Category Archives: Craft
I’m sharing some tips on Romancing Your Readers Like a Romantic Comedy in celebration of Her Hometown Reporter releasing May 1st.
So, jump on over to Seekerville with this link http://www.seekerville.blogspot.com/2015/04/romancing-your-readers-like-romantic.html and share with us your favorite romantic comedy or your favorite couple from either a book or rom-com. My “to be watched” list is growing and growing.
I can’t wait to see what your favorites are.
And here’s a little teaser from the inside cover of Gina and Toby’s story.
He’d shaken her trust in him.
Gina wasn’t willing to tread a path that could collapse beneath her feet. And believing Toby’s story was too big a hazard. He’d made her care about him. She wouldn’t give him the power to break her, too.
“It’s a nice story. Almost as touching as the one you wrote about the senator and the prayer journal. But I can’t afford to believe you. Trust isn’t part of a five-year plan. It’s a commitment, a loyalty that lasts forever. And I’m a forever kind of girl. You’re a short-term kind of guy. It was fun fighting with you, but then, it was all just a game to you wasn’t it? Congratulations, you win.” She kept her eyes open against the cold sting of tears, knowing that if she blinked they’d escape, and then he’d know how much he’d almost won.
He reached out and cupped her cheek. “If I’ve won, then why does it feel like I’m losing my best friend?”
*One Caveat I will offer, it is usually easier to write the blurb before you’ve gotten very far into the manuscript because it keeps you from getting “lost” in the details. But write it when you need to and go from there.
Definition of a Blurb: A blurb is the back cover “teaser” that lures a reader or an agent/editor into wanting to buy/read your book. Your blurb can usually be used as your pitch in your query letter or when you are doing an actual face-to-face pitch session with an agent/editor.
A blurb contains the overall premise of your story without giving away specifics.
Homework for you: Visit a bookstore or go on-line and find 10 books that are within the same subgenre as your story. Read each back cover blurb. Count the # of words. Total the number of words from all the blurbs and divide by 10. This gives you the average # of words your blurb should contain. It is a guide–not a rule. But if you look at the blurbs of those books, it will give you an idea of what your blurb should include and how long to make it.
A blurb is not a “just the facts” recitation of the highlights of your story. The blurb should be written using the same tone/voice that you use in your story–so don’t even think about getting someone else to do it for you. And no, writing the blurb is not easy–Trust me.
1. You know the average word count. Stick as close as you can to it.
2. You have 2 choices on POV here. You can go for either the hero or heroine‘s POV or you can tell the blurb in both of their POV’s.
3. Define your character. (not their name or how they look.) WHO are they? ex. Josie is a scientist with OCD, raised by hippie parents. Paint a picture of your character by word choice and remember you only have a limited # of words to use for the entire exercise.
4. What does your character want?
5. Why can’t they have it or who causes them to not be able to have it? Usually this will be the other main character.
6. What can these characters lose if they can’t resolve their differences? This is the theme of your blurb. Heroine has to learn how to let go and trust others while the hero has to learn patience or that there are other things in life more important than the goal he started out trying to attain at the beginning of the story.
For a 70,000-100,000 word story, word count of the blurb can be up to 300 words (again, check out blurbs of actual books within your subgenre).
For shorter fiction the word count can run from 100 to 250 words. (If you err on the side of more, make sure each one of those words is powerful and necessary. Otherwise, the blurb won’t read as tight and descriptive.)
For examples of blurbs in the 200-250 word range, take a look at my page titled My Stories on this blog.
I hope this post is helpful to you and saves you some of the angst I experienced when I was looking for direction in how to write blurbs.
Please leave a comment and let me know if you found this post useful. And let me know if there are other areas of craft that you would like to see addressed here.
Thanks and happy writing.
Julie Leto, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, is offering her five-hour class, Layer by Layer: Characterization from Start to Finish, to local Tampa authors on May 26th. Only a few spots remain, so register today. Contact Julie at Julie@julieleto.com or visit www.julieleto.com
I’ve taken this class and it was amazing. I learned so much about how to more effectively develop my characters and show their growth on the page so my readers can feel more connected to the character and be drawn further into the story.
I decided to write about entering contests since I’ve plastered all over my blog that I finaled in the biggest of all for an unpubbed author.
1. Base which contests you enter on what you expect to get out of them. If you want feedback, read the contest rules and entry information. It will always say on the particular website for the contest if they provide judges’ feedback.
The first contest I entered I did so because I am a practical sort of person and writing novels for a living wasn’t exactly a practical profession in my eyes. (Not all of us can be Nora Roberts, Danielle Steele, or Denise Hunter, or Lisa Kleypas). Which, I don’t think they were an overnight sensation. They were prolific. They wrote, and they wrote, and they grew an audience for all their stories. And now everyone recognizes their names, whether they read romance or not.
I entered my first contest as a test to see if I was nuts to think I could do this–Tammy’s fault (a whole other post to explain that). I was looking for feedback from people I didn’t know who were in the same business as me. I didn’t win, but I didn’t choke either. I got some super, terrific feedback from other writers who were kind and encouraging.
I entered the same contest the next year with the same story after A LOT of revisions and after reading craft books and just, plain out writing to apply what I had learned from the craft books and what I’d garnered from attending day workshops. Kathy Carmichael, Kim Llewellyn, Jeannie London, and Julie Leto–you guys have taught me so much and I’m still learning from you. Thank you for your time and your willingness to share your knowledge.
