Monday, February 14, 2011

The Hook

O.k. so I am sure there were some of you that read my post last week and scoffed at the fact that I said the synopsis would only take a couple of days to complete. A little heads up would have been nice!!

I spent two days and have now whittled it down to 700 words. I am partially happy that it covers the main plot of the story now, but I am not convinced an editor will love it. I’ve read some authors who have said the synopsis is the hardest part in writing. I can see why they say that, but at the end of the day, you are writing about the story you know inside out. For me, it is just a case of tinkering with it until it feels right (get your minds out of the gutter people). Having said that, what do I know? I haven’t sent anything off yet.

The other headache is the submission letter. This traditionally is made up of 3 parts:

1)      The hook
2)      Description of the book
3)      Author bio.

Today I have been focussing on the hook. After all, this is the part that needs to grab the editor’s attention. There are numerous websites that offer advice on the hook. Some of them are excellent but all agree there is no willing formula. I think the best way to learn what makes a good hook is to see what is out there. Below I have listed some “hooks” used by the best selling fantasy authors in recent years. I have also made a note of how many words they have used in the description of their book:

Robin Hobb – Assassin’s Apprentice - Fitz is a royal bastard, cast out into the world with only his magical link with animals for solace and companionship. 112 words

Joe Abercrombie – The Blade itself - Inquisitor Glokta, a crippled and increasingly bitter relic of the last war, former fencing champion turned torturer extraordinaire, is trapped in a twisted and broken body - not that he allows it to distract him from his daily routine of torturing smugglers. 208 words

Scott Lynch – The Lies of Lock Lamorra - They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he's part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count. Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. 234 words

Patrick Rothfuss – The Name of the Wind - 'I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. 168 words
Mark C Newton – Nights of Villjamur - An ice age strikes a chain of islands, and thousands come to seek sanctuary at the gates of Villjamur: a city of ancient spires and bridges, a place where banshees wail the deceased, cultists use forgotten technology for their own gain and where, further out, the dead have been seen walking across the tundra. 185 words

Brent Weeks – The Way of Shadows - The perfect killer has no friends. Only targets. 117 words

Below is the description I have had for the Ritual of the stones since the book began:

Rob Donovan – Ritual of the Stones – Every 12 years the Ritual of the Stones takes place. 12 people are selected and one is sacrificed to the Gloom, a shadowy creature that haunts Frindoth.

When Rhact learns that his daughter has been selected to take part in the Ritual, he takes his family and flees. In doing everything he can to protect his family, Rhact has no idea of the repercussions of his actions.

Elsewhere, in the city of Lilyon, King Jacquard struggles to maintain peace and order over the Kingdom. A growing number of factions seek to take advantage of the Ritual and claim the Kingdom for themselves.

The destiny of the Kingdom relies on the Order, a group of powerful beings, but even amongst their ranks deception and betrayal emerges. For Marybeth believes she has discovered a way to defeat the Gloom, a secret the Order may not want to get out. 

Through the lives of these three individuals, the ballad of Frindoth begins.
Rather bland isn’t it? I am happy with the content of most of the description but the hook is definitely the weakest part and needs addressing. I have also added the last 2 lines. Marybeth is quite a big character in the book and yet I don’t even mention her in the blurb!

Below is my next attempt. It conveys the same message but is a little more punchier.

2) The Ritual of the Stones is once again upon Frindoth. Twelve years have past since the Gloom claimed its last sacrificial victim and now it is the time has come for the ritual to decide who will be next.
I am also toying with the idea of this one:

3) Twelve years have past since the Gloom claimed its last sacrificial victim and now once again it is time for the Ritual of the Stones. From all over Frindoth, twelve unfortunate souls will be selected and one will be offered to the Gloom.

Or even this:

4) For as long as the history texts can recall the Ritual of the Stones has taken place in Frindoth. It is always the same, every twelve years; twelve people are selected to be sacrificed to the Gloom.
I’d love to know which one you prefer. What one would make you want to read on?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

ROTS - Finally completed

February the 9th. In the words of Lord Vader, “It will be a day long remembered.” Finally after almost 2 years of planning, writing and editing, Ritual of the stones is now complete.

