Thursday, July 7, 2011

Get in Late, Leave Early!

Rachel Hauck once said…”Get in late and leave early.”

So much subtext in that one little phrase that I immediately stopped and wrote it down. What GOLD was in that phrase and it has changed forevermore how I write.

When you are told to get in LATE and leave EARLY you suddenly realize how much isn’t needed in your fiction. Why have your hero standing at the door of his home thinking if he should propose to the heroine—have the scene start at her door.

Benefits of getting in late?


If you start the scene, it’s like coming into the middle of a conversation and if intriguing enough, your reader is going to want to find out what is happening. There is DRAMA in arriving late to the party.

Think of it this way: you are running late and burst into the plaza just as the bride and groom are pronounced man and wife. You are the maid of honor.


That scene would not have had the power or the potential for a great deal more conflict if we had started back with the maid of honor in her car, buried in traffic five miles long. We don’t need the backstory to APPRECIATE the tension.

What about leaving early? No one wants to leave a fun party early. No one wants to walk off the dance floor in the middle of their favorite song as they stand in the arms of their hero. And if you did leave at that moment, it would be cutting the moment short. The same is true for your reader, lost within the pages of your book

Again, there would be tension, but ALSO there would a hook.

We all want to keep our readers reading. Whether at the end of paragraph break or at the end of a chapter, we want to keep the readers flipping pages. It is so important to keep them going through the story as Sherrinda pointed out earlier this week.

When you leave the moment early, you are giving your reader an incentive to keep going to find out when that thread is going to be picked up again.

Another place where get in late, leave early has benefited me is tightness and word count. When your story is viewed through the blinders of this one little phrase you will start to realize that much of your beginning scenes are merely SETUP. Driving, primping, internal exposition, rehashing past scenes, all the little “filler” scenes we put in because we think are needed are not necessary.

So the next time you pull up your document and look at each of your scenes, think of this: can I get in later? Can I move the entrance of my character farther into the moment so it is more dramatic, grabs more attention, adds deeper tension?

And can you leave early? End an argument by walking out, end a scene, chapter, whatever at the moment least expected. Have your character say a zinger of a line and then CUT. Stop. Leave the scene and you’ve got a hooked reader.

Keys to performing these methods would include: cut a lot of the internal exposition that rehashes what happened before, include more action, more dialogue, let your character speak through their actions—and save those moments of introspection for a later, more appropriate time.

Just thinking in “getting in late, leaving early” will completely change how you write and how you edit. You can always go tighter.


Are your brain cells not just churning now? Thank you Rachel Hauck! J


Wendy Paine Miller said...

I could see how memorizing that one phrase could really ramp up tension in a work.

Nice post.
~ Wendy

Julia M. Reffner said...

Great post! Great thought on keeping conflicts tight and keying them up.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

What a great post! I have heard the saying, but for some reason, I've never clued into the "leave early" part. Thanks for giving practical suggestions on how to make this handy dandy phrase effective in my wip.

Anonymous said...

This is excellent advice! I plan on implementing today!

Joanne Sher said...

What a FABULOUS sentence. And yes, THANK YOU, Rachel Hauck (and CASEY!).

Lacie Nezbeth said...

"We don’t need the backstory to APPRECIATE the tension."

Love this point. Very helpful. Thanks Casey!

Susan Anne Mason said...

I never looked at it that way before, but it makes so much sense! Thank you for this great tip!


Sarah Forgrave said...

I love this, Casey! Great reminder!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Great words of wisdom, Casey! So...are you good at hooking? ;)

Beth K. Vogt said...

Another thing I heard from author Donita K. Paul--never end your chapter with your character falling asleep. Your reader has no reason to turn the page. Your reader may just decide to go to sleep too.
Thanks for another great post. This is why The Writers Alley is a not-to-be-missed blog!

Pepper said...

Oh Casey,
I need to repeat this mantra with tight-writing and wordcount ESPECIALLY!!
I'm getting a bit better at the arriving late part, but writing tight?
Not so good.
I wax longer than spaghetti.
Too long and it makes an unnecessary mess (and horrible slurpy sound)

But I absolutely LOVE end of chapter hooks (I said I love them, remember, I did not say I was great at writing them) ;-)

Thanks for the reminder, Case. You can't go wrong with a healthy dose of Rachel Hauck advice :-)

Erica Vetsch said...

Wonderful post, Casey!

I remember Deb Raney saying she almost always deletes the last paragraph or two from a scene, which instantly tightens it up.

I've employed this method, and I have to say, it really works!

Pepper said...

Ooo, Erica
I LOVE that tip!
Great idea.
And of's from Deb so why should I be surprised? :-)

Linnette R Mullin said...

Christa Allan shared this post with me this morning. Some of the best advice in the writing biz! I'm storing this one on my computer, printing it out as a reminder... I might even frame it! :D

Thanks for sharing! This came at a most opportune time for me!



Tracy Krauss said...

Wow, that little phrase IS a gem! It is so simple yet illustrates perfectly the point you were trying to make. thanks. I'm writing that one down!

Casey said...

Good afternoon all! I’ve been gone all day, sorry I couldn’t be around to “hang out”.

WENDY, I agree. It has made all the difference!

JULIA, thank you! : -)

Casey said...

JEANNE, one of the keys to “leaving early” is to think “what is the EARLIEST I can cut this scene off?” Then cut sooner—as long as it will make sense for the scene. We don’t need half of what we put into each scene in those early drafts.

JOURNEY, so glad it was timely! Happy writing. ;-)

JOANNE, it tells all in one sentence doesn’t it?? Rachel Hauck is a genius.

Casey said...

LACIE, something for all writers to remember, wouldn’t you say? I too often forget and have to cut, but you learn through doing it! ;-)

SUSAN, I thought the same thing when I heard it for the first time from Rachel. It’s so easy to think about and really quite easy to apply and it makes so much difference!

SARAH, thank you! :- )

Casey said...

SHERRINDA-- Snort. I completely missed that post this week. :- ( Will have to go back!

BETH, I completely agree. I have read so many books that just don’t end their chapters/paragraphs/etc with hooks. Your reader has to WANT to keep reading. It’s a bit of soap-box issue for me. ;-) And thank you!

Casey said...

PEPPER, I know what you mean. Arriving late and leaving early are only two bookends to a problem (or work in progress to be politically correct. ;-) Learning the stuff in between is just as important. But yes, I agree with you, love me a good hook! I really need to go back for Sherrinda’s post…

ERICA, Thank you! And yes, I’ve heard Deb say that too, another excellent point I have put into practice!

Casey said...

LINETTE, I’m glad it came as such a timely moment for you. Like I said, but it bears repeating, learning and then putting this technique into practices makes a world of difference. You will start to see your writing in a new light.

TRACY, glad it could be of a help. Those little writing gems come along and they deserve to be tacked anywhere a writer can see them. Bathroom mirror included. ;-)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Great post. I especially like the idea to cut off the last paragraph. Oooooo so tempting to leave it in.
A Pastor friend who did Gospel magic for young people said to me one time at the end of a show and the children called for more, "Leave them wanting." I think this applies to many professions including ours, like Rachel Hauck said.

Rachel Hauck said...

Couldn't have said it better! Great post!

Casey said...

MARY, cutting the last scene has helped me more than once. So often I go back and rehash what already happened and it isn't needed. The reader needs punchy, to the point writing and this helps get there!

RACHEL, thanks for stopping by and inspiring it all! I've got it written and underlined on my writer's white board. ;-)