The fifth Maxwell series, Stoke the Flames Higher, by Peter Grant, will be released this week!
Edited Monday to Add: On sale now! Get it here: http://amzn.to/2g1hywz
As such, I thought I’d give you a look into the blurb writing process. Because blurb writing is akin to poetry; it has its own rules (tag line, kicker, no passive voice), and length constraints. And what is the blog for, if not to discuss how the sausage is made?
From Peter, kicking it off because I was staring at a blank page and going “uhhhhh”:
Steve Maxwell must take a diplomatic mission to Devakai aboard his unarmed communications frigate. They’re trying to figure out how to deal with the Kotai, a fundamentalist religious sect that threatens stability on that planet, and on Athi, and on other planets as well… but they’re arriving just in time to get caught up in a coup d’etat.
Can the mission escape alive? Can Steve get them out of the system in the face of missile-armed enemies? And can he reach Athi in time to warn them what’s coming? Thousands of fanatical terrorists are headed their way, determined to triumph or die in the name of their God… and Steve’s right in their line of fire.
Too many new terms for a reader: you want at most three in a blurb. Also, too many questions. But it got my brain in gear, and after reviewing the top 50 books in the same mil sci fi category as this one’s going into (to get into the mindset of “what are customers looking at and liking?” I sent a try.
Two worlds, torn apart by a common fanaticism – and the Lancastrian forces are caught in the middle!
Major Brooks Shelby has been given an impossible mission: to be a peacekeeper on a world where fanatical guerillas want no peace. His best friend Lieutenant-Commander Maxwell, has his own problems: finding the source of their fighters and funding on another planet, while hosting a diplomat and fending off her pet journalist.
The marines are being worn down with smuggled high explosives and suicidal martyrs, while an infiltrated bureaucracy does its best to block any progress on the other end. Brooks and Steve are determined to find a way to take the fight to the fanatics – but the enemy has its own plans, already in motion, to cleanse the unbelievers from the soils of both planets…
Peter’s reply: We’ve got the basic form hammered out, now to work on minor changes. Or not so minor changes, because I write long. (Y’all may have noticed, in these blog posts.) And I write in passive voice, where active verbs are far better. So “Shelby has been given” changes to “Shelby has”. Meanwhile, Peter wants to emphasize the attractive annoyance of the journalist.
Two worlds, torn apart by the same fanatics – and Lancastrian Commonwealth forces are caught in the middle!
Major Brooks Shelby has an impossible mission: to be a peacekeeper on a planet where fanatical terrorists aren’t interested in peace. His best friend, Lieutenant-Commander Maxwell, has his own problems. He must transport a diplomatic mission to find the source of the fighters and their funding on a second planet, whilst fending off an attractive, persistent, nosy journalist.
The Marines are being worn down with smuggled high explosives and suicidal martyrs on one planet, while an infiltrated bureaucracy does its best to block any progress on the other. Brooks and Steve are determined to find a way to take the fight to the fanatics – but the enemy has his own plans, already in motion, to cleanse the unbelievers from both worlds…
A couple passes later: note that we’re not only hammering out verb forms, but also trying to remove any word that’s too similar in successive sentences. And, I may have an ellipses addiction. Beyond that, even if we increase the journalist (and the more words you spend on a person, remember, the more the reader expects them to be a major character), if you’re piling up adjectives, it’s time to move to a phrase instead.
Two worlds, torn apart by a common fanaticism – with Lancastrian forces caught in the middle!
Major Brooks Shelby’s impossible mission: being a peacekeeper on a world where radical terrorists want no peace. Lieutenant-Commander Steve Maxwell’s sticky situation: finding the source of trained fighters and funding on another planet, while transporting a diplomatic mission and fending off a journalist determined to find some sensational dirt.
The marines are being worn down with smuggled high explosives and suicidal martyrs, while an infiltrated bureaucracy is doing its best to block any inquiries. Brooks and Steve are determined to find a way to take the fight to the enemy – but the faithful are already moving to cleanse the unbelievers from the soils of both planets!
You’d think we were almost done, but now that we have a long form we’re happy with, it’s time to break out the knives and go for the drastic editing challenge: 100 words or under. Because promotion often has a character limit, so the shorter, punchier, and more attention-grabbing you can get, the better. Also, the limitations of short form can drive you to make cuts to the long-form that really make it shine, even if you don’t end up using the shortest thing you can come up with.
So first effort on under 100 words:
Two planets, torn apart by the same fanatics – and Lancastrian forces are caught in the middle!
