Learning from the Book Blurb and First Line of ‘Throne of Glass’

Author Sarah J. Maas

This post does not contain any spoilers.

Genre – Young Adult Fantasy

The book has a kick-ass cover. Apparently, the American version is not the same as this one? Why the publishers would do that when this cover is so dramatic, I will never know.

Book Blurb

Thone of Glass Cover

TWO MEN LOVE HER

THE WHOLE LAND FEARS HER

ONLY SHE CAN SAVE THEM ALL

In a world without magic, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the viscous king who rules from his throne of glass but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she will be released from prison to serve as the King’s Champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.

The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. And a princess from a faraway land with befriend her. But something evil dwells in teh castle–and it’s there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena’s fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival–and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.

This is a great blurb. The first three sentences, centered at the top, set the tone. This is a serious book with serious consequences for failure: a romance within a dangerous setting. Not only are lives at risk but so are hearts. In the first paragraph, we learn about the protagonist, her circumstances and the setting.

The second paragraph increases the tension with effective phrasing: ‘fight for survival’, ‘desperate quest’ and ‘root out the evil’. The situation seems untenable. The question the reader ends up asking is: Why is she the only one who can save everyone? Will she succeed?

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Learning from the Book Blurb and the First Line of ‘The Martian’

Author: Andy Weir

This post contains no spoilers so read without trepidation.  However, you have probably already read this book because its been out a while, a movie has been made and the BOOK IS AMAZING!

Genre – Science Fiction or just plain fiction?

Again, my local chain bookstore had shelved this in a strange location, resulting in my wandering the aisles aimlessly, which I do whenever I get into a bookstore anyway. However, I like logic and it was shelved illogically in the literature section.

Umm… unless, I just woke up from a 20 year stupor, I’m pretty sure we haven’t visited Mars yet. This would put this book into the realm of science fiction. *sheesh*

Book BlurbThe Martian paperback

‘When a dust storm forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, astronaut Mark Watney finds himself stranded on Mars’s surface, completely alone.

Armed with nothing but his ingenuity, his engineering skills–and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–Mark embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?’

This blurb is fantastic. Only three sentences long and it does its job brilliantly. The first sentence tells you the setting is Mars, and the main character is Mark Watney, an astronaut. The next sentence characterizes the protagonist. You learn that he is smart and skilled with a ‘gallows sense of humor’. The blurb is setting you up to like him before you even read the first page.

The words used in the blurb evoke images that bring the book to life: ‘stranded on Mars’, ‘armed with nothing but his ingenuity’ and ‘dogged quest’. The hyperbole of ‘impossible odds’ in the last sentence makes the reader want to discover if he succeeded. Also, the last sentence is a question, which engages the reader.

Knowing that I’m going to have to come up with a book blurb of my own, I really appreciate one done so well.

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Learning from the Humour in’The Sword of Summer – Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard’

Author: Rick Riordan

These posts do not contain spoilers. In fact, I’d be surprised if you understood what the book was about from anything I write.

Genre – Young Adult Fantasy

The_Sword_of_SummerBook Blurb – Too long to write here and to tell you the truth, it didn’t grab me…at all. The blurb didn’t do this book justice. If you are looking at how to write a book blurb, do not use this book as an example. I don’t think I can say enough bad things about it.

First Lines – “Yeah, I know. You guys are going to read about how I died in agony, and you’re going be like, ‘Wow! That sounds cool, Magnus! Can I die in agony too?'”

There is a word missing. I checked it many times and ‘to’ is missing from the second line in the book. ‘…you’re going to be like…’

I am pointing this out because: a) I missed it the first three or four times I read it, and only caught it when I copied it here; and, b) traditional publishers and editors are not infallible.

Just trying to break down the stigma of indie/self-published books.

Other than the terrible book blurb, and the typo in the first two sentences of this novel, it is an awesome book! I really enjoyed it and looked forward to reading subsequent chapters after I got too sleepy to keep going.

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Photos of things around the world…

I just had to share these photos. Nature is so beautiful and amazing.

