How important is a blurb to readers?

I had an itty-bitty blog break – just like on my 40th, I’ll have a ‘few’ wines. But like any comeback, I wanted to return with a bang and say, ‘Yeah, that’s right! This is why I blog: because I love to get stuck in, not because I have to.’ And I was bogged down in query hell where Blurb is a king who rules with an iron fist alongside his younger, less important but also unforgiving brother, Synopsis.

But since Blurb and I have had such a close relationship, I thought I would look into the true power that it wields. Does the king become the pauper when you take  it away from this kingdom of hell? Or will it shine because what makes it king will make it influential wherever it is?

So as a reader, how important is a blurb? As a writer, I’m trying to get the attention of an agent. But do the integral components I’m including, bonded together with a voice meant to create interest, translate to a reader as well? If I took this query blurb and used this on a self-published book, would it hold up?

We know there’s a time for creativity when you’re selling and there’s  a time for sticking to the rules. Even with contemporary music, over all the years, we still have a verse and a chorus. And dissonance, while some people don’t mind it, we still prefer the sound of music that is harmonious – in general. So with a blurb, I guess the creativity can be included with your voice, but you can’t add this to sacrifice character, conflict and consequence – in a query.

So when you pick up a book, do you read the blurb, and if so, what is it about a blurb that pulls you in? I have to say, most times I’m halfway through a book before I even look at a blurb; my reads come from recommendations.

But when you do look at a blurb, you expect it to start like this:

Like anyone, Nancy puts her pants on one leg a time. That is, until she wakes up and finds out she has 60 legs, and the only way she’ll make it to school on time is by doubling her efforts.

So there must be a reason a blurb follows a pattern. But how important is it these days? And when you are in a book store, is it the blurb you rush to, or the first few pages?

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

How do you make the most of Twitter?

It’s 6 months on from when I started my blog (or it might be 6 months; I’m too scared to actually check), and I thought it about time that I tackled Twitter. Then apologise for my aggressive behaviour…

I don’t blog unless inspiration hits me to the point I can’t sleep.  It should be at least once a week, right? But I have a dog that’s like a cat, and cats that are like dogs, so as you can see, I like to do things differently. It might stem from the fact I was born on the cusp of Leo and Cancer. I’m the astrological bad girl, writing a book on the cusp of YA and NA,  uf and pnr,  humorous and dark. But I also have a habit of falling off track and losing people with my tangents.

I’m back on track. With any of my blog posts, I find a more collaborative approach works better than an informative one. I show you what I’ve learned and you show me yours, and inevitably, I find myself off on another tangent, down the wrong freakin’ road… So we could call it the flounder approach. But I prefer to believe it looks a little more like the worm dance. A little more structured, but certainly has its up and down moments. Although at the start of my process, it feels a little like this:

Back on track. This time for sure…

I started using Twitter at the same time as I set up my blog, and after a few months, I found I just couldn’t keep up. I’d be worried about missing the feed for ten minutes, where yesterday’s news was about 10000 tweets ago. And when you feel you can’t keep up, there are those that slog on and might check the feed twice a day instead of twice a minute, and those who check twice a minute and give up.

I’m going to be upfront. I have been lacking in the tweeting area. I am one of those that can’t keep up. But I am not going to lie down and give up. I’ve taken a snap, which is what my daughter calls a short nap. I argue it should be called a shnap, and a snap should be a super nap, but if start talking about super naps, I’d never get her to have one.

So how do you make the most of Twitter when there are so many tweets and so many retweets and repeated tweets and repeated retweets? Two words: coffee and eyeballs. Two words: lists and notifications. Technically three words, but I find ‘and’ does not help me with Twitter organisation.

I have lists for bloggers, publishers, agents, and authors. I can go in, check the feed for those groups, and jump out. Is that wrong? Am being unfaithful to the 1000 people I am following? Who on earth could check all those tweets and eat?

And just a quick sidetip. You can unfollow those who don’t follow you back, or those who follow you to get your follow only to unfollow you. Confused? The program I use is called justunfollow. I lot less confusing than my explanation.

But who makes those lists and what is twitter etiquette? I might be old fashioned, but if someone follows me, I follow them. If they aren’t tweeting about my hot spots, then I probably wouldn’t put them on a list I can check all the time. But if they are tweeting about my hot spots, firstly, that sounds disturbing, but secondly, I would retweet them, put them on a list and add notifications for them. Hopefully they retweet me now and again.