Major Brooks Shelby must keep the peace, on a world where radical terrorists want no peace. Lieutenant-Commander Steve Maxwell must trace the source of those terrorists’ fighters and funding, dealing with diplomats and fending off a very nosy journalist.
The marines are being worn down by smuggled explosives and suicidal martyrs, while traitors are doing their best to hide the truth. Brooks and Steve must find a way to stop the enemy… but the fanatics want nothing less than Armageddon!
And second effort, wherein you can see the same removal of duplicated words, remove of any conjugation of the verb “be”, and trying to go light on clichés. (Cliches, like hot sauce, are best used sparingly. If you’re covering your blurb in clichés to convey information, or slathering your food in hot sauce to make it edible, then the underlying item needs to be removed and replaced with something better. Here you go:
Two planets, torn apart by the same fanatics – and Lancastrian forces are caught in the middle!
Major Brooks Shelby must keep the peace, on a world where radical terrorists want submission or death. Lieutenant-Commander Steve Maxwell must trace the source of their offworld fighters and funding, deal with diplomats and fend off a nosy journalist.
The marines are up against smuggled explosives and suicidal martyrs, while an infiltrated bureaucracy stymies the diplomats. Brooks and Steve must find a way to stop their enemies at all costs, because the fanatics are about to unleash their own Armageddon!
How many passes do you end up doing on your own blurbs? Do you bounce them off another person, or do you just write and edit them yourself?
Watching a process like this is incredibly illuminating. Blurbs also seem a lot like a letter to an agent, so it is useful from that angle as well.
One nit, and perhaps this is due to my law career, but I used two exclamation points in over 22 years of practice, and you have two in one blurb. The first particularly seems out of place! I know this isn’t legal writing but it does seem over the top.
A blurb for dramatic fiction needs to build excitement, so exclamation points are used a lot, because they convey a sense of importance, danger, or immediacy.
OTOH, a lot of exclamation marks tend to turn me off when reading.
OTOOH, one of the items on my “list” when going back over my own writing is finding the places where I really should have used an exclamatory sentence.
But, that being said, I have clipped this post into my writing education folder. As with most of the “fynbospress” posts!
It’s a fine balance, just like my addiction to ellipses (less evident if you’re only seeing one blurb by me, but painfully evident if you read through a series I’ve blurbed.)
The reason I think I can get away with two here is because one is above the fold, and one is below the fold. “The fold” being the “Click here for more” you see on long text, especially on a retail page like amazon. When the potential reader sees the first, it’s a strong, exciting statement promising action and adventure. (Unlike most legal documents, which are most definitely trying to avoid bold emotions or sweeping dramatic actions.)
By the time they get to the second, I’ve already got them partially hooked – I know this, because they were interested enough to click “read more.” So I can get away with promising them impending Armageddon, not unlike a dramatic crash of music right before the end of the movie trailer. I want them interested, excited, and filled with the impulse to move the mouse right up to the “buy here” button, and stab that little sucker before their back brain can start an argument about whether it’s worth spending beer money on something they can’t eat, or hesitate and get a sample instead to linger in the maybe-read pile for months… or worse, get distracted by something else and move on without giving this awesome book I’m blurbing a try.
As an aside: Marketing, which is what writing a blurb is, is a story of its own. The story is: “This thing I’ve found is awesome! All of you readers who like stories like this one will find it awesome too, and you should try it!”
Saw in Peter’s blog (has become a daily stop for me) that he has great plans for the coming year. First a sequel to his most excellent western, Brings The Lightning, then additions to ongoing series and a few new ideas.
Always warms my bibliophile heart to see a favorite author with the ambition to create more of what I like.
On paper, two. Before paper, probably five or six. I likely need more, because there is a fine line between terse enough not to bore and leaving non-series readers scratching their heads and looking for something more familiar.
Sigh. I know I shouldn’t, but I tried tightening it up a bit… FWIW…
Two planets, torn apart by the same fanatics — and two friends caught in the middle!
Major Brooks Shelby must keep the peace, on a world where radical terrorists demand submission or death. Lieutenant-Commander Steve Maxwell must find the source of their offworld fighters and funding, deal with diplomats, and fend off a nosy journalist.
Two marines up against smuggled explosives and suicidal martyrs, while an infiltrated burearacy stymies the diplomats. Brooks and Steve must block their enemies at all costs, because the fanatics are about to unleash Armageddon!
It’s always useful to see the process behind these things. Thanks. 🙂
Nothing useful to add to the main thread, just wanted to stop by and say YAAAAAAAAAY!