3 Parts to a Great Blurb

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Your book’s blurb is crucially important. But writing a blurb is harder than we think. A great blurb is short and sweet, gives away enough of what’s inside the book without giving any plot spoilers. It draws the reader in.

‘A three-act structure. You want to catch the reader’s attention, give them the content, and then give them a reason to care.’ – Author Unlimited

Have a look at this YouTube video by international best-selling self-published Romance writer Alessandra Torre. She tells a terrific story of how she went from 3 book sales a day to thousands by changing her blurb:  The Blurb Equation – How to Write a Kick-Butt Blurb.

 

The Blurb Equation (Alessandra Torre)

INTRO + HINT + CLIFFY

 

1. PART 1 INTRO:           the characters or situation is introduced.

2. PART 2 THE HINT:     what the story is about, the conflict or climax.

3. PART 3 THE CLIFFY:  what’s going to happen? Hooks the reader.

Alessandra says to keep the blurb short. More than four paragraphs is too long . Three paragraphs of two to three sentences is best. Don’t give away the plot.

Keeping all this excellent advice in mind (although I’m not a Romance writer), I’m continuing to sweat over the draft blurb for my new book THE USUAL STORY, due for  July release by Ginninderra Press. Please use the comments section to give any constructive feedback. I’d love to know what you think.

It’s especially difficult for me to write a satisfactory blurb for THE USUAL STORY because it is really a collection of connected short stories. I’ve linked the stories by using the tango dances and dancers, the painful ending of a brief romance, and the main character’s search in her past for answers.

Tango is the dance of passion, forcing partners into an intimate relationship. Sofia loves the tango, but at the dances she must face the truth of her ageing in our society that has very little use for anyone who is not young.

In the painful aftermath of a brief affair, Sofia goes in search of what she actually knows about herself and the past. As she looks for answers in dark corners, we begin to see, as does Sofia, the elusiveness of understanding and memory – the psychological space where recollection and loss collide.

If you liked The Crystal Ballroom you’ll love this book: a story of memory, intrigue and passion.

 

I hope this Blurb info is helpful. Do you have any tips you would add? Let me know in the comments and please share this post with a friend if you enjoyed it.

 

 

 

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Enter Writing Competitions

 

the city of Lisbon, Portugal with sea and sky in the background
Lisbon, Portugal

One of the ways we can get noticed as writers is to enter writing competitions. You can join local and international writing groups and associations that send out newsletters letting you know when, what and where to enter.

I can’t remember entering this particular competition, or where I saw the information, but I am thrilled and delighted to tell you that an excerpt of my WIP, Lost in Cooper Park is a runner-up in 2018 Disquiet Literary Contest.  There were over 1,000 entries. I have been awarded a partial scholarship to attend the Disquiet International Literary Program in Lisbon, Portugal. Such exciting news.

The judges said of my entry:

“… an excellent domestic psychological drama, reminiscent of Sally Vickers (The Other Side of You) written in beautiful, striking prose. It has an incredible memorable opening. The author has a voice that is unique to her and that, at the same time, is particular to the narrative. The story moves between places and narratives with deftness, knowing precisely when to leave a thread open and when to pick it up again.”

Whoo hoo.

I recommend staying up to date with competition deadlines. This keeps you motivated to finish a piece of writing by the date specified. Subscribe to writing groups and newsletters that alert you to closing dates. I am a member of the NSW Writers’ Centre, Society of Women Writers’ NSW, Australian Society of Authors, and other writing groups on Facebook.

Wishing you the best of luck.

Woman walking through Cooper Park with her dog.
Cooper Park

 

Path to Publication

Libby Sommer holding a copy of The Crystal Ballroom in book store

Interviewer: I would like you to tell me about your Path to Publication from first idea to finished book. I’d like to know your inspirations and how The Crystal Ballroom became more than an idea. I also want to know about your writing process. Do you sit at a desk 9-5 or at a cafe during snatched lunches? Did you write the book in a spurt of three months … how long did it take from start to finish? Did you have cold readers, send it to an agent or to a publisher? Were you accepted straight away? How many rewrites and drafts?

Me:  I usually write stories about places and people that I know well. I take real events and characters but change things around and shake them all about and make things up. So, for The Crystal Ballroom, I had been dancing Argentine tango, rock and roll, jive, swing, Latin American and ballroom dancing for many many years. I used to dance five nights a week. I’d drive all over Sydney for technique classes and to dance at different venues. The place, ‘The Crystal Ballroom’, is a fiction but this dance hall becomes a character in the novel. I was inspired by the people I met at the dances and the politics of the ‘dance scene’.