There are a number of ways people will use Twitter to promote themselves and increase their following, but today, I’m interested in how you keep on top of all those followers: How do you make the most of Twitter?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing is like dieting

Writing and dieting have an interesting relationship. I thought starving writers were motivated to write more, but the opposite is true for me. If I didn’t have a fridge to go to every time I’m stuck on a word, it would be become too expensive: I’d have  to replace all the keyboards I would smash.  I’m trying to do both at the moment and falling flat so I thought I’d make some observations about my experience.

Some similarities:

1) If you make realistic long-term goals, you are more likely to achieve them.

2) If you have a bad day and don’t meet your daily goal, start the next day as though yesterday never happened. Don’t try to make up for what you didn’t do the day before.

3) Quality exceeds quantity – a satisfying, tasty meal will stick with you longer than loads of small tasteless meals. The same can be said for word count and content.

4) You are more likely to achieve your goals if you surround yourself with people who have the same goals.

5) If you go too hard for too long, you will burn out.

6) Exercise will help immensely.

7) If you don’t achieve either goal, it is really difficult to stop yourself from going to the fridge……

 

Although they may be similar, it can be detrimental to strive for both at the same time.

1) The more you do of one, the less you want to do of the other.

2) If you are like me and you drink more alcohol when you diet, then you are now drinking three times as much now that you write and diet.

3) The hungrier you are, the crankier you are – so the it’s less likely you feel in the mood to write.

4) You will become more obstinate when you feel compelled to follow two regimes.

 

Do you have any issues with overeating or eating less when you write?

 

 

Hindsight is not so wonderful…

I really don’t understand this saying: hindsight is a wonderful thing. To be more accurate, hindsight is a vicious, treacherous, demoralising, faith-stealing, malignant, party-pooping devil whose presence is akin to lancing a  festering, reoccurring boil with an infected, blunt hypodermic needle. My saying is a little clumsier, but if I take out one or two adjectives, it might just catch on.

And to make it worse, this saying encroaches onto my sacred sarcasm territory. Get out! You are not welcome here. You do not make me smile sardonically. You are not wicked in the good way!

So, if I am forced to believe this saying is being genuine, then I call bs…

Looking back on what I have done over the last two months, I can’t help but wonder if I could have done better. These mutating, disease-ridden musings have been infiltrating my mind and morphing perfectly-useful, blissfully-ignorant thoughts into ones tainted with doubt and failure.

A very wise woman said to me once, ” You make decisions with the information you had at the time. At that time, it was the best decision you could make.” She then picked up her racquet and we had a blinding set of tennis. The advice was anything but blinding. It stuck with me and opened the way to a fresh alternative that would urge me to teeter on the edge of a more satisfying and less horrifying saying:  ignorance is bliss.

So if I proclaim ignorance, and say, “Well, I did what I did because I didn’t have enough information,” then surely this means only  one thing to someone who analyses the whos and whys of every suspicious glance thrown my way.

Get more information.

I did get more information. I had so much I couldn’t breathe. And the only way to cut open my constricted larynx was to grab that boil-lancing hypodermic needle that is hindsight, and stab myself in the throat. It feels a little better, though. Sometimes it is better the devil you know.

 

 

I missed middle child day? Here is my contribution…

 

 

 

Here is a little Mae and Violet action after Mae’s first ‘episode’.

 

The car is an incubator. This little chick in the passenger seat is ready to hatch and escape the unbearable, boiling temperature.

Violet senses my discomfort and jumps onto the obvious problem. “Of course, I’ll put the air conditioning on arctic level. I’ll just get these windows down and let all the hot air out first.”

I glare at her like she just ate my firstborn.

“Or we could just travel straight to the Antarctic.” She starts the car and turns up the air conditioning, looking at me intently. “So, are you ready to talk about this?”

I glare at her like she just ate my newborn baby for dessert.

“That’s okay. I’ll just enjoy the quiet,” she says, pulling out of the car park.

I look over at her, calmer and forgiving, like she just ate my middle child.

