Writing a Page Turner with Lois Winston

Sins of the Highlander

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I first met today’s blog guest when we were both writing for Dorchester. We’ve each gone on to other publishers since then, but have always kept in touch. Lois Winston writes inventive cozy mysteries and I know you’ll enjoy the peek behind the writer’s veil she’s offering.

Thought I’d also share that Fresh Fiction has just posted a unique review of Sins of the Highlander. Usually, reviewers key in on my hero, Rob MacLaren. The FreshFiction folks have zeroed in on Elspeth Stewart instead. That makes me happy. My goal is always to write a heroine whose shoes my readers want to wear. Sounds like I have. Here’s the link to the FreshFiction review.

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from Lois Winston…

It happened again just the other day. I had picked up the latest book by one of my favorite authors and started reading. Then at the end of Chapter 5, I closed the book. Not permanently. I did plan to continue reading at some point, but I closed the book all the same. I turned off the lights, and I went to sleep. Why? Because the author had given me permission to do so by having her protagonist go to bed.

I believe in few rules when it comes to writing because for every “rule” there’s someone who has broken it and gone on to become a bestselling author. However, there is one rule I believe should never be broken: Never, ever end your chapter with your characters going to sleep. Writers should never give readers a reason to set their book aside and turn off the lights. By allowing the character to go to sleep, the author allows the reader to do the same. Writers should strive to keep their readers hooked and reading until they’re propping their eyelids open with toothpicks because they HAVE to know what happens next, and there’s no way they’re going to be able to sleep until they find out.

Just as a book can open in the middle of the action, a chapter can end in much the same way — in the middle of a conversation or the middle of a scene, picking up in the next chapter or even several chapters ahead. This is a plot devise often used with great success in thrillers, mysteries, and suspense books, and it’s one that will keep readers turning pages to find out what happens next, no matter the genre.

The others grunted in agreement as I bowed my head over the pink sheet of paper. “Oh. My. God.”

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Or so I thought until Monday morning when I arrived back at the studio to find the proverbial caca had hit the proverbial fan.

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Just as I finished reading the short note, the front door flew open.

“Freeze!”

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As every teenage girl knows, shoeboxes make for ideal hiding places. A small step-stool stood in the middle of the walk-in closet. I pulled it over, climbed up, and reached for the highest box, one with a Bottega Veneta label. But when I lifted the lid, I didn’t find a pair of Bottega Veneta shoes. Instead, I found Monica’s secret.

The examples above are the endings of four different chapters in Death By Killer Mop Doll. Each one leaves the reader not knowing what happens next. My hope is that no reader will be able to close the book upon coming to the end of those or any other chapters. My goal with the end of each chapter is to make the reader have to turn the page to find out what happens next.

Don’t you just hate when an author keeps you up all night because you have to keep reading to find out what happens next? Post a comment, and you could win one of 5 signed copies of Death By Killer Mop Doll I’m giving away as part of my blog tour this month. The full tour schedule can be found at my website, http://www.loiswinston.com, and the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. In addition, I’m giving away 3 copies of Death By Killer Mop Doll on Goodreads, http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/15173-death-by-killer-mop-doll

Also, for anyone attending The American Library Association’s Mid-Winter conference January 20-24 in Dallas, Midnight Ink will be raffling off the hand-crafted mop doll shown in the photo (I’m the one who looks like she’s suffering from a cold) during the opening reception Friday evening. Register for the drawing at the Midnight Ink booth #1459.

BIO: Lois Winston is the author of the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries published by Midnight Ink. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist and has been nominated for a Readers Choice Award by the Salt Lake City Library System. The new year brings with it the release of Death By Killer Mop Doll, the second book in the series. Read an excerpt at http://www.loiswinston.com/excerptap2.html. Visit Lois at her website: http://www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. You can also follow Lois and Anastasia on Twitter @anasleuth.

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Wow, Lois. Those were some terrific end of chapter hooks! Thanks so much for sharing.

Now it’s your turn to share. Leave a comment or question for Lois so you’ll be entered in the drawing for her Death by Killer Mop Doll. Just for grins, why not pick up the book you’re reading now and share one of the end of chapter sentences? Does it make you want to keep turning pages?

26 thoughts on “Writing a Page Turner with Lois Winston

  1. Write on! Never give your reader an excuse to put the book down.

    My own personal favorite chapter hook:

    A voice spoke from the shadows, “Three can keep a secret, if two are dead.”

  2. Aretha zhen says:

    Hi Lois, I’m really2 intrigue with the title of your books . Care to tell us how can you create many unique titles? Cheers Aretha zhen

  3. Love being kept up all night, Lois! With those you will certainly do so again :)

  4. Liz says:

    Once upon a time, I read to fall asleep. Not anymore.

