What makes a page-turner?

When I first started helping people write their books, I focused on their ideas.

“Your ideas are brilliant! Let’s just get them down,” I’d say.

It’s fun to help people articulate their ideas clearly. Not only fun, of course, but absolutely necessary to writing a book. Non-negotiable.

And…

Books filled with ideas but no story are unreadable.

***

If you’re writing a book, you need a story. The first step in outlining your narrative structure (story) is to accept this fact:

A story is not a collection of things that happened, told one after the other.

It’s not!?

It’s not.

A story requires causality. Meaning: the thing that happens causes the next thing to happen in the story.

Of course it’s not just books that tell stories: movies do it, too. Something like:

Woman goes to bed. A freak lightning storm rages outside. The power goes out in the middle of the night, resetting her clock radio and the alarm. She wakes late, realizes she’s late for work. Now she’s in a rush! She’s halfway to work when she realizes she forgot her briefcase. She doubles back to her apartment only to discover….

You know exactly where this is going. But the storydoesn’t go anywhere unless the lightning storm happens.

See… If the freak lightning storm doesn’t happen, the power doesn’t go out. If the power doesn’t go out, her alarm doesn’t fail. If her alarm doesn’t fail, she’s not late. If she’s not late, she doesn’t forget her briefcase. If she doesn’t forget her briefcase, she doesn’t double back to her apartment. And if she doesn’t do that, she doesn’t find out about the affair.

***

That’s just the first scene of the movie! We know these stories; we ingest them all the time. But when it comes to writing our own books, a weak grasp of story can screw up the whole process.

(BTW: Even if you are collecting a group of your essays into a book, I believe a story is necessary. Why does one essay follow the other? What’s the story behind their sequence?)

But if you’re writing a chapter book, the kind with one book-length argument? Then story becomes non-negotiable.

***

Without story, you may end up with a thing that is not actually a book, but a book-like object that has a title and a cover and interior layout and chapters but that no one can actually read past the first few pages.

😱​

That doesn’t have to be your book, though. (Phew.)

In Book Breakthrough you won’t just organize the information you’ll be sharing in your book, you’ll outline your story, constructing the roadmap for a page-turner. 

That’s one of the reasons I’m so excited to be offering Book Breakthrough to you later this year: to teach you how to build a narrative structure that will allow more readers to finish your book and therefore absorb your great ideas.

***

Your reader will get hooked on your book if she wants to know what happens next and she can’t figure it out.

That’s all! But a hell of a tall order. Let’s do it together!

Maggie

PS: What is Book Breakthrough?

It’s a new 8-week program I’ve created because I’ve seen too many highly motivated first-time authors either put off writing their book for years, or begin writing but give up before they finish.

You can read all the details of this 8-week group program here:

https://maggiefrankhsu.com/book-breakthrough/

Sign up for the waitlist today and be the first to know once the course opens again!

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