Writing, children and ‘work’

Apparently, there’s a cyclone coming to Brisbane. It’s the only possible explanation for the amount of groceries I bought today. This shouldn’t make me excited – that would be quite macabre if there was actually a cyclone coming- but I have never enjoyed strolling down those aisles more (Oh, look, two free wine glasses when you purchase two cream cheese products. They do know me. And I thought all that marketing business was a waste…) And yesterday, I did thirty minutes of housework and it put the biggest smile on my face. I miss my routine, and I think the kids do as well.

They don’t understand that for the past month I couldn’t go shopping, that I couldn’t move their clothes from the lounge room to their rooms, that I couldn’t muster the energy to move items from tables that have been piling up. I feel like I’ve been moving from the PC to the kitchen to school and then back. Sleep is in there somewhere. Two days ago I had some downtime and I decided to read. It was bloody nice! I missed it so much. But do you know what happened? I found that someone had used the word barrelling and used one ‘l’ where I used two in my synopsis. That was not a pleasant few hours.

So anyway, to the point. We’ve asked the children to appreciate the time they have at home and to behave because I ‘work’ from home and work around them. They are only children, right? They don’t understand. I hear you. We have it drummed into us so often, that I don’t need to tell myself – someone else is already doing it, and they are doing it louder.

But I can’t help but look at this differently. We were lucky growing up that Mum didn’t work and we were able to have a parent home before and after school and weren’t rushed around. I appreciate that so much – now. Maybe I didn’t then? Maybe I was a brat? I don’t know, I can’t remember. But I know that I would never have spoken to my parents the way mine speak to me.

So my daughter doesn’t classify what I do as work.  And I tell her – it’s work.  Just because I don’t get paid and just because I love it,  doesn’t mean I’m not doing this for them and the family as a whole.  She can’t see it? She’s just a child.

But again, I can’t help look at this differently. I want them to appreciate what they have. If they don’t take things for granted, then I believe it makes them a more respectful person. Writing is work. I’m doing this because I want this to be my career. I’ll be writing even if I don’t make a cent. If someone is building a business and they don’t make any money for years, does this mean they aren’t working? Those people will tell you, it’s work alright, and it’s hard because you don’t make cent.

I know that I don’t have to justify myself to my children, and I don’t expect them to bow down to me for writing while I’m raising them. I’ll never claim to be super mum.  But I do want children that understand what it means to be passionate about something enough that you are willing to fight for it.

 

Condensing your writing – why there’s no harm in starting early.

I feel there’s no harm in providing this advice. Writing a synopsis can be time-consuming, but there are multiple benefits to be gained by condensing your work early.

I moaned about how hard it was to condense 80K words to 300, to use your voice, to illustrate your writing style. What I didn’t stress though is what I uncovered.

When you write a synopsis, from what I’ve read online, you have to  also include: setting and age early on, the character’s motivations, the problem, the obstacle, and what need’s to be resolved.  What I found  further from researching loglines is that it’s also important to highlight a contradiction. This helps to  create tension  and an interesting read. eg  control freak who has her choices taken away.

Firstly, I’m from Australia, so it’s important you research how you go about querying or submitting your MS straight to a publisher in your country.

I’m sending my MS to Australian publishers directly and am tailoring my submission to meet their requirements. That doesn’t mean I won’t be contacting agents soon. **UPDATED** I have been informed ( thank you brixmcd13 🙂 ) that when you query an agent, you are to reveal the whole plot in a short synopsis. Please see Christine’s comments regarding the synopsis – you are to reveal the entire plot to publishers as well when a synopsis is requested. I will have to read that book, Christine! I was originally confused by one publishers advice which I misconstrued :S

It won’t hurt to research what the requirements are in your circumstance.

From there you cut the information down further to a blurb (what the reader’s see) , and then a logline ( one sentence summing up the whole book)  and then a tagline ( something you would see to promote a movie for eg.). The shorter it gets, the more difficult it is, and the more intense the themes.

Whether you’re querying an agent or sending to a publisher ( research will help you determine which they require) I believe it wouldn’t hurt to do all of them.

Why?

Because it’s amazing what you find. If you keep all those elements in mind that I highlighted above, you find themes you may not even be aware of. This is not only helpful for your summaries, but it will also help you look at your complete work in a new light. Did I emphasise that theme enough? Is that what this book is actually about?

Researching and playing with my blurb,  logline and tagline has helped with my synopsis and to uncover themes. And when I send off my submissions in a week I want to have them completely finished in case somebody asks – can you sum up your book in one sentence?  That one question right there almost scared me off writing a year and a half ago.