- Becoming a novelist is a major amount of fun, but it’s also very hard work. The unexpected challenges are the ones that come after it’s been accepted for publication. One of the big challenges is to write a short persuasive summary of your book, if your publisher requires you to write it, or you’re self-publishing. Wonderful writers have been known to tear out their hair over this.
But because these blurbs or book descriptions are needed for a book’s back cover, for the Amazon page, the author’s website, and countless book marketing materials, you have to win the challenge. You haven’t come this far to break down on a couple of paragraphs! Blurbs are used everywhere in social media to sell books. They’re probably second only in sales to good cover art.
Tips on Blurb Writing
Here’s an article with good writing advice on book blurbs:
The Fussy Librarian – Beth Bacon on Book Blurb Writing. Anne R. Allen has 8 Tips for Writing That Killer Blurb. I especially like the one about staying true to your genre. There are endless examples as near as your local library or bookstore (online or other). Joanna Penn has a great How to Write Back Blurb for Your Book Some more writing tips on crafting a blurb for your book:
The Writing Path
Someone in one of my writing groups asked what makes a great first page. It’s an excellent question, and no two answers will be alike, despite what the bestseller lists and books on writing “the breakout novel” tell us.
Character always draws me into a book. I don’t read many thrillers or fast-paced stories. Someone reported the advice that a first line of a novel should make you nervous. I think that works well for readers who love suspenseful stories. I’m not so reeled in by suspense, but a great character in the book’s opening — even an unappealing person — will catch me.
A Man Called Ove did this, with the most unique character I’ve ever read about. I kept reading just to see who was going to punch him in the face. Here are three book openings whose characters, sketched nimbly in first paragraphs, hooked me. And the books proved just as good as their openings!
In case you haven’t read about this already, I’m giving away a free chapter of The Renaissance Club, due to be published by Fiery Seas Publishing in January 2018. You can claim one from Instafreebie here, or simply by going to my website.
Would you give up everything, even the time in which you live, to be with your soul mate? May Gold, a college adjunct teacher, often dreams about the subject of her master’s thesis – Gianlorenzo Bernini. In her fantasies she’s in his arms, the wildly adored partner of the man who invented the Baroque.
But in reality, May has just landed in Rome with her teaching colleagues and older boyfriend. She considers herself a precocious failure and yearns to unleash her passion and creative spirit. Over the course of the tour, she realizes she has to choose — stay in a safe but stagnant existence, or take a risk. Will May’s adventure in time ruin her life or lead to a magical new one? The Renaissance Club is forthcoming from from Fiery Seas Publishing in 2018.
These aren’t the actual covers, but I had fun playing around with images! If you want to comment, please do.
I finished my 10-day Do-It-Yourself At Home Writing Retreat, and I learned some new things about my creative process . I got a lot done:
- Edited the first third of my novel manuscript
- Wrote three new poems
- Prepared ideas for cover art for my forthcoming novel
- Wrote a couple of blog posts and some tweets
- Finished the script for a musical
- Had some fun days in nature and in town
It was an experiment, as always. I learned that a writing retreat can be as short or long as you like and can manage. A writing retreat is really just at heart a self-discipline, an intention. A promise you make to yourself to do something deeply pleasing and also productive. I’ve found there are three important elements: time, place, and strategy.
A holiday — any three-day weekend has the golden potential of being a writing retreat time. For a novelist, who must keep writing fiction over an extended period of years, any weekend can become a DIY writer’s retreat. But a holiday weekend has a special glow. A delicious sense of timelessness. The prospect of losing track of TIME gets my creative juices going.
Since it’s a StayWriCation — home-based writer’s retreat — for me the place is imaginary. This is my favorite writer’s retreat place, beside a beautiful ocean. Of course this is Monet’s ocean in Normandy, and I like to think of myself as painted by Monet into it, the woman with the red umbrella standing there. In literal reality, my place is usually a couch in the living room, with an occasional foray to my deck or a coffeehouse with my laptop. PLACE for me is mostly in the landscape of my work in progress.