    1. Lois Winston says:

      Those must have been some pretty boring books, Liz!

  5. Cindy Sample says:

    Great chapter endings, Lois. I was also taught never to end a chapter in the middle of a scene but I chose to ignore that advice. I love receiving comments like this: It’s all your fault I woke up feeling like crap because I couldn’t put your book down and stayed up all night to finish!

    That should be every mystery author’s goal.

    1. Lois Winston says:

      Cindy, I thought only my kids blamed me for everything, but I’m quite happy to hear that I keep people up at night!

      As for that advice you received, I’m glad you chose to ignore it. It’s perfectly acceptable to end a chapter in the middle of a scene and often desirable.

  6. Anne Walradt says:

    Here’s an ending I like from Chapter One of Jennifer Greene’s NIGHT OF THE HUNTER:
    From long practice, he knew he could obliterate any trace of evidence that he’d even been there.
    That was the best option, and he intended to take it.
    Fifteen minutes later, he was forced to change his mind.

    And here’s one from the end of Chapter One of Virginia Kantra’s ALL A MAN CAN DO:
    Her eyes narrowed as she regarded the new police chief. What skeletons was Jarek Denko hiding?

    1. Lois Winston says:

      I especially like the one from NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, Anne. Thanks for sharing.

  7. desiree says:

    WOW THAT IS GOOD TITLE AND I WOULD LOVE TO READ IT do you have any bookmark or cover on the book t hat you are giving way
    all so were did you get teh title of the book it going to be good one
    desi the blonde2msn.com

    1. Lois Winston says:

      Desiree, the book I’m giving away is the one shown on Mia’s website. If you’d like a bookmark, contact me privately through my website.

      The title was originally MOP DOLL MURDERS, but my publisher thought we should keep the same cadence used in ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN. Thus, DEATH BY KILLER MOP DOLLS.

  8. Jeff Salter says:

    Ha. You’ve got me thinking again.
    I’m afraid I prob. HAVE ended a chapter by the protagonist going to sleep.
    As for whether my stories, themselves, keep people up — a beta reader for my 2nd novel ms. told me that she stayed awake with her night reading light just to finish my story. It made me warm all over.
    For my own reading: when I’m exhausted, I usually stop whatever it is … whether movie, game, social networking, sports-on-TV, or book. And that’s not necessarily a reflection on the author — it’s more my own bio-rhythms I guess.

    1. Lois Winston says:

      You’ve got to do what your body tells you to do, Jeff. How nice that you got such wonderful feedback from that beta reader.

    2. Mia Marlowe says:

      I hear you about the bio-rhythm thing. There are some nights when my lights simply go out no matter what, but I’ll fight it longer if the book is hook-laden.

      1. Jeff Salter says:

        Mia, I’ve stayed up for a late movie a few times — mainly out of stubbornness — but I’ve usually regretted it in the morning.

  9. Barbara Britton says:

    Hi Mia and Lois,

    Your titles are so clever, Lois. Who would have thought mop dolls or glue guns would be deadly. What a laugh. Thanks for the tip on never ending a chapter with a snooze. I will remember that one.

    1. Lois Winston says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Barbara!

    2. Mia Marlowe says:

      Another thing never to end the chapter on is the big finish of a love scene. After that moment, what makes a reader move forward?

  10. Jane Robinson says:

    Most definitely it’s hard to close a book when the chapter ends with a new revelation. I just finished a book by Kathleen Ernst and one of her chapters ends with “Then the night exploded, in a crashing and tinkling of broken glass”. You can bet that I kept reading!!

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Great hook! Thanks for sharing, Jane.

    2. Lois Winston says:

      Jane, Kathleen is a fellow Midnight Ink author. I can highly recommend my fellow M’inkers if you’re looking for good mystery.

  11. Lois Winston says:

    Suzie, that’s the great thing about series books. Chances are, if others love the book as much as you do, there’ll be another in the series you can read as soon as you finish the one you’re reading. Unless, of course, you have to wait a year for the next one to come out. ;-)

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      That’s one thing mysteries really have going for them–the returning protagonist. It’s hard for romances to stick with the same characters, though a few have done it–JD Robb and Diana Gabaldon spring to mind.

  12. I’ve stayed up all night reading books before now because I just have to know what’s going to happen. Once I’ve got to the end though, I’m always sad to have finished… I suppose that’s two signs of a well written book x

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      I start reading slower as I get closer to the end of a book I love because I can’t bear to say goodbye to those characters.

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