I made the last editorial changes yesterday on the 4th draft and formatted the manuscript ready to be sent out. Today and tomorrow I will compile the query letter and as from next week I will be approaching agents. I promise to post every single rejection notice I receive, no matter how humiliating the process gets. We all read about authors breaking into the market and experiencing hundreds of rejections, I don't know about you, I've always found that hard to imagine. Not that the rejections don't happen but how an author finds the strength to keep getting rejected. Therefore, I thought it will be useful for anyone following this blog as potential writers to see exactly how the process works. I intend to be quite open about my feelings and so hopefully people will be able to identify with the emotions when it happens to them.

I’ve done a lot of research on what makes a good query letter and so I hope this side of things won’t be too arduous.

It is surreal. After almost two years, it is only now that the whole thing seems real. I am actually attempting to become a bona fide author, putting myself out there to be shot down. Wish me luck!

On another note, I have just finished the first draft of a short story. It is based on the experience I endured last month but I have added a supernatural twist. I like it, I might submit it to critters after editing.

I have also had another short story accepted at, “The Fringe Magazine.” This is an online magazine who offer a token payment if they feature the story as their “story of the month.” It is another string to the bow and something I can mention in the query letter.

I will get you updated on how the rejections go.

Mood = Boyant

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Books: January reading

January has come and gone. It has been a rather odd month. On the editing front things have been going well, on a personal front however, I had a rather traumatic experience in discovering the body of a suicide victim on the way to work. It really shook me up. The poor man had jumped from a hotel window and without being to gory or disrespectful, it wasn’t a pleasant thing to stumble across. I have a number of feelings on the matter but I think I will post them at a later stage, just in case by some miracle one of the visitors to this blog happens to know the victim.

Anyway, I enjoyed summarizing the books I read last year and so I thought I would continue to do it throughout this year as well. Each month I will list the books I have read and give some very brief thoughts on the book and my rating out of 10. I hope you enjoy it.

First up was Warriors, a compilation of short stories by various authors and edited by George R R Martin and Gardner Dozois. A lot of people have raved about how strong this collection of stories is so who am I to disagree? I started the book over the Christmas period and so maybe I did not do justice to some of the stories by not giving them my full attention. However, I did enjoy the book overall. There were some excellent stories in there, most notably from: Joe R Lansdale, Steven Saylor, James Rollins and probably the best of the bunch David Ball. Most of the other stories were very good, with only one or two being slow. Overall I gave the book 8.5.

The next book was a guilty pleasure. MEG: Primal waters by Steve Alten is the 3rd in his series of books about the Megalodon shark (the massive prehistoric uncle of the great white). I stumbled upon this series when browsing through someone’s random list on Amazon. I thought it would be fun to read on holiday whilst lying in the sea. You get the idea, reading about a man eating shark whilst actually in the sea. What I didn’t expect was to enjoy the book so much, my wife is currently reading it and loving it to. Primal waters, is the best in the series so far. If you like James Rollins you will like these books. I rated it 8.9.

The 3rd book I read was a return to one of my stable authors. You know the ones you return to on a regular basis. The author I’m talking about is Tess Gerritsen and the book was Keeping the Dead. It is part of her Maura Isles and Jane Rizzoli series, which has been pretty consistent so far. This book was one of my favourite in the series, where several sub-plots all came together nicely. It reminded me of Harlan Coben’s standalone novels. I rated it 9.2

The final book I read in January was Dolores Clairbourn by Stephen King. King is one of my favourite authors and I am slowly going through his back catalogue. At first I really struggled with the style of the book. It is told from Dolores’s perspective as she gives an interview to the police. The unique part of the novel is that this is all that happens. Other characters are in the room with Dolores but we never hear them speak (although we knew they do as Dolores answers them from time to time). King never describes anything in the room either, there is no description of Dolores’s actions such as, “Dolores sat back and took a sip of the water.” The whole book is one diatribe. After a while I got used to the style and ended up thoroughly immersed in the story Dolores had to tell. King is so under appreciated by many despite his hordes of fans. I rated it 8.9.

I don’t think I will manage to read 4 books every month but I should average 3 at least. I would love to hear your thoughts on any of the titles above.