Closing In

Now that Greetings From Sunny Aluna is closing in on 90,000 words (with probably another 10k to go), it’s probably time to start talking about it. You know, ramping up interest in a book that’s not even done yet in the hope that when it finally drops it won’t land with a dull thud.

I’ve been doing more research about how to do a better job of pitching the story and learning about the quick hooks that will lure people into a false sense of security. No, wait. Excitement. A real sense of excitement. Even now, when someone asks me to summarize the Henchmen series, I’m usually at a loss and wind up changing the subject. As a result, the people that have taken the time to read it usually enjoy it, but it’s the getting people there part that’s still the problem.

What excitement might look like

Of course, there are three major components that can generate interest in a book: The cover, the blurb, and the first page. If any of those blow, you’re well and truly boned. That’s for people looking at the book, though. They have to actually see it in front of them before any of that matters. What about the times where you’re on an elevator or talking to people you work with? There has to be a way to summarize the plot to a point that it covers the gist of the story without being overly onerous. One line. That’s really all you get before people put their eyes on screensaver. And guess what, the blurb is far too long and formal to talk about while you’re at a restaurant.

Blurbs are important, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not what we’re after here. Information on writing blurbs can be found anywhere. Hell, I’ve written a post on writing blurbs. Everyone who’s ever written a blurb has likely written a blog post on writing blurbs. What we want is a blurb for a blurb.

Loglines work on that kind of level. They’re hooks designed to generate interest. They don’t tell the whole story, they don’t even really reveal much about the plot. The general gist of a logline is it’s a quick and dirty sales tactic, the kind of thing you can tell someone when you’re in an elevator without resorting to half-assed declarations about thematic unity or your book being a tale of redemption. If you want a good examination of loglines, go check out Sean Carlin’s post on loglines. He does a marvelous job of explaining how to distill an entire story into a compact statement that can be delivered at the drop of a hat.

That’s the kind of thing you need when someone asks what your book is about. No one is going to listen to a rambling discussion of how a super villain’s henchmen work with her to topple the United States government because they’re really pissed off about random things and, oh yeah, there’s this girl that they pick up and her father was into some shady things and that leads the henchmen to a place they never even knew existed. And everything goes all gooey-kablooey with invisible people and guns and stuff. Oh, and it also has bondage sushi in. Like totally right in the beginning, too.

13486232
Zoidberg can be a real jackass.

How about: While celebrating their latest robbery, a group of villains bent on destroying the United States stumbles across a terrible secret that the government will do anything to keep hidden.

Or

In the New Mexico desert, a group of villains searches for the ultimate weapon – a weapon the US government will do anything to keep hidden.

Admittedly, not my best work, but both convey the general gist of Henchmen pretty well. And, yes, it does have bondage sushi in it, but only for a short while. While Albuquerque may not be by-the-books desert (I think we get too much rain to be true desert), most everyone thinks of New Mexico as a whole as being desert so who am I to disagree. I don’t work in the tourism department, I just live here.

So, now that I’ve prattled on a bit, it’s time to get to the meat of this post: notably drumming up some interest in the forthcoming (sometime late this summer) Greetings From Sunny Aluna. To do that, I’m going to try my hand at the two immediate challenges of getting someone to read something: the cover and my new friend, the logline.

The Cover:

GreetingsFromSunnyAlunaR2A3

The Logline:

In a world of magic and martial arts, four people with different reasons dodge gangs and violent cops to find and eliminate a mysterious crime lord known only as The Beast before he can kill more innocent people.

I think it still needs work.

Drop me a note in the comments about what works, what doesn’t work, and any other thing you feel like chatting about. I like chatting.

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6 thoughts on “Closing In

  1. Thanks so much for the plug, Eric — and for the kind words about my post! I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the reaction to it — by how many writers have told me just how helpful they’ve found it!

    Being a Hollywood screenwriter is no fun whatsoever — it is truly the most miserable career path any writer of fiction could embark upon (something I say with nearly two decades of experience under my belt) — but it does teach you how to pitch your stories, which is about so much more than merely selling them; it’s about refining them, and boiling them down to their conceptual essence. For learning to be an effective salesman (something anathema to most artists), you do become a stronger writer, too. And that was what I’d hoped to impart with the piece.

