A Quick Note

The Leeth Dossier is a sci-fi/fantasy series about an unusual girl, set in our world about 50 years from now: and 25 years after magic unexpectedly returns. It opens with the book Wild Thing (2015), and continues with Harsh Lessons (2016), Shadow Hunt (2017); then (Violent Causes) (2018?), Lost Girl (2018/19?)....
Find Wild Thing with Google

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Shadow Hunt blurb

Blurb writing is so hard! It's definitely an art, and one I struggle with. Each time I craft a version I'm happy with, and ask friends and other writers and colleagues to review it, I always get valuable feedback, pointing out problems I hadn't seen.

I've received lots of useful feedback for this and my other blurbs. As a result, I feel I'm slowly learning how to write a blurb. Below are some of the comments I've had, that highlight problems to keep an eye out for. Mostly these comments have been for different versions of a blurb — although sometimes the comments have been for the same version, but from different people! (The highlighted item is the critical point.)

  • It wasn't until the end of the blurb that I discovered the MC was a young woman.
  • This blurb won't make much sense to someone who hasn't read the previous books.
  • This blurb says too much about what has gone before, and not enough about this story.
  • I don't get a sense of what the story is.
  • The final paragraph implies there's some choice the MC has to make — but you've given us no information regarding what that choice is about.
  • There's not much of the personality of the MC coming through.
  • You're using too many hedging constructions like "this, but that" or "although one thing, also another".
  • You're trying to say too much; what's the heart of the story?
  • You're giving away too much: just give us hints about what happens. Show us enough to make us ask questions. Intrigue us.
  • It's too long.
  • It's too short.

So it's definitely an art. I've also heard it said that a blurb typically goes through hundreds (or even a thousand) revisions, in traditional publishing. I think mine go through about a hundred or two. The blurb for Shadow Hunt has probably been reviewed about fifty times by others, and about seventy times by me, so far. This time I really think I have something that's good: close to good enough for the back cover, at last? Then again, I also thought that three times before.

One worthwhile thing I did recently was posting the blurb on facebook, and asking people what they thought of it. From that, I received lots of critically valuable feedback. (I'd received similar feedback on Friday night from some friends, but I didn't understand the why behind it, then.)

The key realisation for me was that when I read a blurb, I want to know only the bare minimum to decide if I want to read the story or not. The only blurbs I read in their entirety are those by authors I don't love. For authors I know I enjoy reading, I read only enough of the blurb to get a general sense of the story and the MC; and for a series I love, I read the blurb after the book, not before.

This means that for series, I think it's important for the blurb to say as little as you can: most readers will have read the earlier books. Other readers will probably sample bits inside the book to decide if they want to read it, or read reviews to get a better idea of what to expect.

Anyway, here is my new version of the blurb. Is it good enough?

Blurb for vol 3 of The Leeth Dossier, Shadow Hunt. (The tag-line is: "She thought she was hunting it"). It's 108 words long. (2017/2/28.)



Leeth:  Experimental subject.  Government assassin.

Threat to all humanity.

2062, 26 years after magic unexpectedly returned to our world. In the Dumps outside New Francisco, eighteen-year-old Leeth is on the run.  She doesn’t regret sacrificing her future to save her friend, but both the ruthless covert agency she worked for and her controlling uncle want her back.

Despite the loneliness and hardships, Leeth is relishing her freedom, and is still determined to honor the promises she’s made.

But thanks to an insane mage’s tampering with meta-magical Archetypes, a uniquely altered killer is hunting her.  And in this case, what she doesn’t know can doom her — then everyone else.





Progress

I should give a brief status report. I've spent most of Monday and Tuesday working on the blurb, in preparation for Wednesday night's meet-up by the Marrickville Writers Corner, and following the feedback I received (thanks to everyone who reviewed it). On Monday I basically had a day off; much of Tuesday was devoted to family stuff; and Wednesday included the next step in the Solar Panel and Malfunctioning Battery saga. So my progress through Dave's extremely valuable critique has slowed: I don't think I'll complete it until E/Feb at the earliest; more likely, March 7th.

