Hooks, Numbers and Readers

Readers are a curious lot. Grabbing them is one thing, then holding on to them is quite another. I’ve been pondering the meaning of some numbers. Since I’ve been writing my FanFiction story, Flashback, I’ve been having a lot of fun, interacting with readers and it’s been a good experience. Today, I decided to check out the stats. I have a handful of folks who have been reviewing, but I know there are "lurkers" just like on email lists. You know, those folks who read but don’t comment. I figured there were probably more hits to my story than there were actual reviews. And of course, I was right. When I saw the number of hits, 1880, I almost did the Snoopy Dance. But then, my glee was dampened. The first chapter got a total 594 hits. Yowser! Pretty cool, huh? Am I good or what? So the title and my one line blurb drew them in. (Or maybe they were just interested in reading another Patriot fanfic. Whatever. I thought my one liner was pretty lame, actually.) But this is where it gets sad. Chapter two. 126 hits. Wha?? That’s less than half. I mean, that’s quite a drop. Chapter three lost another three readers, down to 123. The numbers have fluctuated since then, dropping to 96, going back up to 104...Steady for a bit, then steadily dropping until at chapter 16 I have only 29 hits. Hm. So what does this say to me?

1. I wrote a pretty darn awful first chapter.

Come on, now. It wasn’t that bad. Had to introduce the character and give the reader a glimpse into what she was like. 594 to 126. But there is just no fighting with those numbers...the facts. Out of 594 people, only 126 returned for the second chapter. I guess I need to get those hooks out and start sharpening them a little more.

2. It's the weekend and everyone is out having fun. Next week the numbers will go up on those last chapters.

Um...that would be nice. But we can't deal in "what ifs". So what do I have to suppose here? Looking at it through very critical, writerly eyes, I'd say I might have had one of those sagging middles. Time for a tummy-tuck! If this were a regular novel, then I'd have to go back and see what's the problem. Maybe those intervening chapters are too slow, or too boring. So I've upped the tension in chapter 16, turned up the burner on the romance part (on low heat, of course) and hopefully some of those readers who have fallen by the wayside will come running back. Then again, maybe it's too late. Maybe I've lost them forever. <>

So...tell me, if you are a writer, what are your techniques for hooking readers in the first chapter...and keeping them reading? If you're a reader, what keeps you reading?

Wanna go check out my Fan Fiction story, Flashback, based on the movie, The Patriot? You can find it here: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/2865546/1/

Have a great day!

LBL

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