Thursday, October 26, 2017

Taking the Guesswork Out of Back Cover Copy

Whether you're about to start your NaNoWriMo journey, are plotting the bones of a new project, or have a manuscript finished and want to know how to position it, writing your back cover copy can be an invaluable step in creating a marketable, cohesive, solid story. 

In my full-time book publicist job, I was responsible for writing several back cover blurbs every day, but I've found it's a completely different thing to remove myself from my own story to write a high-level summary. Can I get a witness?

Both plotters and pantsers can benefit from being armed with this awareness of their story. Let's take some of the guesswork and intimidation out of it, shall we?

Important questions to begin with:
  • What is the big question your story will answer? (Ex: Will the hero get the girl? Can the hero survive in the face of mortal peril?)                                                                                                               
  • What does your hero want or need most in the world? (Ex: Closure, safety, to win his daughter back in a custody case, to defeat the villain and restore peace to the galaxy)
  • What is keeping your hero from getting what he wants/needs? (Ex: An evil overlord, her own self-doubt, a greedy boss, his inability to move on from the past, an expiration date due to terminal illness, writer's block)
  • What will your character lose if he/she doesn’t get this? (Ex: Certain death, unemployment, his biggest hopes and dreams, an important opportunity, her one true love)
  • What must your character learn or do to overcome this? (Ex: Defeat the evil overlord once and for all, come to an important conclusion about his life, overcome her writer's block, accomplish X before it's too late)
The key elements of back cover copy are:

  •       Hook: Grabs the reader’s attention, gives clues about setting/context, and creates reader expectations about what kind of story this will be
  •       Defining Characterization: A defining feature about your main character that pertains MOST to the plot (i.e. age/job/social status/abilities/location)
  •       Glimpse of Old Normal: A glimpse at your main character’s backstory or current normal existence.
  •       Inciting Incident: An incident, change, problem, or invitation that sets the story in motion, begins the adventure, and/or propels the character from his/her normal life (often begins with “But” or “When”)
  •       Adaptation: How the character adapts or exists in the new normal
  •      A twist: Complications that arise and threaten to prevent the character from getting what he/she wants or needs most
  •       Conclusion: What the hero must do to get what he wants/needs most. Often posed in question form.

Let's do an example from True to You by Becky Wade:
After a devastating heartbreak three years ago, (Defining characterization) genealogist and historical village owner Nora Bradford has decided that burying her nose in her work and her books is far safer than romance in the here and now (Old Normal).

Unlike Nora, (Defining Characterization) former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient John Lawson is a modern-day man, usually 100 percent focused on the present (Old Normal). But when he's diagnosed with an inherited condition (Inciting Incident), he's forced to dig into the secrets of his past and his adoption as an infant, enlisting Nora to help him uncover the identity of his birth mother,

The more time they spend together, the more this pair of opposites suspects they just might be a perfect match. (Adaptation to New Normal) However, John's already dating someone and Nora's not sure she's ready to trade her crushes on fictional heroes for the risks of a real relationship (Twist). Finding the answers they're seeking will test the limits of their identity, their faith, and their devotion to one another (Conclusion).

If you have your back cover copy written for your current manuscript, share it with us in the comments or let us know some of these elements from your story. Don't be shy! 

Laurie Tomlinson is an award-winning contemporary romance author and cheerleader for creatives. She believes that God's love is unfailing, anything can be accomplished with a good to-do list, and that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles. 

Previously a full-time book publicist, Laurie now serves as a virtual assistant and runs a freelance editing and PR consulting business called 1624 Communications

She lives with her husband and two small children in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her novella, That's When I Knew, released with the Love at First Laugh rom-com collection this spring, and her debut contemporary romance novel, With No Reservations, is now available wherever books are sold from Harlequin Heartwarming.

You can connect with Laurie on her website, Facebook page, and Twitter

Thursday, October 19, 2017

10 Great Links About Writing You Might Have Missed

Sometimes I stumble across blogs or articles that really resonate with me. They get me thinking about my own writing and how I can apply the principles to my story. So I've collected some links that have stood out to me over the past couple of weeks. Maybe some with touch you too.

