I have had the worst morning ever. Somehow, I can’t even imagine how, my hairdresser managed to use Ravishing Plum on my hair instead of Autumn Hue, I was simply devastated. I told Becky it was unacceptable, and of course she was apologetic, and I don’t want to be mean, but I look like a circus clown, and I’ve got my art class this afternoon. Luckily a new box of Moon Juice sachets arrived just this morning. It really is a miracle worker, soothes all that stress away, and I can really sense the different adaptogenic plants bio-acting with my very being. Dream is my favourite, it gives me an inner strength I’ve never known the like before. So I tried to keep my spirits up on the walk back to the car, and then I saw poor Hannah begging outside the carpark. Well, I always like to stop and say a few words, I think that’s important for them. Plus it gave me some perspective, I really am lucky. No matter what life throws at me, I always have a roof over my head.
I was just sticking on the kettle, for a mug of Moon Juice (I was going for Beauty this time) and I had the best idea. The Moon Juice! I should give Hannah some Moon Juice! You see, it seems wrong that it’s people like me who have access to these drinks, when I think, really a woman like Hannah probably has more problems and stresses living on the street than I do arguing with my hairdresser.
So why don’t I buy Hannah a box? Or maybe not the whole box. I’ll pick out a few of the enhancements most appropriate: Brain, Dream and Spirit, I think. I’ll hang onto Sex, Power and Beauty, I can’t see them helping her. Oh she’ll be so excited. Within weeks her life could turn around, she’ll find the inspiration and inner strength to sort all her problems out. If this goes well I’ll start teaching her Feng Shui. We pretend that homelessness is some huge unsolvable problem, but all it takes is for each of us to make a little bit of an effort.
Originally posted on Love Books Group Tours: ? I am organising a book blog tour for PEDDLING DOOMSDAY by Petra Jacob Psychological Thriller Women’s Fiction Mystery and Suspense 344 Pages Synopsis You don’t know how significant you are. We need you. No matter where she is, Deirdre feels out of place. So when a cult…
I don’t normally like TED talks, they often seem corporate and bland. But this one affected me for many reasons. It’s one woman’s experience of presenting as a man for many years and then transitioning. However there is a greater message about how little we know of the way other people experience the world. Let me know what you think, this is a huge topic.
This guy knows how to write blurb, just look at him, he BREATHES blurb
Blurb sometimes gets muddled up with teasers, so I’m using the definition that makes sense to me. Blurb is a short, enticing description about your book, up to four hundred words long. It’s not a synopsis. Guides on how to write blurb often have a long list of information to include, such as description of main character, setting, events, all finishing with a question. I disagree with most of that. Although it’s fine as a formula, the description is so ubiquitous that everybody is writing blurbs that look the same. If you have a captive audience (ie people who know your writing and have at least some interest in it) then that’s ok, because those people are paying enough attention to actually read the few paragraphs you’ve written. However, if your blurb is on Amazon, alongside thousands of other blurbs, then it won’t stand out.
My theory (which may prove to be totally wrong) is that blurb only needs to contain one idea that captures something about your book and is interesting enough to draw attention to itself. It shouldn’t misrepresent your book (that will only annoy your readers) but it doesn’t need to capture the whole book either.
I was inspired by this blurb on the back of Before I go to Sleep by SJ Watson
Memories define us.
So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?
Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight.
And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.
Welcome to Christine’s life.
I think that’s brilliant. In five short lines it’s got me thinking, I want to know what happens in this story, and it only took a few seconds to take it in.
Then I wrote my blurb for the back of my book and my Amazon page
‘Listen to me. Humanity is in trouble. You know that, right? The wars, the greed, the waste. We’re heading for disaster.
They tell us that’s just the way the world is.
But they’re lying.
I have the truth, and I can teach you the answers to the two most important questions.
Who is really running the world? And why are they doing it so badly?’
Myra, Prophet 2018
I was worried that was too nonspecific, so at the bottom I added the line
Peddling Doomsday is a tense psychological drama about a cult run by a charismatic female leader.
My hope is that the first part will get people’s attention and then the final line will provide enough information for people to decide if they want to read or not.
At the moment I don’t know if this will work or not. We’ll have to see.
What are your thoughts on blurb? Have you written any? Any feedback for mine? What does it take to persuade you to read a book?
The printer was flashing a blue light, which made a change from the red light it usually flashed when refusing to work. However, it was still refusing to work. Deirdre looked around for assistance. But in the open-plan office, sixteen people were suddenly talking on the phone or staring at their computers to avoid having to face the fiendish machinations of the printer. Deirdre sighed to herself, and went through the usual routine to get a printout. She pressed each button in turn, turned it off and slapped the top twice. Then she unplugged it, slapped it again, plugged it back in and turned it on. What she refused to do was think happy thoughts while she did this, despite the written instructions on the wall telling her to do so. Deirdre found that small, unobserved rebellions caused less trouble.