Second time I entered the same contest, I came in third. I was more than happy with the outcome. And better yet, I had validation. I could do this. I just had to work hard and keep at it.
2. Who will be the final round judges? This is big. If you write inspirational and there is no inspirational category, go for it if you really want to, but realize that the judges and the editor (if you final) who read your work, aren’t necessarily familiar with inspirational stories. I’m talking about the guidelines and parameters attached to an inspirational story as sold through the ABA & or the CBA. You could still final and you could still win, but the odds are pretty long because that’s what happens. BUT, if the final round judge is an agent or editor who represents or publishes stories in the same genre you write—GO FOR IT. Even if you don’t final, you are going to get some feedback on your writing. If you do final, even if you don’t take 1st, an agent or editor has seen your work and you didn’t blow a shot at them via the query method.
3. Cost. The economy isn’t great. Everybody is cutting back. Pay attention to how much the entry fee is and whether or not the contest accepts electronic entries. (These are so convenient, I can send my entry to them without having to do my hair and change out of my pj’s to go to the post office.)
4. Analyzing the feedback. You entered, you finaled/didn’t final, you have three copies of your entry with three different people’s take on your writing. Will they all agree? Only if you finaled and then took first and then, maybe not. Judges are people too. Maybe they’re reading your entry with a major head cold, or their child is sick, or they ran out of coffee, or they waited until the last day their scores are due back to the contest coordinator and they are in a hurry. Or, they could be sitting on their sofa curled up with their laptop before a fire, looking out over the mountains. Use what you can to improve your writing and forget the rest. –Think about it this way–is there a published author that is a New York Times best seller that you don’t really care for their writing style? Probably. Well you could be a future NYT best seller and your story didn’t speak to that judge. It happens. Sometimes people aren’t kind with how they say “Hated It”. The published authors that I know, who are kind enough to try and teach me how to become a better writer, say first and foremost, get a tough skin.
Rejection and criticism hurt, just like slamming your thumb in the car door. If you got nothing out of all the feedback you received from a contest, then maybe that wasn’t the ideal contest for you. Think of that the next year when you’re deciding which contests to enter. You may enter again, for the simple reason you think your writing has improved and you want to see what they say this time. You may not get the same judges as before, but the judging criteria will be the same so it could work as a benchmark.
Enter a contest because you want something to take away from the experience. It is the only way you can grow as a writer. It doesn’t mean you’ll find it in the judges’ feedback, but there will probably be one tiny nugget of useful advice that you can apply to your writing–even if it is, “I will never enter their contest again.”
5. Be kind to the judges. They donate their time and effort to judge and provide feedback. I’ve had judges who scored my entry really high and just put smiley faces in sections they liked and didn’t give much written feedback. I’ve had judges insert their comments on a page, until none of my words were left on the page. It was all theirs. Maybe I didn’t agree with what they said or they tried to rewrite my story, but if they took the time to exert that much effort in helping me see what bugged them about that part, maybe the way I wrote it didn’t express what I meant as clearly as it should have. I still don’t have to use what they suggested, but I should at least take a second look at the way I wrote the scene. Changing one sentence could make all the difference in nailing the point or emotion you were trying to convey.
6. Never give up. If you do, how will you ever achieve your goal? No one can write the story that is yours. Only you can do that. So, polish and submit. You never know when you’ll be named a Golden Heart finalist. And let me tell you, that was one phone call I was very happy to receive.
Good luck in your writing journey. We are all traveling this road to publication, maybe our paths will cross.
If you have ideas or other pieces of advice on entering writing contests, please feel free to share them in the comments section.
God’s peace to all.
Words have amazing power. They can make us laugh or cry, or cringe or grit our teeth. When strung together on a page the way some of the great writers of our time do, they evoke feelings and moods that transport us to other realities that can thrill, chill, or warm our hearts. It is hard not to be affected by words.
Will I ever write like Nora Roberts or Danielle Steele? I doubt it, for a lot of reasons. One being, I’m me, not them. They are great for the way they can spin a story so enticing it pulls you in with the first page and holds you enraptured until the last page. They didn’t come by that ability overnight.
Athletes, artists, and yes–writing, or rather, writing well, is considered an art. The same principle applies to both. Practice. Just like a baseball player or a golfer has to practice their swing, a writer has to practice the craft of writing. So while the football team is watching film clips of this week’s opponent over and over, looking for weaknesses in the defense and offense, a writer studies and reads books on how to improve their writing. We then put those lessons and techniques into action, by putting words on the page with those newly learned concepts in mind.
It takes many drafts to create a story worth submitting to an agent or publisher for consideration. If you haven’t taken your practice shots (drafts 1-10), weeding out the passive voice, the backstory, the stilted dialogue, the head-hopping points of view, or the unanswered story questions, your story isn’t ready for a professional’s eyes.
Editing is frustrating. But it’s a necessary frustration. You will require less editing, which translates into fewer drafts of your story, the more you practice (WRITE). Trust me on this. I know published authors that can submit a second draft to their agent/publisher and consider themselves finished with the project until their editor sends them the revisions.
Don’t give up on your dream of being a published author because it’s too hard. Earning something because you worked hard to achieve it, is one of the most satisfying feeling in the world. We always appreciate what we had to work to get more than something that’s just handed to us.
So good luck with your writing and practice what you learn after reading a How To book on writing.