I don’t sit at a desk 9-5 but I am extremely disciplined with my writing. I write 7 days a week. I treat my manuscript like an old friend, someone I need to stay in touch with regularly. I also exercise 7 days a week. So my routine is to go to a cafe before the gym with a print out of the previous day’s work. I edit from this hard copy and write the next scene. After the gym I walk home, type out the revisions, print out, go to another cafe in the afternoon. Repeat the process. I only work in the AM on a Sunday 🙂

It took me 4 years to write The Crystal Ballroom. The chapters are self-contained, so I was able to send some of the discreet episodes out to Quadrant magazine for publication.

I belong to a weekly feedback writing group where we critique each others’ work. So I write to that weekly deadline. In the early years, when I’d finish a manuscript I’d pay an editor or mentor to read it and give me feedback. I’d also ask a couple of friends to read it and give feedback. I never send a manuscript to an agent or a publisher that hasn’t been reworked 20 to 100 times – that includes the rewriting along the way.

My Year With Sammy was my first published book. It was accepted straight away by Ginninderra Press, a small but prestigious publisher (thought-provoking books for inquiring readers). It was my fifth book length manuscript. I had sent the previous books to agents and large publishers. All my confidence had been knocked out of me by all the rejections leading up to the fifth manuscript. Now though, I have Ginninderra Press who seem to like my work. They also published The Crystal Ballroom this year. The Usual Story will be published by Ginninderra Press next year.

It’s an extremely difficult road to publication and some people decide to self-publish rather than continue to be rejected. But other people are able to write a best-seller, an airport book that sells lots of copies, so big publishers like their work very much. Unfortunately, or fortunately, my books are classified as literary fiction, so a very small market. Big publishers are not interested in books that do not conform to the norm. Not enough money in it for them.

I am very grateful to have my small but prestigious publisher.

Writing from Within

Trees and shrubs leading to glass door of Brahma Kumaris Centre
Brahma Kumaris Centre for Spiritual Learning

I’m running a writing workshop this Saturday at the Brahma Kumaris Centre for Spiritual Learning in Wilton, New South Wales. It is part of the Society of Women Writers Retreat weekend. I’ve titled my course ‘Writing from Within’ because the aim is to tap into the right side of the brain, leaving aside that nasty critical left side, and really getting to the heart of what you want to write. I’ve run workshops like this before. Usually I use a combination of meditation techniques, and a guided colour exercise for relaxation and then spontaneous writing, or timed writing. It’s truly amazing what people write when they are able to get into the zone and not be held back by negative thinking.

These are the rules of timed writing according to Natalie Goldberg in ‘Writing Down the Bones’:

  1. Keep your hand moving. (Don’t pause to reread the line you have just written. That’s stalling and trying to get control of what you’re saying.)

  2. Don’t cross out. (That is editing as you write. Even if you write something you didn’t mean to write, leave it.)

  3. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar. (Don’t even care about staying within the margins and lines on the page.)

  4. Lose control.

  5. Don’t think. Don’t get logical.

  6. Go for the jugular. (If something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has lots of energy.)

Should be a excellent weekend featuring publisher Catherine Milne and presentations from authors Emily Maguire, Susanne Gervay, Kathryn Heyman, Libby Hathorn, Beverley George.

book cover of Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

I Wrote 5 Books Before Publication

fountain pen on page of writing

I wrote five book length manuscripts before one was finally accepted for publication by Ginninderra Press, a small but prestigious publisher. Rejection didn’t stop me from writing.

‘You write, you re-write, you edit, you tweak and when it’s perfect, you submit. And then you get rejected. Many times, maybe by a person who didn’t even read it. Rejection is painful because it instantly devalues your creation. Someone says this isn’t worth publishing. Rejectees, take heart. Many now-famous writers have been rejected before they made it big. Stephen King wrote his first novel, “Carrie,” and it was rejected 30 times. Rejections were so devastating that he threw the manuscript in the trash. “Chicken Soup for the Soul” was rejected 140 times. Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With The Wind” was rejected by 38 publishers (and she did give a damn). James Joyce’s “Dubliner” was rejected 18 times and took nine years before it reached publication.’ – Ronald H. Balson

There are days when you feel like giving up and is seems that you are not making any progress. It’s during days like these, that sheer determination and persistence is all that’s left.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – Calvin Coolidge

Some writers continually submit the same manuscript until it is accepted. Others chose to do a more polished draft before sending it out again. A few learn from the lessons of submissions, to write a completely new book. What we all have in common is a persistence to never give up on our dream. Some decide to self-publish.

I’m very happy to say that persistence has paid off for me, and a third manuscript has now been accepted for publication by Ginninderra Press . ‘The Usual Story’ will be available in bookstores and online in July 2018.

As the saying goes: a writer writes. Writers continue to write.