The printer had arrived three months ago. Deirdre’s boss’s boss, Dove, marched into the office in his leather trousers, a printer-laden minion struggling behind him. Dove had stated this was the absolute latest in artificially intelligent technology. This printer would eliminate the need for excuses. This printer would not simply print when they pressed a button, but would anticipate, adapt and evolve to create the perfect printing experience.
‘In time,’ Dove had said, swaying on his hips, face shiny with the excitement of his own importance. ‘In time you’ll see this as the most vital member of our little team.’ The reality was that the printer simply would not print when they pressed a button; it took a good twenty minutes of cajoling, resetting and violence. Whenever Sarah, Deirdre’s boss, tried to persuade Dove the printer needed fixing, his argument was,
‘It’s a highly sophisticated machine, Sarah, it requires highly sophisticated usership. You need to take a step into the technology of tomorrow. I’ll book you onto a seminar.’ Seminars were how Dove battered dissent out of his employees, their will broken by tedium; trodden into submission by PowerPoint presentations and flipcharts.
‘But it doesn’t work,’ Sarah had persisted.
‘It knows you’re complaining about it. Try asking it nicely while thinking happy thoughts. Negativity is the enemy of success!’
Deirdre’s office was at Stronk and Lowry, the backwater branch of a corporate advertising agency, and happy thoughts weren’t easy to come by. However, Deirdre’s colleagues all tried, and then blamed themselves when the ink refused to flow.
‘I think I’m thinking happy thoughts, but what do happy thoughts, you know, feel like?’ said John, a creative, his quirky hat perched to hide his balding head. Deirdre didn’t have an answer and shrugged.
When Deirdre had discussed the printer with Henry, her erstwhile boyfriend, he was convinced artificial intelligence hadn’t been invented yet.
‘And definitely not artificial sulking, why would they bother?’
‘What about psychic artificial intelligence that senses negative thoughts?’ Deirdre had asked, and Henry gave her a look. Together they Googled the make of printer and discovered it was a perfectly normal, cheap printer that happened to not work very well. Erstwhile Henry found this incredibly funny and had fallen off the sofa with laughter. Office insanity had been bearable when she could use it to make Henry laugh. Now there was no one to laugh with, and Deirdre kept her head low and pretended that foolish things were a natural part of working life. She let her inner mockery wither.
Wherever possible, workers in the office did their work-printing at home and brought it in the next day, meaning printing costs at Stronk and Lowry had dramatically decreased. This was seen as a win by management and the one-printer-system spread throughout the branches.
Deirdre gave the machine a kick, it whirred indignantly and then deposited the letter she was printing at a diagonal. She shrugged, that would have to do. Mission accomplished, she got herself a chocolate Hobnob. They had been her dad’s favorites, and she sucked on it as he would have done. As she passed, she picked a few cigarette butts out of the peace plant growing on the window sill of the kitchen, and returned to Sarah’s office to chop the letter straight.
It’s a psychological drama about a woman who escapes her life to join a cult.
You don’t know how significant you are. We need you.
No matter where she is, Deirdre feels out of place. So when a cult known as the Center contacts her, wanting her join up, she’s intrigued. They say a terrible war is coming, humanity is in danger and without explaining why, say she’s needed for the fight. Suddenly the chance to be spectacular is within her grasp. With the charismatic Myra as the cult leader, and talk of prophecies and psychic abilities, Deirdre is soon seduced and ditches her humdrum life to join up.
Once inside, her understanding of the world shifts. She learns the truth about the elite, a secret organisation that has meddled with humanity since the beginning of time. The elite use entertainment and the media as a constant distraction to stop people from reaching their true potential. To free themselves of this conditioning, the followers must give up ‘excessive’ food and sleep. They also carry out increasingly bizarre rituals under the critical eye of the Captain, a minor leader of the new followers. He seems to take pleasure from turning them against one another.
Tensions increase. The followers gain odd new abilities, but bullying and hysteria also grow. Meanwhile Myra’s prophecies become increasingly extreme. As paranoia intensifies, Deirdre questions where the belief ends and delusion begins.
It’s now free on Kindle Unlimited. To buy it’s 99p, 99c or equivalent.
It was five months since she’d had her sleep removed. An unpleasant, precise process that involved gradually scraping the need away with a scalpel. And no she never needed to sleep again.
After thirty-four years of never quite having enough time, finally all her problems would be over. She would no longer need to snap at the children when they wanted her to sit with them and watch cartoons. Her husband would never need to complain that his dinner was a ready meal, she’d be able to cook him exquisite banquets. She’d have time to take that evening class to finally learn German. She’d start pottery again. She’d take up sewing the children’s Halloween costumes. She’d write a play. Her life would never be the same again.
For a few weeks she lived in bliss, floating through the harried mums to pick up her kids at the end of the school day. Making pots and plates for birthday presents. Baking brownies in the middle of the night.
But the nights got emptier as the silence started to invade her thoughts. She would try to keep busy with useful things, but hours would pass spent only on forums, trying to connect with lives that were still busy and noisy. Trying to feel smug.
