow beginning compared to flat, uninteresting words that bore your reader to death? Compare the samples of some of my lousiest writing with some of my published works and then you make the call:

1. Ho-Hum Beginning:

A while ago, I interviewed Clyde Peeling, the owner and curator of Reptiland in Allenwood, PA, on route 15 near Williamsport.

Reptiland is loaded with all kinds of wild animals, including alligators, snakes, and other ugly creatures.

Wow Beginning:

How would you like a frozen mouse for lunch?

If you would, then join dozens of snakes, alligators, and other reptiles at Reptiland, a zoological park at Allenwood in central Pennsylvania.

(From “Lizard Man” – Boys’ Quest; Aug/Sept.02)


2. Ho-Hum Beginning:

My eight-year-old son had been sick for some time. We finally found out he had cancer and wouldn’t live much longer.

One thing he wanted to do was see snow, but we were having a warm autumn in central PA.

Wow Beginning:

“Dad, I-I want to see the first snow,” he said, forcing the words out with jagged, tired breath. “D-do you think I’ll see it, the way I am and all?”

“Colton, son, you’ll see it. I promise. We’ll see it together,” I assured him.

(From “First Snow” – Inside PA Mag. Dec. 08; fiction contest winner)


3. Ho-Hum Beginning:

Skye Nicholson found herself in juvenile court for the umpteenth time in her thirteen short years.

She sat in the chair and just stared at the judge. She was as mad as a hornet and in no mood to appease anybody.

Wow Beginning:

“Young lady—and I use that term loosely—I’m tired of your despicable behavior. I’m sending you to the Chesterfield Detention Center!”

Skye Nicholson looked cold as an ice cube as she slumped in the wooden chair and stared back at Judge Mitchell. Most thirteen-year-olds would have been scared to death as a hearing with an angry judge yelling at the top of his lungs. But Skye was no “ordinary” thirteen-year-old.”

(From A HORSE TO LOVE, Best-selling book 1 in the Keystone Stables Series – Zonderkidz; 2009)


So there you have three examples of how to fix your ho-hum beginnings and make them “WOW.”  You’ll hook that reader, who won’t be able to put your piece down. Then he/she will be back for more!

Next time, we’ll go back to dialogue once again, discussing “natural” dialogue compared to “stiff, unnatural,” better known as “stupid” dialogue. :)





Fiction That Wows!

Tags and Beats

Last time we addressed the huge problem that all writers face, even experienced authors: The Leave it to Beaver Syndrome. Putting it simply, it’s what to do with all those “Mary said,” “John replied,” “Susie screamed,” tags or the author’s identification of who said what.

 When only two characters, sometimes three, are in a scene, it’s relatively easy to delete almost all of the “who said it?” tags. Having a page of dialogue without tags helps your manuscript flow smoothly and helps the reader to really get into the story.

 But when it’s necessary to identify the speaker, what can you add that will make the story much more interesting and add useful information that is interwoven right with the dialogue? You can add “beats.”

Beats are phrases that do not use the speech acknowledged favorites such as “said,” “asked,” “replied,” etc. Beats add action and description to your discourse without your having to write a lengthy narration “telling” details. Beats allow you to “show” the action.

Let’s look at some examples of how you can change boring lines of dialogue with tags into lines with beats that add some pizzazz to your script. First I’ll have a dialogue example with tag; then I’ll have it rewritten with a beat. You decide which is more exciting for the reader:


Example One:


“When did Josh get married?” Heather asked.

“Last Saturday,” Bruce said.


“When did Josh get married?” Heather’s eyes flooded with tears and she grabbed a tissue.

Bruce’s face also melded into a mask of dismay. “Last Saturday.”


Example Two:


Jordan asked her father, “Could I please go with Barry to the hockey game?”

Her father answered, “Are you kidding?”


Jordan’s father’s attitude made her face flush red hot. “Could I please go with Barry to the hockey game?”

From what he had heard, Father had no intention of allowing his daughter to go anywhere with that guy. “Are you kidding?”


So, there you have two simple examples of how you can put some spark into flat writing. In the tag examples, all your reader knows is that two characters are discussing something.  You have no idea how the characters are feeling about their situation. In the beat examples, we’ve brought the characters alive with emotion and action. The reader can actually get a sense of how the characters feel without the author saying, “Heather was heartbroken” or “Jordan’s father never liked Barry.”

