Sunday, February 8, 2015

Help Me With The 80-Word Pitch For My Novel: The Stump of the Terebinth Tree

Guess what? I'm almost ready to start pitching my novel, The Stump of the Terebinth Tree. And I think it's okay to say that I'm thoroughly freaked out.

I'm currently cleaning up my jacket blurb. You know, the little description of the novel on the back cover. It's usually around 80 - 100 words, and they're pretty hard to write. I need your opinion on mine. Please read it through...it's only 86 words, so it won't take long. And then let me know what you think:

As a young desert elf, Wanderer never planned to become an assassin. But with his homeland threatened by a tyrant possessed by evil itself, he now knows that this is his chosen path. Setting out with a half-blooded she-elf and two thieving humans, he has only a very simple plan – assassinate the usurper before it is too late. But as pain and death surround him, Wanderer must learn to rely on blind faith and friendship to finish this mission with both his life and sanity intact.

Based on that description, would you want to read this book? Why or why not? Please tell me what you think needs to be fixed or what you don't like about it. Do not lie to me. If you don't like it, I want to hear about it. Please do not leave this page without commenting below with your plain, uncensored thoughts. And thank you so, so much for taking the time to do so. 


21 comments:

  1. I like it, but I recommend cutting the unnecessary words to tighten it up.

    evil itself - evil
    now knows - knows
    only a very simple plan - a simple plan
    But as pain - As pain
    both his life and sanity - his life and sanity

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    1. Wow. Good idea. That definitely makes it flow better. Thanks for commenting!

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  2. The first line really grabbed me. The overall plot sounds like The Lord of the Rings. I would read the novel just for that, but I'm not sure how agents would feel about it.

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    1. Yay! I'm glad you would read it. I do compare my story to LOTR in the proposal and point out differences, so hopefully agents will be okay with that.

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  3. I like the format because it introduces the protagonist, a little about his motivation, and the basic plot. You might get more specific about his motivation. Presumably the entire population would be facing the threat, yet Wanderer is the one who rises to the call. So why does Wanderer, specifically, choose to take action when the rest of the population does not? That specificity is what will separate your story from all the rest on the editor's desk.

    I'm drawn to the part about him having to rely on blind faith and friendship to accomplish his goal too. I find myself looking for a reason this is a challenge for Wanderer. I'd like to know that this is outside of his usual way of dealing with the world, because that adds automatic tension. It forces him to change too, which reveals a little about his character arc (if I read your pitch correctly).

    I think you're almost there, Hannah. These are my favorite lines from your pitch:

    #1 Wanderer never planned to become an assassin.
    #2 Wanderer must rely on blind faith and friendship.

    What about something like this?:

    Wanderer never planned to become an assassin. But with [specific reason he rises to the challenge that sets him apart from the rest of the non-hero population in the story who do nothing to fight back]. His job is simple: kill the usurper before [specific consquence]. Can the [character qualities that make it hard for Wanderer to rely on blind faith and friendship] desert elf learn to rely on blind faith and friendship?

    What do you think?

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    1. I think that's a great idea! Thank you so much. I sometimes find myself being vague in an attempt to be intriguing, but I usually need a second pair of eyes to let me know where I need to strengthen points. Now I'm off to go and make my blurb more specific. Again, thank you!

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  4. The first line is intriguing, and I like how you mention him wanting to keep his life AND his sanity in tact at the end. I would definitely check out the first chapter to see if I wanted to keep reading, but I would be careful because as it continues, the blurb feels a little too generic. Mandy made some good suggestions concerning that.

    Also, you use "but" as the beginning of a sentence twice within only a couple sentences. You might want to see if you can change the beginnings of one, or both, of those lines.

    Hope this was at least somewhat helpful :)

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    1. Very helpful. I was wondering whether it would sound generic to people and now I know. I really appreciate your comment! It's given me a lot to think about.