She’d fill the night up with sound, the radio, the TV. Her husband would clamber out of bed with blurry eyes and follow her around pleading with her to stop. She felt so relieved of the company that she’d keep going. And she started to get stupid. She never seemed to learn the German, just repeated the same lesson over and over. She’d find herself sitting vacantly staring into space for hours on end. Even when she felt alert and ready to do things, she couldn’t think of anything she actually wanted to do. Or why. Instead she’d repeat the same dull actions over and over, doing the washing, hanging the clothes out on the washing line even though it was the middle of the night. Taking the clothes in, still soggy and pushing them unfolded into the wrong drawers. She spent one entire evening sorting socks.
“Sorting them how?” asked her husband, his exasperation evident, although she couldn’t think why he would feel that way.
“I’m putting them into alphabetical order,” she explained.
“But they’re socks! They don’t have alphabetical order!” she patted his shoulder and started to drift away.
“Pull yourself together and do something productive!” her husband shouted.
That night as she was refolding all the clothes in her son’s chest of drawers, she paused, a bright blue Spongebob t-shirt in her hands. She began to twist it, pleased that it held the contorted shape well. She placed in back in the drawer, a little of the material rising up out of the drawer. She took another t-shirt and twisted that around the first to make a snake, escaping from the drawer. She let out a small giggle, hoping that no one heard her.
By the morning all her son’s clothes were spilling out onto the floor, as if escaping. Twisted into bizarre shapes or seated figures.
So I wrote last week about editing, and how I used ProWritingAid, an essential but flawed program, to help me. I was going to write a straightforward review, but the reason it annoyed me wasn’t so much the bugginess of the programming, but the way it ‘scored’ my writing. I was offended. This was unreasonable, but I figure I can’t be the only one. So to all of you feeling picked on by editing programs, this is for you.
Stickiness and Other Issues
ProWritingAid gives percentage marks for spelling, grammar and style. My marks for style tended to come in at the 50-60% range, with the main criticism being I had too many ‘sticky sentences’.
Sticky sentences are ones with excess ‘meaningless’ words. So in my first chapter the sentence,
These routines reassured her that all was as it should be, no matter how awful that was.
is a sticky sentence and the words – these, that, all, was, as, should, be, no, how – are the sticky ones. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I do tend to use too many words, and this program helped me cut them down. On the other, while wordy sentences need to be used sparingly, they can work stylistically (see below for a perfect example.)
My book tended to be pretty good with pacing ( a useful feature that shows if there are any slow areas of your writing) but thought I had too many long sentences and tended to overuse the word ‘believe’ (although in a book about a cult, it was difficult to avoid).
So Whaddya Think of This?
Anyway, the upshot was that even when I adjusted my writing, it still had my style down as 60% or so. Which is when I thought I’d investigate how it saw the writing of others. I decided to use Catch 22 (one of my favourite books), Catcher in the Rye, my first book Riddled with Senses, Sense and Sensibility, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (another one of my favourites) and the Da Vinci Code.
(note: I would upload a chapter to the program, but not necessarily the first chapter. Of course a book varies in pace and wording from chapter to chapter, but much longer than that and the program gets confused. This is not a scientific study.)
These are the Results…
No of difficult to read paragraphs
% slow pacing
Da Vinci Code
4 slightly 7very.
Catcher in the Rye
Riddled with Senses
Sense and Sensibility
I found these results befuddling and reassuring.
So The Da Vinci Code had the most ‘difficult to read’ paragraphs, which doesn’t fit with my view of the book at all.
Jane Austen was the fastest paced! (Although, I checked other chapters and they got a higher score). Even Riddled with Senses (which is totally not an action-packed thriller) was twice as fast as the Da Vinci Code.
Every book but Catch 22 had bad grammar, which was a relief, because I often disagreed with what the program said about commas and tenses.
Most reassuring of all, The Da Vinci Code was deemed to have a better style than Catch 22, Hitchhiker’s Guide and Sense and Sensibility. That being the case, I’d rather have bad style than good.
All had at least some long sentences (over 30 words), although Riddled was the worst for that. And every book had an excess of words like was/were or feel/felt.
Another strange statistic was that no book achieved a low enough ‘sticky’ rating (although Riddled with Senses and Da Vinci Code came close). Hitchhiker’s Guide had the worst, at 55%. This isn’t surprising since, Adams was the master at long, meandering sentences that were funnier because of the strange route they took. For example, the program picked out
This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people on it were unhappy for pretty much all of the time.
as sticky. An alternative the program accepted was
This planet had a problem: most people were often unhappy.
It’s true, this is a more straightforward sentence, but with nothing of the humour or interest of the original.
I feel less affronted now. These programs are a tool, and it’s important to use them as such; they are no substitute for human feedback or my own opinion. It’s good to think seriously about the criticisms they come up with, but I shouldn’t make changes I feel harm my writing just to keep a program happy.
So what about you? Have you tried these programs? Did you find yourself shouting at them?