So there you have today’s writer’s tip. Work on your manuscript’s dialogue. Throw out the tags when they’re not needed and write interesting and informative beats that will help you write fiction that wows!

Next time, we’ll discuss how to write beginning paragraphs that “hook” your reader.




Fiction That Wows Your Reader

Writing Dialogue That Flows

Last time, we discussed what I call the “Leave it to Beaver Syndrome,” a creative crime that so many writers find themselves committing. Even frequently published writers like myself can easily fall prey to this “beginner’s style,” which will kill any story, if we aren’t careful.

I said that I’d rewrite the small passage of poorly written dialogue in the post to show you the proper way to handle “dialogue that flows.” First, you will see the lousy dialogue as was posted last time. Then I’ll follow with the rewritten dialogue for you to analyze both:

The “Leave it to Beaver Syndrome” Dialogue

“Pete,” Mary said. “I’m going to the movies. Do you want to go with me?”

“Not tonight, Mary,” Pete said. “I have too much homework.”

“Well, Pete, how about just a game of Boggle?” Mary asked.

“Mary, I can’t even do that,” Pete said. “I’ve got too much to do.”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake!” Mary said. “You can certainly take a half hour or so to relax a little.”

“Mary, I said no! I just can’t tonight, so get lost!” Pete said. “By the way, bad joke.”



Now Let’s Look at the Dialogue That Flows

“Pete,” Mary said. “I’m going to the movies. Do you want to go with me?”

“Not tonight,” Pete said. “I have too much homework.”

“Well, how about a game of Boggle?” Mary went to the bookshelf and retrieved a game box.

Pete never shifted his gaze away from his history book. “I can’t even do that! I’ve got too much to do.”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake! You can certainly take a half hour or so to relax a little.”

“I said no!” Pete had finally lost all patience with his twin sister. “I just can’t tonight. By the way, bad joke.”



Now, there you have the rewritten dialogue. We cut a fistful of “Mary’s” and “Pete’s,” and we added some beats instead of using so many tags.

What do you think makes this second excerpt so much more interesting?

What do you know from the second excerpt that you didn’t know from the first?

How did I accomplish filling in some details?

And what about those tags and beats? What in the world are those little entities?

Yep, tags and beats. They are SO essential to writing good dialogue.

Next time, we’ll discuss those tricks of the writing trade in detail. Learn to use tags and beats effectively, and your dialogue will have a spark that will simply“wow” your reader.

Marsha Hubler

www.marshahublerauthor.com (website)

www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com (for horse lovers)

www.montrosebible.org   Information about the Montrose Christian Writers Conference

Writers, how can you write a best-selling work of fiction? Let’s see ..

We are going to discuss in detail the three most important components of good fiction:

1.  “Flowing” dialogue

2. Snappy narration

3. Creative characters

As I share these posts, I welcome your comments and questions. So let’s get started and begin with how to write dialogue that flows.

Flowing dialogue? What in the world does that mean?

Flowing dialogue is “natural” dialogue or conversation in your book that sounds “normal,” that’s easy to read, and that which fits the personality and background of each character who has an important speaking part in your story.

Let’s begin this discussion with one of my pet peeves, what I call the “Leave it to Beaver Syndrome.”

Anyone who is as old as I am remembers that when TV was in its early stages and just becoming a member of every household, programs like “Leave it to Beaver” were in their infancy with some of the scriptwriting quite poorly done. Such is the case in many of these early sitcoms, in particular, the dialogue between the characters.

If you are a fan of the “Leave it to Beaver Syndrome,” here’s a sample of how your dialogue looks between the only two characters in your scene:

“Pete,” Mary said. “I’m going to the movies. Do you want to go with me?”

“Not tonight, Mary,” Pete said. “I have too much homework.”

“Well, Pete, how about just a game of Boggle?” Mary asked.

“Mary, I can’t even do that,” Pete said. “I’ve got too much to do.”

“Oh, for Pete’s sake!” Mary said. “You can certainly take a half hour or so to relax a little.”

“Mary, I said no! I just can’t tonight, so get lost!” Pete said. “By the way, bad joke.”


Now, there you have a prime example of the “Leave it to Beaver Syndrome.”

What I’d like you to do until next time is rewrite this mini-scene and rid it of this ho-hum style that will put your reader to sleep or inspire him to use your book as kindling wood.

In my next blog, I’ll rewrite this scene, shaping it into something that isn’t as stagnant, redundant, and just downright boring.

