Writing to Please: Three Awesome Ways to Keep Your Readers Engaged

Liam J Cross

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Image: https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2013/11/email-lists/

You know, with every day that goes by, with every word I write, I’m starting to realise just how difficult writing a book is. And perhaps even more depressingly, how much more difficult it is to write a book people want to read; a book they will enjoy reading from cover to cover.

You know how it goes. You start out on your journey with a huge smile on your face and positivity in your soul. I’m actually about to do this, you sit and think, I’m actually about to write that book I always dreamed of writing. You have visions of fame and fortune from the get, and dream of that day a few months down the line when you receive your book deal and are teleported to instant stardom.

Then, three months later, the day to revise your work finally comes. It’s almost time, you tell yourself, it’s almost time to send my work to the publishing company. You begin revising and stop just shy of the first one thousand words. What is this nonsense? You think to yourself. This isn’t the book I wrote. This sucks.

You never did get that book deal after your first three months, and you decide to start from scratch again – this is too bad to make anything good of.

And thus, your life cycle as a writer is born…

The truth is, writing a book is hard enough, but writing a good book is a whole new ballgame. It takes time, patience, hard work, lots of practice, heart and soul, breath and tears, and most of all, an unrelenting desire to never give up. With all of these things, you’re on the right track.

One of the main factors that decides whether or not your book is good, is the engagement it holds with a reader. Your book is only as good as the people who read it think it is; it’s their opinion that counts the most. This means that reader engagement is sort of a big deal, so if you want to engage your readers more effectively, carry on reading to find out how to do so.

Switching Up the POV

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I’m sure this is something that you will have found through reading published works from other authors. When you’re reading, and the author tends to switch POVs (point of view) every few chapters, and has a few different character POVs in their arsenal, it makes for very entertaining reading. It’s a technique that is mostly seen in crime fiction and thrillers, but I have seen it deployed in other genres too.

One of the many benefits of doing this, is that your reader is always kept on their toes and is forced to learn about more than one character’s perspective on things, which in turn helps them to see the story from a lot of different angles. It can get a little boring reading from the same perspective chapter after chapter, and one way to steer well clear of that is by throwing in some alternate POVs.

Not only will your reader become more interested each time you introduce a new POV (through simple human nature and inquisitiveness,) but they will also develop their own personal favourite POVs and will become excited each time it reappears. So if they’re reading late at night and finish a chapter, they may turn to the next page to take a little peek (I’m guilty of doing just that,) and if what they see is a snippet of their favourite POV, they’re likely going to read the rest of the chapter.

That can then be chalked up as a win on your part. Good job.

Paint a Complex Plot

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There’s nothing quite worse than reading the first quarter of a book and already knowing what’s going to happen. In these types, you seem to learn everything about the book within the first one-hundred pages, and the plot isn’t developed any further until the last scene. By that point it’s just not entertaining, because you’ve already worked out what was going to happen and knew what was coming. It’s boring to read this way, and it makes you feel as though it was just a huge waste of time.

Now, a great way to avoid such a pitfall in your own writing, is to create a plot that thickens often and leaves the reader with absolutely no clue as to what is going to happen next. Your final few pages should leave the reader feeling as though they’ve just been blessed by the God of great plots, to the point that they’ll be borderline dying to read your next book.

Change direction and throw in twists often, keep your reader on the edge of their seat; even throw them off by hinting to a false ending – do everything you can to keep the reading fresh for them.

Be careful though, there’s a fine line between a beautifully crafted, straight-up genius plot, and something so complex it just gives people a migraine. So work on your plot with each draft you do, and listen to the feedback you gather from beta readers to decide if you need to add more or simplify some parts – their opinions are very valuable.

We want panting and suspense here, not brain malfunctions and a trip to the hospital.

Perfect the Shocking Reveal

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Image: http://blog.paleoonthego.com/encouraging-even-babies-toward-a-paleo-lifestyle/

Being an avid reader and writer of crime fiction, the shocking reveal is something that I value very highly in a book. It’s like a whole separate art form in a lot of ways, because perfecting it can take years of practice and perseverance.

The most beautiful thing about the shocking reveal is that there is no set-in-stone right way to be successful with one. A shocking reveal either works or it doesn’t, there is no in-between. That’s the exact reason behind different authors having differing styles when it comes to delivering their shocking reveal. Take King for example. You could read a short five-hundred word extract of a shocking reveal that he conducted and instantly know that it was written by him.

As far as your own shocking reveals go, you’ll have to trial an error with your writing style and voice to determine which type works best in your book. I find that one of the most important factors of any shocking reveal is the setup. Think of it as a serve in tennis. If you throw the ball up into the air all skewed, chances are you’re never going to serve that ace. The act of throwing the ball into the air is reflective of the setup of your shocking reveal, so work on perfecting that at the same time.

To give you an example, in my writing I like to contrast rich detail and a buildup of tension, with a simple sentence to reveal the shock and to end the chapter. This contrast gets the reader all riled up with suspense and tension, then it all comes crashing down in one quick sentence, leaving them baffled, confused, and most importantly, wanting to read on like their life depends on it.

(If you’d like to see this example in action, please leave a comment and I might treat you to a little extract from one of my chapter endings.)

It’s Time to Engage

There you have it, three great methods of creating more reader engagement in your writing. Use these little tips to your advantage, and create the engagement your book deserves!

If you have any questions about any of these tips, or about writing or editing or life in general, then leave them down in the comments or shoot me an email, I’ll reply to all.

I hope your smile is spread wide and your coffee is kept warm. May the writing Gods be with you this festive season.


(Featured image credit: https://www.pcmag.com/reviews/ebook-readers)

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