A dear friend, who is also a former mentor, wrote this to me recently:  Libby, I’m not sure how you found your way to Ginninderra, but what a blessing for you and for readers! I was thinking the other day of your commitment for so many years when the door to publishing a book just wouldn’t open, and how much I admire your resolve and, of course, your amazing talent! Wonderful that the books are in the world now.

I hope this reminder about persistence is helpful. Do you have any tips you would add? Let me know in the comments and please share this post with a friend if you enjoyed it.

 

 

Jump Cuts: Novel-in-progress

notepad, fountain pen, coffee on table

Below is the first page of my new novel-in-progress. I jump cut from scene to scene. Hopefully this technique is not too confusing. Have you read other novels that use this structure? At the front of the book I’ll be adding a Character List and a Character Map to show how the major characters are connected, to help with the confusion issue. The working title is ‘Missing in Cooper Park’.

1.

The tennis courts at Cooper Park were flooded in the night.  One and a half hours of non-stop rain and hail caused a landslide down through the gully.  Gypsy, a Golden Labrador came along and splashed in fast-flowing Cooper Creek.  Later, the sight of the ruined courts covered in mud and stones, leaves and tree branches like a murky swamp was to shatter Steve’s morning.

2.

Kingston (Carol’s ex) turned up again on the morning after the storm.  He stood on the doorstep looking unbalanced.  His cigarette was burned down to the filter.  His unshaven face was flecked with grey and white.  Carol wouldn’t let him in.  She’d taken his key back.

Carol didn’t tell Steve about Kingston being back but Steve told Carol about the flooded tennis courts.

3.

The moon was high in the darkening dusk as Rosemary puffed past the tennis courts at Cooper Park and continued on up through the steep incline of the gulley swinging a curved stick with tennis ball.

‘Gypsy,’ cried Rosemary.  ‘Gypsy, Gypsy, Gypsy!  Come here.’

Rosemary had purchased Gypsy after overcoming her husband’s resistance.  They were still in mourning over having to put Buddy down.

She’d promised Philip she’d make sure Gypsy didn’t jump up on the newly-cleaned couches.

He knew Rosemary slipped into depression if she didn’t have a dog to love, even though she was the mother of three children.

They’d bought a puppy who looked just like a baby Buddy.  Rosemary would have liked to say it was Buddy re-incarnated but didn’t.  This was precisely the kind of talk that made her husband go red with anger.

It was he who had named the Golden Labrador Gypsy.         The day would soon be night.

4.

Steve lay in bed waiting for Carol’s alarm to go off.  Outside someone had slept all night in a car.

‘Don’t let anyone in,’ demanded Carol in a dream.

Jump Cuts on the Page

 

 

close up head & shoulders golden Labrador with pink tongue hanging out

by Libby Sommer:

After a big storm, a golden Labrador goes missing in Sydney’s Cooper Park. This is the scene that begins my new novel-in-progress. I use the search for the dog as a linking device for my characters who are all at a turning point in their lives. I jump cut between discreet scenes (not a continuous narrative) which, unfortunately, is very confusing to the readers in my weekly feedback group.

Transitions are important in fiction because you can’t possibly show or account for every moment in a character’s day, week, or life. A story may stretch over years—readers don’t need to know what happened every minute of those years. A scene transition takes characters and readers to a new location, a new time, or a new point of view.

Scene transitions in movies are easy. The screen fades to black at just the right moment, and when it lights up again, you’re watching a new scene. But how do you write transitions on the page? How does your character get from Point A to Point B without too much boring detail and telling description?

One way to write scene transitions in novels is to Jump Cut. The term usually refers to Cinema.

‘When Jean-Luc Godard popularized the jump cut in 1959 when he made his breakthrough movie Breathless, it has since become a useful and intriguing editing tool. For those of you who don’t know what a jump cut is: (per Wikipedia): “A jump cut is a cut in film editing in which two sequential shots of the same subject are taken from camera positions that vary only slightly. This type of edit causes the subject of the shots to appear to “jump” position in a discontinuous way.”’ – posted by Tyler on Southern Vision

‘The quick-paced German thriller throbs with jump cuts, zoom shots and the speedy sense of an instinctual filmmaker.’ – Charles Taylor, reviewing Run Lola Run

If you want to keep the narrative moving at a fast pace, you can jump cut on the page from scene to scene. But each scene needs to have a beginning a middle and an end.

This technique can be confusing at times, but effective and very readable.

One way to make Jump Cuts on the Page less confusing is to have a strong sense of place. The place is the setting of the story, where the action is located. Setting can be the connective tissue. For me it’s Cooper Park with its cafe, tennis courts, children’s playground, etc.  So, the missing dog, the park and the cafe lessen the confusion, make the transitions smoother – hopefully.

golden Labrador and black and white cat on black leather couch

What about you? Do you find writing scene transitions to be one of the most challenging aspects of writing a novel?