As of Wednesday evening I was on p35 of 142pp of the 2nd half of the MS with Dave's annotations, which puts me on p238 of 491pp of the full, revised MS. I'm in the 100pp Fist Fest arc of the story, trying to cut the 30pp or so that Dave recommends, to fix the pacing. I also have a few new chapters to write. And then I need to polish all the new bits, then need to find a slot with Dave for him to re-review it, and then work through that critique (hopefully, much easier). So trying publish it E/March sounds impossible. But I'm still going to try!

I tweet my progress each day, if anyone wants to closely track where I'm up to. Sharing that information also helps spur on. So I'm sorry if this revised schedule will disappoint people, but on the other hand, I'm confident you'd all want me to produce the best book I can.

Now: back to the 'writing board'!


Older versions of the blurb.

2017/2/25, 110 words long.

Leeth:  Experimental subject.  Government assassin.

Threat to all humanity.

2062, 26 years after magic unexpectedly returned to our world. In the Dumps outside New Francisco, eighteen-year-old Leeth is on the run.  She doesn’t regret sacrificing her future to save her friend, but both the ruthless covert agency she worked for, and her controlling uncle, want her back.

Despite the loneliness and hardships, Leeth is relishing her freedom, and is still determined to honor the promises she’s made.

But thanks to an insane mage’s tampering with meta-magical Archetypes, a uniquely altered killer is hunting her.  And in this case, what she doesn’t know can doom her — and after her, everyone else.

2017/2/19, 91 words long.



Leeth:  Experimental subject.  Government assassin.

Threat to all humanity.

2061, 25 years after magic unexpectedly returned to our world.  In the Dumps outside New Francisco, eighteen-year-old Leeth is on the run.  She doesn't regret sacrificing her future to save her friend, but the ruthless covert agency she worked for, and her controlling uncle, want her back.

Despite the loneliness and hardships, Leeth is relishing her freedom.  She is also determined to honor all the promises she's made.

But what she doesn't know, may do something much worse than kill her.

2017/2/18, 163 words long.



Leeth: Experimental subject. Government assassin.
Threat to all humanity.


It's 2061, 25 years after magic unexpectedly returned to our world. In the Dumps that fringe New Francisco, Leeth is on the run. She doesn't regret sacrificing her future to save her friend, but the covert government agency that's been training her as their assassin wants her back.

As does her uncle, who still believes he owns her.

Despite the loneliness and hardships, Leeth is relishing her freedom. She is also working out how to honor her promise to release Godsson from the Institute for Paranormal Dysfunction — unaware the insane mage sees her as the key component needed to 'correct' human nature. His meta-magical construct, a shadow bonded to a ruthless killer, continues to hunt her. And is closing in.

When Leeth sets out to hunt her magical opposite, unknowing, the stage is set — for an ending worse than anyone knows.

Unless one girl's spirit can prove strong enough to forge her own Path.




And the feedback on the above was pretty consistent and uniform: although several people liked it, several others commented that it was still saying much too much, and greatly chopped back everything at the point where it starts talking seriously about this book. And also shortening the contextual paragraph ("2061..."). Sandra Wigzell noted "Those that have read book 1 and 2 will know the premise of where you are going.. less words more mystery" and "in another analogy... stop being a stripper and now dress like a Nun...".

I had trouble with these shortened descriptions, in that none of them indicated the major plot arc. A few people commented that I had revealed too much (plot twists), until I realised they could not have meant plot twists (because I hadn't; and because every blurb in every series I sampled — about 10 — did indicate the major arc). But I myself don't read blurbs of series I like and authors I trust, because they give away too much. They don't give away plot twists, they give away the plot arcs. And I trust the author enough to assume they'll follow the plot arcs they've laid down previously, and I prefer to be surprised.