Where Do Book Ideas Come From?

Since I’ve let people know that I’ve written a book — which I am currently revising, endlessly, it seems — people who I would never have thought would have any interest in sitting down to write a book have revealed their book ideas to me.  And usually, their ideas originate from what they are passionate about or an injustice they’ve experienced. Always, it has an educational component to it, they want to pass on knowledge they’ve acquired.

My book idea came from a passion of mine. If you know me well, you will not be surprised to hear what it is: the environment and the animals that live within it.

Photos: MARKOVICH PHOTO ART

I am a strong advocate for the environment. So much so that I have only taken jobs that work to protect it. I am an engineer that specializes in the treatment of wastewater, and I have been in this field for over 20 years.

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Learning from ‘Steelheart: The Reckoners Book One’

Author Brandon Sanderson

No spoilers.

Genre – Young Adult Fantasy

00_steelheart_usThe best way to learn your craft is to study others who excel at the genre. What better book to review and learn from than a YA fantasy by Brandon Sanderson, a master of fantasy?

Steelheart is the first book in a trilogy. Since I hope my first novel will be the first in a series, I like to see how authors introduce their characters, how much backstory and world building is revealed and when.

Book Blurb –  How far would you go for revenge if someone killed your father? If someone destroyed your city? If everything you ever loved was taken from you?

I find the book blurb effective in generating interest. It brings the reader directly into the story because you imagine what you would do in the situation.  It also creates sympathy for the main character, David, a young man of 18.

First line – I’ve seen Steelheart bleed.

The first line is taken from the Prologue.  I like the line because it made me ask, ‘What is so special about Steelheart bleeding? Everyone bleeds, don’t they?’ This made me want to read on. So far, so good.

I found the prologue and the last 5 chapters of the book to be worthwhile reading. The last 5 chapters were excellent. Everything came together and a few great twists were revealed, one of a which I did see coming, the others I didn’t.

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WFNS Competition Review of My Debut YA Fantasy Novel!

I’m flying a little high right now.

I submitted my debut young adult fantasy novel to the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia for their Atlantic Writing Competition for Unpublished Manuscripts at the beginning of January. Don’t get too excited for me. I didn’t win or anything and I don’t expect to. They have announced the shortlist for all of the categories except the young adult competition (not enough applicants). The winners, including the one for the young adult category, will be announced in May. [Update: I didn’t win.]

One of the reasons I entered was because they provide an assessment of your writing based on the first 80 pages of your work.

The person who assessed my writing found plenty of things that I need to fix, which were not a surprise since I’ve had similar comments from my critiquers on Scribophile. (You can read about my amazing experience on that site here.) So I’ve been working on fixing those things the reviewer mentioned since I submitted my manuscript in January.

But I wanted to share the reason that I am flying high. The reviewers are only required to read the first 80 pages of the novel. Here is what my reviewer wrote at the end of the assessment:

The story hangs together well and is a fun adventure to read. I couldn’t stop reading it, and really enjoyed the twists and turns. I can see a series of these stories – Reviewer for the Atlantic Writing Competition for Unpublished Manuscripts

Did you see that?  THE REVIEWER COULDN’T STOP READING IT!

Woohoo! I am doing something right!  The other beautiful things the reviewer said:

A well-plotted and involving adventure story, with endearing and well-drawn characters and an exciting story arc.

*I drop the mike and walk off the stage*

Why Do I Write? I Already Have a Job…

Image “Write” above via Carmen Kynard Flickr Creative Commons

Below are some ramblings about why I write. I wrote it more for myself than for anyone else. It is a reminder for when I get stressed about the parts of writing that don’t matter in the end. When I started writing — only seriously for the last year — my life changed for the better. I am one of those people that thrive on feeling a sense of accomplishment, of continually learning something new. And writing has fulfilled that need.

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When I start to worry about selling the book, I lose all that I’ve gained from writing a book in the first place. I’ve learned so much about myself and my passions in the last year or so. This journey is not about the end goal, it is about my jumping out of bed on weekends to work on something that brings joy and a sense of achievement to my life.

