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Blurbs and such

Hello people!  Only one week and I'm done with my first semester of nursing school!  Finals week is next week and I'm not going to promise that I'll have a post for you next week, but I'd like to.  I'm going to try to get a post up every week in May since I have off of class for the whole month.  (Gasp!)

I haven't done any writing, but I've been (mostly) keeping up with listening to writing podcasts.  A couple of weeks ago the author Libbie Hawker was a guest on a Self-Publishing Podcast episode talking about her book Gotta Read It!  It's an how-to book geared toward writing a book blurb or pitch.  I managed to finish it last week when the transformer in front of my house was struck by lightning and we lost power.  It's amazing what you find time for when there's no internet.

The book is structured in a build-as-you-go style.  Readers (writers?) are prompted to answer some basic questions about their story, kind of a who/what/when/where/why/how about your story and main character.  This could be adapted for use as a basic two or three sentence pitch.  These questions are then fleshed out with layers of style, tone, and setting.  Hawker emphasizes the importance of these aspects to give someone reading the pitch a realistic idea of what kind of book they are getting themselves into.  Genre and tone inferred from the blurb are often what makes a reader decide on a book, rather than the shape of a character arc.  This puts the finishing touches on the book blurb, whether for the back of the book or a product description.

Hawker also offers pointers on how to adapt a blurb for a story with more than one main character.  It's not incredibly in-depth, but it gives you a place to start.

As I read this I kept thinking about The Neif, since that is the story I have the most difficulty pitching to my fellow writers and friends.  Here's my first answers to the five questions, and I'm not particularly happy with this bare-bones pitch:

  1. The main character is Delo
  2. Delo wants to be taken seriously as a scout and enjoy the freedom that lifestyle offers
  3. The directives from the Elders on what scouts must search for stands in her way
  4. Delo must use her skill and learn to trust her friends in order to keep the freedom scouts enjoy
  5. If Delo fails, she will not only loose her sense of identity, but risks the future of the Neif as well

This is only telling half of the story, and the less exciting half at that.  Here's the problem: Delo is my main viewpoint character, but she's not really the protagonist.  Her actions don't bring about the important changes in my story.  The Elders are the protagonists in that sense, but they're five different people moving in five different directions, and none of them get viewpoint narration.  I have to figure out if this means there's a problem with my pitch approach or a problem fundamentally with my story. I'm going to try to re-work the pitch using the multiple character suggestions Hawker made and see how I like that version.

Overall, this book was useful, but not game-changing.  It's stuff that makes sense if you've been trying to write pitches already, but it's nice to have it all in one place to reference.  It was a little annoying to read an example blurb for one of Hawker's books three or four times to emphasize three or four different aspects of pitch writing.  Otherwise, no complaints.  I'd say it's worth the $0.99 I paid for it.

Wish me luck on finals next week!  If you check out Gotta Read It! let me know what you think.  Feel free to post your pitch in the comments below.


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