    Obviously, without being familiar with Greetings from Sunny Aluna, it’s hard to suggest a specific refinement of that logline — i.e., a revised wording. It covers all the bases — protagonist, antagonist, conflict, setting, and tone — so kudos on that, but I think its weak link is the “four people with different reasons” part. That gives me no sense of who they are or what their personal stake in this story is. Whereas in the Die Hard logline, merely identifying the hero as an “off-duty cop” conveys that he’s a capable man who finds himself unexpectedly caught up in something in which his life, as well as the life of his spouse and an entire office party, is in jeopardy; you understand why their lives are his responsibility — because he’s a cop — but that he really is in over his head here — because he’s off-duty.

    Same goes for the Jaws logline: We all understand the role of a sheriff — he’s the one responsible for public safety. And in Raiders, an “archaeologist-adventurer” calls to mind a lot of traits that would explain how this man wound up in this situation — having to battle the Nazis for an all-powerful Biblical artifact. It all very subconsciously conveys an underlying connective tissue to the narrative — a sense that none of this is random. And that’s what I don’t get from “four people with different reasons.” Granted, you definitely don’t want to tell us too much about your heroes or their backstories, but give us something that allows us to, if not identify with them, at least be intrigued by them.

    Consider for a minute the logline to a film that sounds somewhat similar to your premise, John Carpenter‘s Big Trouble in Little China: “A blowhard trucker gets shanghaied by his best friend into a mission he only thinks he’s prepared for: rescuing a woman from an evil sorcerer and his army of magical minions in the labyrinthine underworld beneath San Francisco’s Chinatown.”

    So, from that logline, you know there’s gonna be action and magic in the story, but you can glean from “blowhard trucker” (and, of course, the movie’s title) that this is going to be a little tongue-in-cheek. And perhaps that’s a good addendum to my original essay: that it’s not just about addressing the five conceptual criteria, but intimating a connective tissue under it all — the thing that makes you go, “Of course a beach-resort sheriff would be stuck dealing with a great white shark on the Fourth of July,” or “Of course a swashbuckling archaeologist would be the one tasked with finding the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis.” You know what I mean? You need to convey it all in a way that makes me go, “Of course these people are stuck dealing with this problem!” Because that’s the thing about a good logline: It delivers the premise in such a way that you go, “That is such a logical dilemma, why is it no one thought to do this story before now?!” If you can land on that, someone will want to buy your story…

    Good luck!

    Sean

    1. That post is something every writer – especially us indies who do our own promotion – need to read, so definitely thank you very much for writing it up. And, yeah, my logline is, at best, half-assed. I’d like to make up some elaborate story involving sun in my eyes, terrorists, and at least one marauding wolverine, but the sad fact is I’m just not terribly good at it. At least yet. Yours are great and give me something to work toward! I’ll keep plugging away at it until I get something worthwhile. Fortunately, time is on my side.

      1. It’s not half-assed — merely a work-in-progress. Loglines are no different than full manuscript drafts: You don’t get them perfect on the first (or even the fifth) try! You work them over and test them out until they elicit the response you’re looking for. Just put yourself in touch with whatever got you excited to write this novel in the first place. Something about this idea seized your imagination when it first emerged from your subconscious, so now find a way to put that into a one-sentence summary that will evoke the same sense of narrative promise, of creative fertility, in others. You know the parameters (and requirements) of a logline, so just work within those until you get it right, even if that means trying out all sorts of different phrasings; it’s a lot easier, after all, to rewrite a single sentence from scratch than an entire novel!

  2. I’ll be honest, I am not in love with it. It seems like there is something missing. I am not overly sure what that thing is though. Just like tasting my home made chicken soup and thinking to myself, Hmmm … something’s missing. I think I am put off a little by it because it starts with “In a world …” and forever I will connect that to Don LaFontaine.

    “In a world where writers vie for control of the reading universe, one man stands above them all. Responding to a personal challenge to his WWE Heavyweight title he won from Hulk Hogan, he’ll battle for everything he holds dear; America, peach smoothies, and his illegitimate family he left behind in eastern Cambodia. He is the Ericinator.”

    That being said, I really am not sure how to make it better. I do like Sean’s input though. That’s good stuff.

    -B

    1. Yeah, he’s got great points and you’re both absolutely correct; there is something definitely missing. I’ll keep plugging away at it.
      And, for the record, I had Hogan on the ropes with my patented Skull Crusher until that oaf Randy Savage clobbered me with a chair. The refs were totally on the side of the “good guys”. It’s all politics, all the way down.

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