Make your first ten pages count


Many writers dream of becoming authors their whole life. When they complete their first manuscript the usual question is “Now what?” The traditional path to publication is arduous and involves query letters, agents, editors, and submissions. The self-publishing route can be even harder. But no matter which option a writer chooses, the first ten pages of a novel better be perfect, because they might be the only words an audience reads.

The most important element a story needs is a gripping inciting incident. That’s the technical term for what kicks off the plot. In the old days it was okay for a book to have a luxuriously slow beginning, but nowadays readers are used to instant gratification. Another title competing for their attention is only a finger click away. It’s essential for the first chapter to hook readers so they are dying to find out what happens next.

Here are what the inciting incidents look like in some popular YA titles:

In The Maze Runner by James Dashner, the inciting incident is when Thomas arrives in the Glade and has lost a gigantic chunk of his memory. How did that happen? What’s going on? Readers are desperate to figure the mystery out.

Fire in the Woods by Jennifer M. Eaton, is about a teenager named Jess Martinez who has photography on the brain. The inciting incident is when a mysterious explosion happens practically in her backyard. Her father orders her to stay locked up inside the house while he reports to his military base, but Jess isn’t about to let the photo shoot of the century escape her lens. Boom! Readers are hooked in two ways, what was the explosion, and what will happen to Jess when her dad finds out she disobeys?

In Compulsion (Heirs of Watson Island) by Martina Boone, the inciting incident is when an orphan named Barrie arrives in South Carolina and nobody is there to pick her up from the airport. That’s when readers first discover there’s something odd about Barrie’s new situation. Even though her Aunt Pru loves Barrie deeply, Watson Landing—with its mysterious Gothic undertones—is dangerous.

The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong by L. Tam Holland, features a main character named Vee who is half Texan, half Chinese. The inciting incident is when Vee’s history teacher makes the class write a five-page paper about their ancestry and Vee makes a bunch of stuff up. The tension about what will happen when those lies are revealed, drives the entire plot.


Aspiring authors take heart! It took a lot of passion and a ton of late nights for you to complete a manuscript. You deserve every congratulations. Taking something as ethereal as “a concept” and turning it into the printed page is a big deal. The first few chapters especially tug at your heart, because they were often the first words written. But are those chapters your book’s true beginning?

If you can look in the first ten pages of your manuscript and circle the inciting incident in a fat black marker, your book could very well be off to a fantastic start.

Go ahead. Hook us!

Tracy Anderson Method Review


Why do I have duct tape on my shoes? Because it’s impossible to keep up with the pint-sized dynamo that is Tracy Anderson when your shoes stick to the carpet. I learned this the hard way when I started out my TAM adventure in August of 2014 with her original Dance Cardio Workout.

I had read a bazillion reviews of TAM, so I knew I needed to do three things:

  • learn one routine at a time
  • be patient with myself and Tracy’s lack of cues
  • stick with the program 6 days a week

What I didn’t know was that my trusty Zumba shoes didn’t offer enough shock support for all of the bouncing in Dance Cardio. After a couple of weeks my knees hurt–along with the rest of my body.

Once I duct taped the heck out of my running shoes, my knees felt better. Problem solved!

Then a couple of weeks later, I developed a horrible pain in my calf. This was incredibly frustrating because I had worked hard all month just to be able to do the program start to finish. At first, I couldn’t go two routines without huffing and puffing like a chain smoker.

But I didn’t give up. Instead, I took out all of the hopping and made the routines as low impact as possible. After a couple of weeks, my calf stopped hurting and I added back the bouncing.

Around this time I brought out an old copy I already owned of the original Tracy Anderson Method: Mat Workout. Now, if you do both DVDs together it ends up being about 90 minutes of exercise, which I don’t have time for. So I would do Dance Cardio and half of the Mat Workout 6 days a week.

After about four weeks, I looked behind me and thought “Holy cow! What happened to my butt?” Part of it was gone, but not missed.

The one thing I did miss was my sanity, because listening to the same music everyday drove me nuts. So I turned off the volume and turned on my iPod. Here are some songs that seem to sync well with Dance Cardio:

  • Maroon Five: “Maps”
  • OneRepublic: “Love Runs Out”
  • Meghan Trainor: “All About That Bass”
  • Macklemore: “Can’t Hold Us”
  • Ariana Grande: “Break Free”
  • Taylor Swift: “Shake It Off”
  • Lady Gaga: “Edge of Glory”
  • Anna Sun: “House is Falling Apart”

The original TAM Dance Cardio and Mat Workout videos are fun because you get to see inside Gywneth Paltrow’s personal exercise room. At least, I’m assuming it’s still her home because it was shot before she and Chris Martin “uncoupled.” Anyhow, when the Mat Workout became doable–not easy, but doable–I purchased the Tracy Anderson Perfect Design Series.

I was pleasantly surprised that Perfect Design Series I seemed easier than the Mat Workout. Again, I stuck with my routine of 30-40 minutes of cardio, and 30 minutes of muscular-structure. This meant that instead of doing each video in the series for 10 days, I had to do 20 days.

Right now I’m completing my last few sessions of Perfect Design Series III, and have Metamorphosis Abcentric on order.

I’m also slowly transitioning into Dance Cardio Workout II. I’ve learned two routines so far. For me, it’s been a lot easier to learn the choreography the second time around. Tracy seems to have a standard set of moves, and once you are familiar with them they make more sense.

I figure once Metamorphosis gets here, I’d do 30 minutes of whatever TAM cardio I want, plus 30 minutes of the appropriate muscular-structure DVD.

As for the TAM eating plan? Sorry, not for me! Some of the days are under 700 calories. If I don’t get at least 1200 calories a day, I turn into a cranky witch.

P.S. If you’re looking for a new exercise program but think TAM is too intense for you, check out my review of Zumba.