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  5. Athena pretty much took care of what I would've omitted :) Yes, it sounds like epic fantasy in the vein of Graceling, so I would totally buy it! Great job, Hannah! You can be proud of yourself...

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  6. I was going to say basically the same thing as Mandy. The blurb is a good start, but it lacks some clear conflict and stakes on a narrative (internal) level. I love her suggestions for improvement.

    Avoid phrases like "know" and "must learn" and look for phrases that allow your character a choice or leave some uncertainty. So instead of "Wanderer must learn" it could be: "If Wanderer cannot find a way to rely on blind faith and friendship, he's not only going to fail his mission--he'll lose his sanity, and his life."

    I'd also like to know/have a hint about why/how blind faith and friendship will make it possible for him to assassinate someone (or why he thinks it will)? I could see a reader/agent turned off by "blind faith" because it (to an extent) removes the character's willpower and initiative from the picture (presumably at the climax, where the character should be coming into his own). I think Mandy's recommendation of showing us how this "blind faith" is an obstacle will help. It's hard to say what other ways you could phrase/tweak it to give him more agency without having read the book.

    Anyway--it's a great start! Blurbs are hard. (But also oddly fun?) TBH I'm not sure if I would pick this up off the shelf in it's current draft (the unclear stakes and the blind faith thing would make me wary of unclear stakes/an easy faith get-out in the book), but I'd be much more likely to pick up a revision more along the line of Mandy's.

    Good luck editing!

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    1. Ah. I hadn't even considered that 'blind faith' might make it seem like I'm taking initiative away from the MC. That's definitely not what I was going for. Based on your comments and several others, I'll need to make sure that I make the stakes more clear. Thank you so much for your insight!

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  7. I really like that jacket blurb. Reading it for the first time, if it were just some random book I picked up, I would want to look into it more. Great first draft.

    Here's some changes I'd suggest making.

    1) "... by evil itself." Maybe be more specific? What sort of evil creature is he fighting against?

    2) "half-blooded she-elf" Might want to change "half-blooded" to "half-blood".

    3) "... Wanderer must learn to rely on blind faith and friendship to finish this mission with both his life and sanity intact." I LOVE this last sentence, but I think you could switch "learn to rely on blind faith and friendship" with "with both his life and sanity intact". For example: "Wanderer must keep his life and sanity intact while learning to rely on blind faith and friendship to finish this mission."

    Great, great job. I tried writing a jacket blurb after I read your blog tips on doing it, and they helped out a lot, but it was still really hard. :P Good luck! Can't wait to see the final draft.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Susannah! It seems like a lot of people really like the last sentence, which is good. If I can just be more specific on certain points, I'll be golden. Hopefully. =) I appreciate your encouragement!

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  8. Yes, I would read the book! I'm going to send some feedback today for your query.
    And, I have an award for you at my blog! http://tyreanswritingspot.blogspot.com/2015/02/wow-very-inspiring-blogger-award.html

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    1. Great! I'm looking forward to the feedback. Thank you so very much for being willing to help me out!

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  9. It looks great, the comments are also great, and after reading them, I don't think I have much to add.

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  10. I don't think there is more to add to what other commentators have said. Answering your question; I think as a fan of Legolas who just came fresh out of watching Battle Of The Five Armies I would really want to read your story, I also believe an elf will make a great assassin.

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    1. Lol! I'm so glad. Fun fact: Wanderer was originally a wood elf fashioned after Legolas. Of course I switched that later on, but it's funny to think that fans of Legolas would also like Wanderer. =) Thanks for your comment. It made my day.

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  11. First of all, I REALLY want to read your book. I do have a few suggestions for this, though. In the second sentence, I think replacing "But with his homeland threatened" with "But now that his homeland is threatened" adds a bit more urgency, which always makes people interested. In addition, I think changing "his chosen path" to "the only path" would help highlight that the circumstances are forcing him into this role, as well as being a bit more dramatic.

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