If I get bogged down worrying about what will sell and what won’t, I’ll lose all sense of what I want to convey to my reader. And if only one reader ‘gets it’ then I’ll be happy. My end goal isn’t to be a bestselling author since it is highly unlikely. My end goal is to be happy, to spend time doing something that I’ve always enjoyed doing. Putting my thoughts down on paper and learning how to do it better.

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Middle Grade or Young Adult?

What is the difference between a middle grade book and a young adult book? I researched several websites, one of which surveyed editors and agents who work with both Middle Grade (MG) and Young Adult (YA) writers to find the answers.

I summarized the findings and compared it to my novel to see where my fantasy novel would fit.

 

Middle Grade

Young Adult

My Book

Age of Reader 8 to 12 13+ Not entirely sure…
Word Count Up to 60,000 60,000+ Currently 82,000 but still editing
Age of Protagonist 10 to 13 14 to 18 13
Point of View Third First Third
Protagonist’s Concerns Own experience Others as well as themselves Others as well as herself
Inciting Element Single inciting element that throws their world into chaos Find out world is more complex than they thought Finds out world is more complex than she thought
Romance Does not play a large part in the plot; first kiss Takes up much more of the story; can involve sex Plays a small part in the story; first kiss

There is some overlap in the readers ages since some novels with milder plots and a 14 year-old main character could appeal to middle grade reader even though it would be classified as YA in the chart above.

The story line of middle grade protagonists tend to focus on what happens to them than with internal growth. Young adult story lines are more complex and generally have a character arc that shows how the events in the novel changed their attitudes and thinking.

AmyMessere Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Amy Messere Flickr Creative Commons

Taboo Content?

Most of the editors and agents surveyed agreed that no topic is taboo, whether it is sex, drugs, violence, domestic abuse or any other risque subjects.

What is important is how the subject matter is handled. A middle grade novel should not contain any graphic descriptions, but shouldn’t avoid difficult material either.

In fact, young people can use books as a safe way to explore these sensitive or edgy subjects.

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Learning from Using a Strong Female Lead in ‘Uprooted’

Author Naomi Novik

Uprooted header short

My book reviews contain no spoilers are not your typical book review — mainly made up of mindless ramblings of an avid reader.

Genre – Young adult fantasy

Book Blurb – The book blurb is different from most of the one’s I’ve read because it doesn’t provide much indication of what the book is about. Instead, the blurb gives backstory describing the society in which the protagonist is raised.  It describes the odd ritual that her and her friends are forced to take part in; a choosing that will change one of their lives forever.

First Line“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley.”

After I’ve finished a book, I love going back to reread the first line to see if it sets the tone for the book. And this one does. Misconceptions and misunderstandings, both natural and evilly induced, are the reasons for almost everything that occurs in this novel.

The story is written in first person point of view (POV) of the main character, Agnieszka (quite the mouthful), a seventeen year old girl. We get no insight into the thoughts of anyone else. This works well in a novel where she is thrust into a world that she knows nothing about, and the reader learns along with her. It keeps the interest of the reader up.

This is not a typical young adult fantasy; the romance does not take centre stage or dominate the protagonist’s thoughts. I enjoyed this aspect since it shows that boys and relationships are not the be all and end all of young women’s lives. She had more important and pressing things to worry about than someone she might have feelings for. I also loved that Agnieszka had a mind of her own and followed it, the hell with anyone’s disapproval.

As far as the fantasy aspect, I found the character’s solutions to challenges repetitive. I enjoy fantasy novels that challenge the characters to learn new ways of solving more and more complex puzzles.

Novik also uses an inordinate amount of colons — you know :  — in her writing. It took me out of the story several times because I was trying to figure out how she could have written the sentence differently. I don’t even know how to use a colon unless it is with a list. I never notice punctuation. Actually, you aren’t supposed to.

Overall, Uprooted is a solid book and I looked forward to reading it. As a stand alone novel, the ending was very satisfying. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy.