Getting the Grip Factor

Have you ever been in a writing group and listening to a manuscript – possibly read out by one of your very good friends – and then realised that you’ve stopped listening. That you have drifted off partway through? That you have missed a chunk. Have you ever felt relieved that they’ve stopped reading? No?

Don’t lie. I know you have. So have I. And then I’ve felt guilty. And then I’ve decided it must be because I’m tired, or it’s been a long day, or because I’m stressed. Or because I’m distracted. In short, I’ve decided it must be my fault.

But what if it isn’t my fault? What if it’s their fault?

Here’s another question for you? Have you ever been in a writing group and listening to a manuscript – possibly read out by someone you don’t care for too much – you weren’t really paying that much attention. And suddenly you find that you’re gripped. You’re listening. You don’t want them to stop. You are disappointed when they do stop. You want more.

Whose fault is that? This is an easier question to answer, isn’t it. It’s their fault. The writer’s. Clearly they have written something that’s good. They have the X factor, the hook, the read-on-ability factor – whatever you want to call it.

I realised recently that this whole question of whether it’s easy to listen – or not – is a very good gauge of how good something is. If I’m gripped, chances are the story/writing is good, If I’m not gripped, well it isn’t.

So has your writing got the Grip-Factor or the Switch Off Factor?

Your friends won’t tell you the truth. So here is a light hearted look at how to tell.

How to tell if your writing has the Switch Off Factor

People are fidgeting, texting, writing notes, playing on their iPad, looking glazed over.

People have fallen asleep and are snoring.

People sigh when you finish – with relief.

There is utter silence in the room – everyone has left.

How to tell if your writing has the Grip Factor

There is utter silence in the room – everyone is hanging on to your every word.

People sigh when you finish – with frustration because they want more.


And yes, I’m being very lighthearted here, but it’s food for thought, isn’t it. Check out your audiences’ reactions next time you read 🙂

If you want to get the Grip Factor – when it comes to short story writing. There are still places on my day course next Saturday 9 March. How to Write and Sell Short Stories.

More details for How to Write and Sell Short Stories


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11 Responses to Getting the Grip Factor

  1. Cally Taylor says:

    Excellent post Della and one that makes me wish I was still part of a book group! It’s also useful to guage whether people are laughing, raising their eyebrows or holding their breath when they shouldn’t be. At one book group I went to the author had written a ‘chorus’ piece about a group of Greek Gods. I’m not sure if she intending her gods to suffer from such terrible Tourettes but I was (silently) shaking with laughter by the end it was so terrible. When she’d finished reading she looked at me and said, “you seemed to have a strong emotional reaction to the piece”. “Yes,” I managed, “Very.”

  2. Tracy says:

    Love this post. Very truthful.

  3. Janice Day says:

    You’re so right, Della. And isn’t it funny that we blame ourselves for having a short attention span? Similarly, I’ve noticed that the radio plays that keep my attention are ones in which every single scene is gripping, not just the beginning and the end. I know you’re qualified to teach this because your own stories would not have sold so well if you weren’t a master of that very skill. I wish I could come to your courses. They are really excellent! Please, please run one on a Sunday up in Central London. I’m sure lots of people would come!

  4. Tracy Fells says:

    Gripping post Della!
    I recently took part in a Story Telling Event (Rattle Tales), which actually charges people to come and listen to writers reading their work. And it was packed out – showing how popular these events can be. I was on towards the end and when I finished reading there was a deathly hush before applause. Thankfully the audience hadn’t done a bunk and I’m hoping the hush was because the story had the “grip factor”.

  5. Della Galton says:

    I’m sure it was the grip factor, Tracy 🙂

  6. When I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new feedback are added- checkbox and now every time a remark is added I get 4 emails with the same comment. Is there any method you can remove me from that service? Thanks!

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