Deciding on goals is key to a successful StayWriCation — even if you don’t achieve them! I find it key to my every day, planning what I want to accomplish, and then being flexible about what comes. Interruptions happen, new directions, ideas, wishes. If you’re too rigid, inspiration dries up, and if too scattered, nothing happens. So STRATEGIC PLANNING WITH FLEXIBILITY is my best gambit. I think of Bernini’s sculpture of David, aiming at the giant. You can hit the target of a big goal in a compressed amount of time with strategy and a good aim.
More articles on Do-It-Yourself Writing Retreats:
Cynthia Morris’ tips on creating your own retreat
One thing I like in this one is rcruiting allies. When I did my recent DIY retreat, I enlisted the support of writer friends, and the cheering section was like NaNoWriMo, very motivating.
Twitter — with all you have to do writing an entire novel, and then spendig nearly as much time finding a publishing house and marketing it after publication — why jump into this fast-moving river that is Twitter? Why grab your 15 seconds of attention in the feed to try and sell your book to readers? The simple answer is because any social platform gives you the chance to benot just an author to potential readers, but a person. You make connections. Hopefully, you meet people who will want to read your books.
I initially joined Twitter to get news. It was the season of the Green Revolution in Iran, and the mainstream media didn’t seem to know that anything was happening. There was this fearless woman tweeting out news from the square where the pro-democracy protest was gathering, and I just signed up because someone on Facebook said that’s where you could find out.
Then I was glued to someone called Oxford Girl, who was putting out tweets through a complex network that allowed her to use her cell phone to get brief reports and pictures of the action out, while (resumably) keeping her safe.
The Atlantic described it this way: “The immediacy of the reports was gripping,” reported the Washington Times. “Well-developed Twitter lists showed a constant stream of situation updates and links to photos and videos, all of which painted a portrait of the developing turmoil. Digital photos and videos proliferated and were picked up and reported in countless external sources safe from the regime’s Net crackdown.” Journalists even gave the unrest in Tehran a second moniker: the “Twitter Revolution.”
My husband couldn’t pry me away from the computer for about three days.
Now the launch of your novel isn’t going to attract the breathless interest a developing revolution gets, but it is a news event, for you and for your fans. It may be modest in comparison to NationalGirlfriendsDay, or whatever outrageous thing the Tweeter-in-Chief posted last night. But it’s news to those who follow you. The difference between Twitter and other platforms is the speed of news and sense of excitement. So it should probably be in your network.
Build a following, largely by following others and tweeting about your writing life (#amwriting #writinglife #amediting are good hashtags to follow and use), and then when you have some news, tweet and ask your @friends to retweet. If you want some basics, here’s The Ultimate Guide to Twitter for Writers.
Follow me @Rachel_Dacus and I’ll follow you back!
There’s a reason a good number of novelists writing about women and their relationships (the loose definition of women’s fiction) include elements of magical realism. It’s a fine way to make visual a character’s adventures in relationships.
A butterfly emanating from a woman’s mouth when she tries to answer her lover, a small elephant that keeps appearing in different Italian towns — elements I’ve used in my novel The Renaissance Club (forthcoming, Jan 2018) — signal to us as readers that we’re about to enter an interior realm that obeys different laws than the usual ones, laws of feeling and symbol.
I seek out these WF books with magical realism because to me
that’s the deeper reality, the one described by unlikely occurrences and symbols appearing in unusual ways and places. Here are two magical realism reads in women’s fiction, and writers who often use MR as a way to shape the story of a woman’s journey.
Aimee Bender’s newest is The Color Master, a collection of stories called “a wondrous collection of dreamy, strange, and magical stories.” The bestselling author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (one of my favorite novels ever) has been called an enchantress whose lush prose is “moving, fanciful, and gorgeously strange” (People), “richly imagined and bittersweet” (Vanity Fair), and “full of provocative ideas” (The Boston Globe). In her deft hands, “relationships and mundane activities take on mythic qualities” (The Wall Street Journal). Enough said.
Susanna Kearsley’s The Rose Garden. When Eva’s film star sister Katrina dies, she leaves California and returns to Cornwall, where they spent their childhood summers, to scatter Katrina’s ashes and in doing so return her to the place where she belongs. But Eva must also confront the ghosts from her own past, as well as those from a time long before her own. Kearsley’s other books use magical elements to shape a character’s journey.
Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells. Allen uses magical realism as nonchalantly as her character might pick up a trowel and dig in the earth. Her story is set in a garden with magical properties, so that its apple tree bears special fruit. She has a naturalistic way of telling her stories that makes the magic seem natural too.
Do you have any authors and titles to add to the topic of women’s fiction and magical realism? I’d love to hear them! Here in the comments. Thanks for reading MR!
I’m calling mine a StayWriCation, because I plan to host my solitary writer’s retreat here in the most comfortable, lovely place I can work — home. Many writers escape to rural retreats where they often share solitude (how is this possible?) with other writers in an unplugged, calm setting, in order to make progress on whatever they’re starting or working on. I can’t afford travel, hate planes and airports, miss my dog when I leave home, and insist on the comforts of a speedy Internet while writing. Writing retreats are not really designed for me.
So one year, I crafted my own StayWriCation. It was in November, and I had to finish final editing of a childhood memoir, so as to send out queries and snag an agent. I was determined to have pure, unadulterated, daily writing time — and what better place to have it than my sun-filled, high-ceilinged living room, with a wall of glass, a deck nestled under trees, with the roses I grow to water while thinking through plot points, hummingbirds whizzing over my head?
I developed a daily rhythm, working from 7 am until 1 or 2 in the afternoon, and then taking myself out for fun, going places I normally don’t go. I treated my home, the San Francisco Bay Area, as if I were a tourist, wanting to see exciting things.
It worked like a dream. Novel writing is long and requires great concentration. For those without young children at home, I recommend trying a home-based, Do-It-Yourself Writer’s Retreat whenever you need to make a big push: first draft, first edits, approving publisher’s edits, etc. I don’t sit at a writing desk, but roam around the house and neighborhood using portable devices. My muse seems to enjoy a good walk or a lng shower. I’ve learned to memorize long chunks of writing until I can get to a computer.
You’ll have to warn your spouse that you’re Not Available during certain hours, but presumably if you’re a novelist, he knows the “I’m Writing” look — the vacant stare, lack of response to questions, mumbling to yourself. Mine says he can never tell if I’m talking to someone or dictating onto my phone. So he doesn’t like to interrupt me — great!
For ideas and inspiration, here are some articles on how-to DIY your writing retreat. Every one of them mentions having a writing goal, to which I say YES!!
Writer Laura Munson defines her own personal Walden
But don’t be limited. Dream your own perfect in-place writing retreat. Maybe it’s in a local cafe, a library, or like one of my friends, a hotel room so close to her home she can walk to it.
Happy writing! What’s your current writing goal? Write me if you like.
Should be easy, right? After all, many of us set a word count quota for the day’s writing, somewhere in the thousands of words. Surely we can spare 200 or so for a short blog. But deciding what to write about is what always stops me from blogging. Who am I as a writer? Do you really want to hear about the Green Veggie Smoothie I just made with my food processor, throwing in fresh pineapple, cucumbers, apples, spinach, lettuce, grapes, cucumber, and orange, and how it tastes like the smell of watering my garden early in the morning, before the sun is high, with hummingbirds duking it out overhead to get to the feeder above me?
Or smells like sunlight coming through the leaves. After all, I’m a poet. I need to exercise these metaphor muscles the way gardens need water and fertilizer.
But you didn’t come here to this title about blogging in order to hear that — did you? That’s the dilemma of the literary blogger. We have a tendency to get personal, to get specific, and to ignore the title topic until almost the end of the blog.
Plus, they say you have to add lots of visuals to your blogs if you want anyone reading them. We just can’t read any more without illustrations. Here’s my smoothie.
So now, to the question of how to blog as an author. Now that I have your attention with personal stuff and visuals. Here’s an excellent article on the three things you must do in an author blog.
My writing process is pretty much like going to work every day. I reserve two hours from the moment I open my eyes (with coffee — here’s another visual) and before I get started working at the mundane job, for creative writing. I’m disciplined about it, but I count everything as writing, even reading about how to write (though not reading about how to market books — that’s death to the creative flow, though very necessary in other zones of the day.)
