[Pitch Slap] The book identity

[Pitch Slap] The book identity

RisingWhen Patrick Sean Lee sent us some info about his book, Rising, I was intrigued. The cover is pretty, the title is dramatic, and the first sentence of the blurb starts “In the spectacular and corrupt city.”

I wanted to know more.

But as I kept reading the blurb, I began to suspect that the story was suffering from an identity crisis. Or several.

But before I get too far into that, here is the blurb….

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Identity crisis: Target your age group.

Who is this story for? Teens? Pre-teens? The word choice and language could go either way

Teen InfographicThe cover evokes an atmosphere of mystery and fairy-tale wonder, so perhaps the story itself leans towards coming-of-age fantasy adventure.The blurbs use of words like “spectacular,” “strange new land,” “massive branches of five-hundred-foot-tall-trees” create a kind of Narnia, Oz, or Alice in Wonderland sense of fantasy. The character passes through the veil from a gritty, harsh world to one of color and spectacular beauty and danger.

On the other hand, the opening (a corrupt city, a walled-in ghetto, caste systems) makes me think of political thrillers or sci-fi suspense adventures of the sort you see in books like Mazerunner, Hunger Games, Divergent, etc. Something that pits the character against an immense and unjust system.

A good rule of thumb for writing young characters for young readers is that your target reader will be the same age or a year or so younger than your character. If that holds true, readers of Rising will probably be in their mid-teens.  Kids want to read books that are “cool.” Be careful that the word choice is not narrowing your audience to the grandparents-only demographic.

Let’s assume we’re aiming for Teens. So first thing I’d do is…

Tighten the language: 

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Pruned down this way, the intriguing elements of the story come to the forefront. But a couple issues are also creep into the spotlight.

Issue: someone wants her dead?

Blurb:  “This happens, that happens, this happens, and then this happens!…oh and then someone wants her dead.”

Me: “Wait, what?”

So much time is spent on Alana’s trip to the island and why she was sent there that it’s really not clear what the story will be and what the main conflict is really about. No, we don’t have to know why someone wants Alana dead, but nothing in the blurb even hints that this should be a thing.

If a blurb takes the narrative approach, as this one does, each section of the blurb should connect to the next.

  1. Alana arrested unjustly.
  2. Because she is arrested, she is dropped off on island prison.
  3. Because she is dropped off on the island, someone rescues her.
  4. Because someone rescues her, she lives to learn about the island grouping/caste system.
  5. …Someone on island wants Alana dead badly enough to destroy the island.

The link break down at #5. Something more needs to be said to connect this.

Issue: What’s at stake?

One of the ways a blurb can pull the reader in is to explain what is at stake. What is the point of the adventures? What’s at stake? Is it just plain survival? Is it about getting back home?

Is the story going to be about Alana’s adventures on the island, or her attempts to fight/unravel the corrupt caste system that sent her to the island? Should the reader be asking, “Why is she a special case? Is this a science experiment? Will she lead a rebellion against the injustices at home?” or should the questions be “How will she survive on the island? Who is her friend or foe there? Can she escape the island to go home? What is this place?”

To make me care, you have to tell me what the danger is.

And what we’re fighting for.

Do you have a pitch or synopsis that you’d like to send to the sacrificial altar? Email it our way  to canarypost@gmail.com with “Pitch Article Submission” in the subject.

Looking for a few more pitch slaps?

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[Book Review] A pep talk and hug from Patricia C. Wrede

Wrede on Writing: Tips, Hints, and Opinions on Writing by Patricia C. Wrede

“What matters is that when you are finished, you have a good story, however you managed to get there.” (Wrede on Writing)

You know this author. You know her because of all the awesome:.

Dealing with Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #1) 64207 245727 5797595

And now she has a book out that distills over thirty  years of writing wisdom into 246 pages covering basics from what it means to get an idea for a novel to the eternal question that plagues writers around the country – should you have a dedicated writing office, or write on all and any available and relatively flat surface up to and including relatives and large animals? In small, short vignettes, the book covers a miscellany of writer-relevant topics in a ‘there’s no one right way to write’ kind of way.

The book is set up in three sections: the bare-bone basics of writing (outlining, what point of view is, tense, narration, the works), the more advanced basics (using flashbacks, writing conflict, ending the darn book, beginning it…), and the practical, financial and operational basics of being an author.  Continue reading

The Pitch Slap is Back!

Chirp! We are going to start the new year off with some brand new pitch slapping and fit tossing. In our Pitch Slapped series, we take a book blurb or a book pitch, and then proceed to pull it apart and stick it back together – all the while answering those pesky questions like: What works? What doesn’t work? What could be done differently? Why?

Here are a few of my favorite from last year:

A pitch slap! In tiny, tiny text.

 

I have a few pitch slap requests lined up, but I am always looking for more.

Do you have a pitch or synopsis that you’d like to send to the sacrificial altar? Or do you know an author who does?

Email it our way  to canarypost@gmail.com with “Pitch Article Submission” in the subject.

[ Pitch Slapped ] Dragons and the Perks of Being Straightforward

Let’s face it. The best stories are complex, convoluted little things. We love it when fantasy and sci fi attack the usual tropes from new angles and make the weirdest premises feel completely natural. That’s the wonder of it. But trying to put these ideas into a story’s blurb can be a real challenge. There’s barely enough space to write out the bare bones of plot – and that’s without that extra paragraph saying “Wait, wait, this makes sense and it’s actually really cool!” What to do?

But before we get into that, let’s see this week’s blurb from Amy Rareberth Mead’s dark epic fantasy novel, Dragon Marked: Continue reading

[Pitch Slapped] You only get three seconds to make a first impression.

One of my grad school professors told me that any report I handed in had to tell him everything he needed to know in 30 seconds, 3 minutes, and 30 minutes. But when you’re pitching your novel, you’re not writing a 50-page report and you don’t always get 30 seconds. Sometimes, you get 25 words and three seconds to convince the reader your book is on their to-buy list.

Madison Woods, Pitch Slap veteran and the host of “Vote for it: Would You Buy it?” series, came to us with a 25-word summary of her story.

“I’m planning to pitch my book to a publisher in October, and I realize I will have time to give more than the 25 words, but I want the first words I say to hook their interest.”

Let’s take a look at those words:

In this Pitch Slapped article, I’m going to give the blurb a good pecking and talk about the importance of appropriate and deliberate language decisions.  Continue reading

[Small Chirp] This is why characters should talk less

I’m about 75% of the way through The Magician by Michael Scott. Some of you might remember the review for the first book in this series, The Alchemyst, in which I was so flustered by the content of the book that I broke down into bullet points.  And for reasons that I still don’t completely understand, almost a year later, I find myself reading the sequel to what was arguably the most blah book I have ever read.

While reading last night, I found myself skimming the text. I rarely do that; I’m a slow reader because I take in each and every word. After I made several frustrated attempts to stop myself from skipping whole paragraphs, I realized the book was actually forcing me to be a bad reader.

“Just stop talking and do something already!” I finally yelled at the text.

And that gave me pause. The outburst had finally let me put a finger on what had been driving me crazy about this series from page one: The characters talk way too much. Continue reading

[Pitch Slapped] Getting Reviews: Go bold, get noticed

We get a lot of review requests. While we read each and every one of them, all of the dystopian YA and vampire paranormal romance stories start to bleed together because the pitches simply are not distinct enough. Most of them get lost in the abyss; very few stand out enough for us to talk amongst ourselves about pursuing the read.

So when I woke up to a request forwarded to my personal email from CanaryTheFirst, I didn’t need her opening line of “laaaawl” to tell me it was going to be something pretty special. Continue reading