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Question
Hi, as a 19 first time writer i am interested to know what is the best way of keeping a reader interested in the book, giving it that page turning quality, do you have any tips? Many Thanks, Kara Crease

Answer
Kara - I typed your answer days ago but for some reason the site would not accept it. Sorry for the delay - here it is:

Excellent question, Kara. I wish I knew more about the type of book you are interested in writing, it would allow me to narrow my focus. As it is, I will have to give you more general advice.

The secret to writing suspense, which is what we are talking about here - that which keeps the reader turning the pages - is to set up a question in the reader's mind such that she will not be able to rest until she finds the answer. It may be a big question, such as "Will I be able to get out of this pot before the headhunters return to cook me?" or it may be a "small" question, like "Will Greta be able to go to college with no money?" So long as it matters desperately to the character and to the extent that you are able to convince the reader that it does, it doesn't matter what the question is.

The first question should be presented on the first page. Here's the beginning line of my fantasy novel for youth:

 "It started the day Misty took her little brother out into the forest to get rid of him."

Immediately, the reader wants to know, WHY? And if she doesn't go on and read until the question is answered, it will bother her for days, perhaps weeks, providing a strong motivation to go back to the book.

Some questions will be answered immediately, some, generally the big ones, will be saved till the end. The beginning question should be explored within the first chapter, and another question presented to carry the reader on. There's no need to overload the reader with questions, all over and around them should be action, dialogue, character development, perhaps humor. But the reader should never be allowed to forget what's at stake here. This "formula" if you will, works best on suspense-heavy books like thrillers, spy novels, mysteries, quest plots, etc. Each chapter is arranged that way. It is good to keep track of the questions as they arise, so you can make sure they are all answered at the end (if that is what you want).

At the same time, you will want to write engaging characters, perhaps a bit of humor here and there, good to great dialogue and plenty of sensory material to put the reader in the scene.

I hope this has helped. If it has, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 190+ questions!

And good luck with your writing!  

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Susan Rand

Expertise

I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at http://pygmypress.com, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.

Experience

I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

Education/Credentials
BA degree in Written Communication

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