The first time I saw my book on Amazon

It’s a surreal experience. A book that started with me scribbling down an idea on a yellow legal pad is listed on Amazon. This is just something I made up. But there it is.

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A strange feeling, but I rather like it.

Me: There. Now do you believe I’m a real author?

My Subconscious: Could be an elaborate hoax. You never know.

Great Opening Lines

Henrik Nordenberg Blick aus dem Entrée

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley.” – Uprooted, Naomi Novik

“Sabrina had never picked a lock in her life, but it was done every day in books.” – Tryst, Elswyth Thane

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” – The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

Random thoughts of a problem I’m trying to work out for myself: how to start the story. This isn’t something I worry about when I start writing. The idea is on fire and off I go. But when editing, I come back and look at what I wrote. That’s when I start to question everything.

I love the feeling I get when I open a book and read a great opening line. I want to find a secluded corner and settle in for a good read. The stories don’t always live up to their opening lines, but the promise is there. The promise of a wonderful adventure.

What makes an opening line work? I love the above samples because of their promise. They intrigued me into reading more, which is the basic goal of an opening line.

It’s so simple when someone else does it! It’s harder when I try to do it.

I like to start by grabbing the reader and that doesn’t work for everyone. Some people love a leisurely opening and feel disoriented when they get thrown in the deep end. Plus, there is the plain truth that no matter how shiny and promising the idea starts out in my mind, the actual words on the page are going to look flat in comparison.

The opening of His Forgotten Fiancée:

“Who am I?”

Liza Fitzpatrick dropped the cleaning rag onto the counter of the dry goods store and spun around. A man stood in the doorway, his rough, workingman clothes soaked to the skin. He stared at her as if she were the first woman he’d ever seen.

The opening of Geoff and Lia’s story, tentatively titled A Gentleman of Leisure:

Geoff heard the click of a gun from the bushes behind him, and then a woman’s voice, deadly calm: “Stand up — slowly, now — and keep your hands where I can see ‘em.”

I like to start out in the middle of the action, in medias res, but even so the reader needs some basic orientation. I remember one contest entry that I read. All I knew was that the heroine was near the seashore looking at a ship. I didn’t know if she were sitting or standing or floating sideways. I didn’t know if she were on a dock or standing on a beach or looking out of a window of a house on the shore. I was trying to picture the scene and I was missing fundamental elements, which threw me out of the story at the start.

I want to start with something happening, but while it is happening I have to slip in some crucial details. Just enough for the reader to feel grounded, not enough for them to feel swamped. Argh!

What’s your favorite opening line for a book? Why does it work for you? Do you get disoriented if an author starts out too abruptly?

It’s tricky, achieving that balance between hooking the reader’s attention and throwing too much at them all at once. It’s frustrating, trying to convey an idea from one mind to another through the medium of words on a page. It’s amazing, to look at a whole book and think, “I did that. I want to do it again.”

Blurbs: Short but not sweet

It is a truth universally acknowledged that it is far easier to write a 70,000 word book than to write a 200 word blurb about it.

Hänsel und Gretel2 It is a truth universally acknowledged that it is far easier to write a 70,000 word book than to write a 200 word blurb about it. Kind Haerin asked me to give a quick synopsis of the novel that I sold to Love Inspired Historical, so I tried to write one. I need to do this anyway; Harlequin requires authors to fill out an Art Fact Sheet so that their Art and Marketing departments have something to go on when designing the cover or promoting the book. I’ve just been putting it off.

When writing a book, you can get lost in the characters and the story. When I was writing the 70,000 words, it was easy to pat the inner editor on the head and throw it a chunk of verbosity to chew on while I wrote.

But with a blurb, you can’t get lost in a forest of words. There’s nowhere to hide. It’s just you and 200 words. And my inner editor has been having a field day chewing up every attempt at a blurb. You wouldn’t believe the names that my I.E. has called me. (Well, if you’re a writer, you probably would.) This attempt was puerile, that attempt was pathetic, anyone reading this would laugh but they would never want to buy. That sort of thing.

Eventually, I crumpled up the piece of paper I was using and threw it against the wall, picturing my inner editor as the target. (I’m telling you, writing on paper is never going to go out of fashion. It’s very satisfying to crumple up words that aren’t working.)

Currently, I’m combing through the Internet looking. Do you have any suggestions? Every writer has to go down this path during the course of their writing career. Surely some of them have left breadcrumbs.

Digital Book World broke down blurb writing into four parts.

Jane Friedman provided suggestions on what to say and what not to say on a back cover.

The Romance University shared five tips for writing a blurb.

The Danger of Being Yourself

…in the hierarchy of importance, pretty stands several rungs down from happy, is way below healthy, and if done as a penance, or an obligation, can be so far away from independent that you may have to squint really hard to see it in the haze.
You Don’t Have To Be Pretty

Put a true picture of my actual self on my Twitter profile.

Hot air ballon chick 01
This is what happens when you search for ‘Hot Chicks’ on Wikimedia Commons.

Lost four followers.

Coincidence? I think not. Maybe I should have googled ‘Hawt Babes’ and stolen synergistically leveraged one of their pictures for my profile.

Seriously, that is something you risk when you put yourself out there for all the world to see. They might not like you. Then again, they might. You can’t tell beforehand.

It’s probably good practice for my book being published. Not everyone will like it.

Things to do today:

  1. Write 2000 words in my new manuscript.
  2. Refrain from checking Twitter followers!
  3. Watch Julia Quinn’s speech from RWA 15.

“All right, Mr. de Mille, I’m ready for my close up.”

I should probably make a confession. IMG_1515

That headshot of a kitten?

Not what I really look like.

It seems that authors need to promote themselves, not just their books. So when my local chapter of the Romance Writers of America offered a photo shoot opportunity, with professional hair, makeup, and photography, I decided to go for it.

I had my hair done, then makeup was applied. Finally, a photographer put me under the spotlight and Took My Picture. Argh.

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Um… I wasn’t argh-ing the photographer or the make up and hair stylists. All were very professional. But I HATE HAVING MY PICTURE TAKEN. Plus, it was about 90 degrees outside, and with all the bright lights in the room it was hotter than that inside. And makeup always makes my eyes turn bloodshot, which is not my favorite look. I kept the Visine handy.

This is a necessary part of my transition from a hermit, who sits in her cave typing up words that no one has ever read, and an author, who wants people to read her book. So it’s something I’m going to have to get used to. Eventually.

Maybe I should try channeling my inner Drama Queen.