That said, the blurbs I sampled all varied in how much of the arc they revealed: some were very vague (and I would not mind reading them before reading the book, if I had taken the chance), but some were pretty clear (and I'm glad I read the blurb only after I finished reading the book).

So I think what everyone was really saying was that they want to know the bare minimum about what's happening in the book: just hints and clues, if that.

My brother Matthew wrote: "I like Zen paintings. I love minimalism. People who distil a perfect moment with their media to its essence leave me in awe of their ability" and "giving advice is not easy. I just tell you what's in my heart and what I like."


2017/2/17, 199 words long:


Leeth: Experimental subject. Government assassin.
Threat to all humanity.


Sacrificing her future to save her friend is a decision Leeth refuses to regret. Now eighteen, she has escaped the covert government agency training her as their assassin. Hunted by her former colleagues, yet still desperate to belong, she is learning to survive in the society of outcasts bordering New Francisco. Hardship and loneliness bring freedom — and Leeth is relishing it. But darker agendas are at work.

The manipulative Doctor Harmon still believes he owns her: Leeth must best him if she's to take control of her life. Deciding to involve her friend Marcie, however, may have unexpected consequences.

Leeth also needs to learn to trust more wisely. Bound by her promise to release Godsson from the Institute for Paranormal Dysfunction, she remains unaware the insane mage sees her as the key component needed to ‘correct' human nature. His meta-magical construct, a shadow bonded to a ruthless killer, continues to hunt her. And is closing in.

When Leeth sets out to hunt her magical opposite, unknowing, the stage is set — for an ending worse than anyone knows.

Unless one girl's spirit can prove strong enough to forge her own Path.



Monday, 6 February 2017

Shadow Hunt cover designed!

I posted a quick status report over on my other blog, yesterday (A Toe in the Ocean of Books), focused on the procedural side of things. Here I'll just give an update on the writing side.

Today I finalised (I hope!) the blurb, and Mirella de Santana finished her cover design, being very patient as usual with my fussiness. I love her work, and I hope you will too. Here’s the new cover:

Blurb writing is tricky – it’s been through numerous revisions, including input from friends, other writers at the very supportive Marrickville Writers Group, and my editor Dave at TheEditors.com. Here it is:

Leeth:  Experimental subject.  Government assassin.

Humanity's doom?

 

Desperate to belong, but hunted by her former colleagues, Leeth is now learning to survive in the society of outcasts bordering New Francisco. And despite hardship and loneliness, she is relishing her new-found freedom. But other agendas remain at work. The manipulative Doctor Harmon still believes he can control her; still believes she belongs to him. Only by dealing with him can she take control of her life.

But Leeth has greater, hidden enemies who wish to use her. Godsson, the insane mage, sees her as the key ingredient in his plan to ‘correct’ human nature. His meta-magical construct, bonded to a ruthless killer, continues to hunt her. And it is closing in.

 

The stage has been set – for an ending worse than anyone knows.

Unless an eighteen-year-old girl’s spirit can prove strong enough to forge her own Path, instead.


Following Dave’s detailed critique of the 1st half of the MS, and feedback from my beta reader (Jon Marshall – thanks for spotting some significant problems!) right now I’m working on polishing my changes while waiting for the detailed crit of the 2nd half. Then it will be full steam ahead. I’m also in the process of booking things to visit Swancon 42 in Perth, April 2017.

I’ll need to decide the publication date for the ebook version, soon, and upload the draft MS to Amazon. I’m thinking March 15 – if I manage to complete it before then, I’m sure people won’t complain! It’s funny how each book seems to bring its own challenges and new things to learn. Or maybe Leeth is just intrinsically challenging! And Harmon, too, in his own way. I think my next post here will be from a Q&A session with an interested reader from overseas (my first fan contact!). He said he was happy to share our discussion (that largely focused in on the relationship between Leeth and Harmon), so after the book is ready, I’ll condense that into a post. Unless I find I need a break to preserve my sanity, and manage to make time before then.