Hi, blogger friends. Any horse lovers out there yet?

Just a note to let you know that several years ago, I worked a “horse facts” blog. There are dozens and dozens of blog posts about different kinds of horses and information about the care of equines. If you’re a horse lover or if you know anyone who loves horses, please go to:


“To market, to market

To sell a book or two…”

That’s the little ditty that should be constantly reverberating in your brain as you write your book or wait for it to arrive from the publisher.

The majority of us writers are not big-name best sellers. We have no TV exposure and very little radio and newspaper coverage. So how do little Mr. Nobody and Mrs. WhoIsShe get their names out there in public view?

So far, we’ve discussed (with not much detail):

  1. Blogsites and websites
  2. Business card distribution

Let’s tackle the book signing venue today.

I had previously told you that I hate book signings. For the most part I do because lots of times no one shows up, and I sit there reading a good book (my own) and directing passersby to the restroom.

When I have had successful book signings at stores (by successful, I mean I sold at least 10 or 20 books), here’s what I did:

  1. When planning the book signing with the store manager, I asked to be at the store on a big sales day of the year. The best time is any Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  2. I made sure the manager planned to get the word out, including putting up flyers or signs in the store (which I provided), submitting an article to the local newspapers, (which I wrote), and sending out e-mails to the store’s clientele OFTEN about the book signing.
  3. I called or e-mailed several days before the book signing to make sure the manager had ordered enough books. If not, I offered to bring my own just as a back up.
  4. On the day of the book signing, I’ve had a friend with me to walk throughout the store handing out my business cards or a small token gift like a bookmark and inviting them to my table. Often, I’ve been stationed at a table in the BACK of the store, and if I didn’t let folks know I was back there, they never saw me.
  5. I offered some kind of deal, i.e. if anyone bought my whole Keystone Stables series, they got a free gift like a plastic model horse or a small jewelry box with a horse picture on the front, etc. (Recently I sold three complete sets of eight books each because of my “special” deal.)
  6. If traffic was slow, I got out from behind the table and introduced myself to folks in other parts of the store.
  7. I looked for businesses besides book stores that might want me to have a book signing. I have done fairly well at a large local hardware store and at a horse equipment and saddle shop. Of course, horse books would be a natural sell at stores like this.

Now, after you’ve done everything in your power to pull this off, if store traffic is still real slow, as such was the case with a book signing I had a few weeks ago, you have to just sit and smile, maybe work on your next novel on your laptop, and write the day off as a loss.

You just never know how book signings are going to go. Swallow your pride and try again at another store as soon as you can make the contact. Making money? Are you kidding? You’ll probably break even with the cost of gasoline, but book signings are all about promotion anyway, not making you rich.

Marsha Hubler
Best-selling Author of the Keystone Stables books
(Web) www.marshahublerauthor.com
(Writers’ Blog)
(Horse Facts Blog)

Writers’ Tips for Newbies: After the Conference

Today’s tips are for all you beginning writers out there who have a great idea and don’t know where to start.

If you attended the last Montrose Christian Writers Conference in July, I trust you learned all kinds of things to help you become a published author. Let’s rehearse a few tips you probably learned to get you writing the next best seller!

If you’ve never attended any writers’ conference, it might be a consideration if you’ve got some ideas about becoming an author.

1. Start writing. Don’t just talk about it. Do you have an idea? Many good ideas? Don’t let those great creative ideas die in your brain cells! Get that computer out and start pecking away.

2. Join a local critique group. This has helped me become a better writer more than any other training, reading, or writing I’ve done. You must have a thick skin and be willing to accept criticism, but in the long run, your writing will improve drastically. Our group in the Susquehanna Valley (PA) meets once a month when everyone brings copies of about five pages of their latest work to have critiqued.

3. Attend writers conferences. Second only to the critique group, writers conferences have molded me into the author I am today. Writers conferences offer numerous workshops on different genres. You also meet other writers who have the passion to write as you do. They UNDERSTAND YOU! And … try to attend conferences where editors and agents are on faculty. Many writers have acquired contracts by meeting “the in-crowd” at conferences. Three of my four book contracts and several purchased articles resulted from contacts at writers’ conferences. Conferences are an essential part of your training.

4. Read, read, read! If you want to write juvenile fiction, read all the published juvenile fiction you can get your hands on. Likewise, if you’re into Amish romance, don’t spend time reading science fiction or fantasy. If you want to learn how to handle your genre, then study your genre. I have pages and pages of “good writing” excerpts that I’ve copied from published books. Once in a while, I open that file and read through the segments that show me excellent dialogue, good narration, and well-done character description.