My writing process is sort of effortless once I’m in the zone of those two hours. I know you hated hearing that, but it’s true. Assigning a regular time is like waving huge bars of chocolate in front of my Muse. She can’t resist.
So there you have it. One article of how-to, a fair amount of personal with a dash of wit (I hope), and a lot of pictures. Author blogging. It was fun!
Virginia Woolf observed about Austen, “Of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness.” I’m an Austenite (having an upstairs and a downstairs complete set of her work qualifies, I think). I’m writing a book whose characters are based on the Dashwood sisters from Sense and Sensibility. I’m not the first writer to steal from the extraordinary Jane, and I won’t be the last. The fabulous film Clueless did it best, in my opinion.
But having absorbed a wonderful book by John Mullan called What Matters in Jane Austen, I’m newly empowered to study her tips and tricks and to profit from her behind-the-scenes example. We can study Austen as if in a writing course of the kind Master Class offers. Imagine Jane’s Master Class! I’d put Aaron Sorkin’s right behind hers for fabulous ideas, but that’s another essay.
So how to steal the good techniques from Austen. Let’s break it down.
Character sketches. Write down Austen’s concise character descriptions and keep them in files. Novelists in her time could drop in whole character sketches at the outset of a book, covering personality, backstory, and relationships with other characters in a summary fashion. We don’t do it that way anyway; we interweave these tidbits into action-based narrative. But keep Austen’s wonderful character sketches handy and let them inspire your character introductions and expansion of backstory.
Setting & Weather. For a terrific time-travel visit to the settings of Jane’s novels, read Kathleen A. Flynn’s The Jane Austen Project: A Novel. Her attention to the details of Austen’s world, via the challenges two time-travellers face, is exquisitely vivid. How to pull on a glove, when to offer your hand to a gentleman (or not), how to speak to a servant, what is the proper time for paying a short neighbor call — all this boggles the mind and is a terrific example of the function of setting in a novel.
And a NYT article by Kathleen Flynn on Elizabeth Bennet’s mad skills if she had to be a debut novelist of today. Flynn remarks, “The assets a young lady of 1815 might deploy are strikingly like those of a debut novelist: beauty, money, connections and wit. And bringing up the rear as always, the tricky question of merit.”
Language & Diction. And another article by Flynn examines Austen’s word choices and how they contribute to her perennial popularity. One thing that impressed me was that her books contain a higher percentage of words referring to women and family relationships than other writers of her time. Her books are women’s fiction before such a term was invented. She used words like “very” and “much” that support her irony and witty observations on characters and events. Where qualifiers like that can be misused, standing in with the not-right word for the right one, Jane uses them to intensify her sardonic effects and observations. Make a list of your most used words and see how they bear on your style and connect with your audience.
More Stealing From Jane to come. For now, go ahead and steal. I don’t think Jane will mind.
It’s the best of times — having a book or two or more out in the world, for people to read. It’s the worst of times — feeling the constant pressure to get books into readers’ hands and Be An Author, publicly.
I’m feeling the best and worst times right now, as I prepare to have two new books launched in 2018. What to do today? That’s the first thing I think of, not the new novel or poem I’m working on. And since I’ve pledged to write two hours first thing in the morning, the question now is, do I blog or tweet or Facebook about a book already out — or do I close the curtains and the doors, pretend I’m a mushroom hidden under the forest floor, and plunge into the solitary delight of creation.
The truth is, the creative process can get lost in the marketing part of Being An Author. And that’s a shame. Writing should be the core thing.
I need to not know what comes next in my writing, so I don’t outline. I just set aside two hours first thing every morning to find inspiration. I can paint my nails, watch the leaves stir in the trees, tend my roses, but I have to be thinking creatively and feeling the creative wind blowing. For me, this is the magic spell. Make the time, and things come. Your time might be midnight or dinner hour or noon, but see if a schedule works for you.
Of course blogging and posting on social media is also writing. Sometimes the muse inclines her head toward one or another platform and says, “Go talk to them.” And then you can be both Author and Writer and maybe mention your book while you’re at it. (The Renaissance Club, forthcoming in January 2018 from Fiery Seas Publishing.)