When I first started writing, many long years ago, I had no one to guide me. I learned by trial and error. Now that the third book of my Tartarus Trilogy will be published in the coming year, I think I have at least some basis for offering helpful hints. Of course I can’t possibly cover everything you need to know in one blog, and if you’ll excuse me for using my first book as an example…

The writer must capture the reader’s attention and interest as soon as possible, hopefully on the very first page. If you don’t—well, there are a heck of a lot of other books out there! On the first page or two of Judgment on Tartarus the reader learns Rona Scott’s name, her nickname, that she’s in the Space Service, and her rank. Then we’re told where she is and why, where she’s going, and how she feels about it. The reader is given a bit of background detail, but not a lot. I try to build an atmosphere of excitement, movement, tension. You sense a change is imminent.

We immediately know the genre of the book: this is science fiction set in our future. We know Rona Scott is probably going to be the main character, and we get clues to what some of her future problems may be. For instance, we learn that she’s not a bigot. Some readers might begin to suspect that she’s going to have difficulty living up to her high ideals.

When the character of Gordy McCormick is introduced, the reader also begins to suspect that all is not peaches and cream aboard Astrella, the ship they’ve both been assigned to. His dire warnings foreshadow the difficulties they’re about to experience first-hand. And already we begin to hear terms like “the Ark Theory” and “The Hero of the Gorgonian Wars”. So within the first chapter, the main plot begins to unfold, and the reader gets a taste of the back history of some characters. You meet several of the major characters and are introduced to one of the two settings of the book, Astrella II. There are no long, drawn out passages, no long boring discussions to slow down the action. Things move forward quickly, whetting the reader’s appetite for more.

Chapter Two goes on to fill in more of the necessary details. With Rona, you become one of the crew of Astrella and look forward to her adventures. Using a combination of good writing, skillful plotting, and attention to just the right amount of detail, you have grabbed the reader, sucked him/her in, and will keep their attention right to the final page!

Good luck and keep on writing!