So, there you have it. If you have the burning desire deep down in your soul to write, then get going! But consider yourself a work-in-progress just as your manuscript is. The more you learn, the better your writing will be!


Some members of the Susquehanna Valley Writers Group, Selinsgrove, PA

Absolutely, undeniably yes. My local critique group has helped make me the writer I am.

One of the most valuable tools you’ll ever have in your writing career is a local critique group comprised of other writers.

Some groups meet once a week; others meet once a month. The choice is for the group to make. Some groups meet in the members’ homes; others meet at libraries, bookstores, or cafes with quiet corners. Again, the choice is the group’s.

If you don’t belong to a local critique group, make it a priority to join one. If you aren’t sure there even is one, then determine to start one yourself.

So, how do you get the word out that you are interested in a critique group, either joining or starting?
1. Ask for information at your library or bookstore. If they know of no critique group, prepare an 8 1/2 x 11 poster and ask if you can post it. Put your name, phone number, and email address on the poster.
2. Mount posters in your local grocery stores and mini-marts.
3. Place a free ad in your local “service” newspaper, the one that allows you to buy and sell without paying for an ad.
4. Call other local authors you know and ask about a critique group. If they aren’t members of any, encourage them to help you start one. You really only need three or four other writers to start, and not all need to represent the same genre. Six to eight members are ideal if you plan to meet for two or three hours at a time.

So, there you have it. Get busy with that critique group. If you become accountable to someone for your writing on a regular basis, you will write more often, and you’ll write better!

(Next time: The Guidelines for a Successful Critique Group)





Tommi Leland wishes she was a boy. But why?



The best training you’ll ever receive is that which you’ll get by attending writers conferences. Next to your local critique group, writers workshops and conferences will give you the knowledge you need to become a better writer. The various workshops offered usually take you from A to Z concerning the writing/publishing business with fresh ideas for you to try.

You also make new long-lasting writer friends, kindred spirits who think just like you do. (They don’t call us “Odd Ducks” for nothing.)

Writers conferences also offer you the opportunity to present your work face to face to agents and editors of publishing companies. I’ve acquired four of my five book contracts by meeting editors at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference held in Montrose, PA, every July.

Speaking of conferences, starting in March, why don’t you check out the details of our next Montrose Christian Writers Conference at http://www.montrosebible.org Plan to come to our next one from July 16th to July21st , 2023. We plan to have three agents, a poetry publisher, and award-winning authors on our faculty.

If you’ve never been to a writers’ conference, you don’t know what you’re missing!

Director of MCWC Marsha Hubler
Author of the bewt-selling Keystone Stables Series



Me Know Everything!

If you want to write fiction, first you must decide for what age group you’ll write. Will you write for children or adults?

If you want to write for children, remember there are numerous subgenres and age groups in juvenile fiction.

Will you write for toddlers and preschoolers? Then you’re looking at a picture book often with fewer than 500 words that takes the child into his very small self-centered world. Unless you’re a trained artist, you probably shouldn’t attempt to do your own illustrations. Let the publishing company choose an illustrator from its stable of artists. He/she will do a fine job with your manuscript. Your main goal should be to write an irresistible story that the editor at the publishing company won’t be able to turn down.

Maybe you’d like to write a manuscript for a picture book styled after Dr. Seuss. Then study Dr. Seuss and his 60 books that are in print. Many of his books are 32 pages long with a manuscript that has several thousand words all cleverly written in perfect rhythm and meter poetry. It’s not as easy as you think.

Perhaps you’d like to write chapter books for six-to-ten-year-old kids. Here you’re looking at a book, usually without illustrations, that has about 64 to 80 pages (about 32,000 to 50,000 words). Your plot should take that reader from his familiar surroundings to worlds of fantasy and fun.

Then there are the subgenres for tweens and teens. You can write about any topic, any theme, and have well developed characters, plots, and subplots. How many words should you tackle? Anywhere from 30,000 to over 100,000 words. It’s not uncommon to see books of fantasy have at least 500 pages these days.

So get your creative juices flowing and start writing that children’s best-selling fiction story. Your kiddie audience awaits!

Author of the best-selling Keystone Stables Series


Take a look at Marsha’s latest release:


She wished she was a boy. But why?


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