[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….

CanaryPost

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: 

Canarypost2

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?

[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

[ Small Chirps ] Writers, if you won’t speak up for your writing, who will?

When 11-year-old Kahlo Smith saw that the rules of NPR’s Three Minute Fiction contest excluded minors, she had two options. One, and the one of least resistance, was to let out a deep breath of disappointment and close the browser. Instead, she sent the contest organizers a letter to them know about her interest, ask why they had the 18-and-over-only rule, and tell them about her 600-word story.

Today, All Things Considered featured her question and her short piece of fiction on their program. The age rule stays, but Smith will be receiving an autographed copy of Luis Alberto Urrea’s most recent historic novel, Queen of America, and some NPR-related items for her story. You can read her entry and the full story at the NPR article, Minor Details: Three-Minute Fiction’s Age Rules.

For every thousands of young (and adult) writers who look at the rules (or at the impenetrable design of a publisher site, or the distracted and busy life of an agent), there are one or two individuals who will be willing to put themselves out there and write that letter or ask that question. And in the end, that will set them apart.

So this Saint Patrick’s Day, make the resolution to make your own luck.

__

Related Reads:

Pet Hates: Stop sighing and don’t get eaten

Small Chirp: Select Pet Hates from the Fantasy and Paranormal Genres

Sighing

When in doubt, make your character sigh.

In fact, make your characters sigh all the time! It adds depth to their already angsty personalities and highlights how tortured and put upon they are. It can also be used while daydreaming of that hawt actor look-alike across the room, to convey impatience with the police line that just won’t let the character ogle the corpse, or to express pure frustration when the villain, once again, slips out of a clever ambush. It can even convey boredom. It’s a very versatile act.

For an even better use of this elegant action, have your character (if female) fiddle around with the strands of her black-dyed hair as she stares about the bookstore sighing or (if male) glance broodingly around the coffee shop as he slumps in his seat with as sigh. Life is meaningless. This story is boring. The characters are deep.

Le sigh.

What age difference? It’s true love!

Sure the human girl may be super mature for her tender age of 13 (or 20, or 30) but you have to wonder what a 100-year-old (or 500, or 10,000 depending on how far out we’re going) immortal sees in her. Continue reading

[ Pitch Slaps ] Weekend Picks

Part of the Pitch Slapped Series:

Blurbs can make or break the a book’s sales, especially if the reader hasn’t heard about the author before. A strong blurb is a must for query letters and getting the book read.

For this latest installment of Pitch Slaps, we’re going to do something different. We’ve talked about a lot of things that go wrong when an author writes a blurb. So instead, here is the cream of the blurbing crop from indie books recently submitted for review.

SECTOR C by Phoenix Sullivan

“Cloning Ice Age mammoths and saber-tooth cats for canned hunts seems like a good business venture — until it reintroduces the species-jumping pandemic that wiped out the megabeasts 10,000 years ago. Now history is about to repeat itself, with humans the next target for extinction.”

What works: In two sentences, the book blurb sets up the world (ours, futurist), genre (science fiction, speculative, medical thriller) and the conflict (extinction! corporation-style). It’s clear, concise, and clever.

What doesn’t: The truth of it is, I cut the rest of the blurb (not shown here), going from four paragraphs to the one (shown here).


The Phoenix and the Dream King’s Heart by James Monaghan

“The Phoenix is a cursed ship.

Exiled to the Darkland Expanse, on the fringes of the known galaxy, its captain and crew have spent the last decade struggling just to stay alive. In a galaxy full of cruel gods, terrifying monsters and treacherous allies, though, survival is far from an easy task.

When the King of Dreams offers them a bargain – retrieve his stolen heart in return for a key that may just get them home – Captain Asher Lee and his crew agree to launch a desperate mission across dimensions. When faced with an insane goddess and her army of quantum spiders, though, do they really have a chance?”

What works: This is an example of a blurb that does it all–dramatic tension, a hint at the plot, and a glimpse of the world. It adds an extra lure by promising to combine science fiction (space, dimensions…) with fantasy (gods, monsters…). And of course, who doesn’t like a story that has some treacherous frenemies?

Torn by Dean Murray

“Shape shifter Alec Graves has spent nearly a decade trying to keep his family from being drawn into open warfare with a larger pack. The new girl at school shouldn’t matter, but the more he gets to know her, the more mysterious she becomes. Worse, she seems to know things she shouldn’t about his shadowy world.

Is she an unfortunate victim or bait designed to draw him into a fatal misstep? If she’s a victim, then he’s running out of time to save her. If she’s bait, then his attraction to her will pull him into a fight that’ll cost him everything.”

What works: This blurb takes a different approach. It woos the reader with the very fact that it presents the traditional star-cross-lovers plotline with a dash of paranormal intrigue. There will be romance and there may be betrayal, it says, and in the YA PNR genre, what more can you ask for?

What doesn’t: As a reader, I would love to see what sets this book apart. There is safety in being generic in this genre, but give me a hint of something concrete.

___

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

Read more slapped pitches here.