1. Writing with vulnerability is something we all know we should do, but when someone does it and has has success, then we sit up and take notice. Michael Hauge points to a story of such a man who, in his vulnerability, gained a following. You can read about it here: Vulnerability & Courage

2. What if God asks you to write about something you don't want to? What do you say? Yay or nay? This article by Andy Lee speaks to writing the hard things instead of being a people pleaser. You can read about it here: Write The Hard Stuff

3. We make goals and meet them, but do you feel successful when you do? It's important to define our success in order to know when we have succeeded. You can read about it here: How to Define  Success

4. Publishing isn't for wimps and there are many hoops to jump through and hurdles to jump over. They are obstacles, but we must learn to consider them friends. They help us grow and mature along the writing journey. You can read about it here: Hoops Jumping for Writers

5. We all have issues with time management, as we all need more hours in our day. Edie Melson at The Write Conversation gives some excellent suggestions for finding more time to write. You can read about it here: 10 Tips to Simplify Your Writing Life

6. All writers are told to build their platform and be on social media. Bah! We have trouble finding time to write, much less spend time on social media. Andrea Guevara on The Write Life shares 5 fixes to build your brand. You can read about it here: Social Media for Writers: 5 Quick Fixes to Build Your Brand.

7. Have you heard about The Story Equation by Susan May Warren? She talks about the components to a great story plot and how to get put it all together on the Seekerville blog. You can read about it here: One Question That Will Unlock Your Entire Story

8. You have heard about the gatekeepers in the publishing industry. We all face them on our writing journey. Ann Kroeker, The Writing Coach explains the different kinds of gatekeeps and the good they do. You can read about it here: The Role of a Gatekeeper in the Publishing World

9. Do you use Twitter? Carolyn Howard-Johnson talks about the importance of hashtags on BookBaby Blog. You can read about it here: Making Magic With Twitter Hashtags

10. Everyone knows how hard it is to write a good query. Rachelle Gardner at Books & Such had a great post on what not to say in a query letter. You can read about it here: Avoid These Lines in Your Query Letter

What have you learned this week in regards to writing? 


Sherrinda Ketchersid is a born and bred Texan, preacher’s wife, mother to 4 children, and secretary at public elementary school. With the children grown and out of the house, she weaves tales of fierce knights and their ladies in a time where men were warriors and women had to be strong enough to keep them in check.

After taking time off from writing, she has returned with a new motto in place to spur her on. “Writers write. Everyone else makes excuses.” ~Jack Bickham.  No excuses this time. She is weaving her love of romance with history to bring joy and the hope of love to those who may one day read her stories.

You can connect with her through:

Personal blog:
Twitter: @sherrinda
Instagram: @sherrinda

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

It Should've Been Me

Today's post is so honest and hard that I hesitate to even write it. Because it's a rough-around-the-edges type of message that we all relate to, yet we all want to hide from. But I believe the Lord has something in this, so here it goes.

Four little words.

I don't care if you're an editor, a marketing director, an award-winning author, or a new writer with really big dreams. If you're further than six months into this journey, you've thought these four little words and you've felt them deep into your being.

It. Should've. Been. Me.

Can we get honest here? Because this is the ugly lie we've all caught ourselves believing.

Maybe it was a writing award. Maybe a promotion. Maybe the elusive book contract at the house of your dreams.

You've been chasing down this thing, and you've been hopeful, and you've been waiting expectantly. And then word comes that despite all the wishing and all the waiting and all the working, you aren't the one getting your dream. And maybe--even worse--someone else is living your dream (how dare they?!).

It bites.

Right? I mean, it does. And we all need to acknowledge that disappointment is inevitably going to sting. But at some point, we have to proverbially dust ourselves off and acknowledge something.

God does not dwell, nor does He gift, in scarcity.

See, the problem with our thinking is we begin to develop a victim mentality. Maybe we don't acknowledge it aloud, but each time we see the cover of that book that beat us in a contest or ousted us for a contract, our hearts constrict with longing. Longing is natural. But jealousy is ugly. We must carefully guard our hearts against the belief we are victims of circumstance, living in a realm of scarcity. For God does not dwell in scarcity, but in abundance. And God does not gift us in scarcity either.

If you are writing in response to God's calling in your life, you do not dwell in scarcity. Why would the God who created the universe be limited by contest feedback or a promotion or an acquisitions meeting? The Lord's plans are so much greater, friends.

So I want to encourage you--even as I encourage myself--to shift your thinking today from the perspective of scarcity to a perspective of abundance.

The big-picture verse for my current story is Psalm 66:12b. It reads:

"We went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance." 

You can trust the shepherd of your soul with your writing journey, just as you can trust Him with your life's journey. That's not to say it's always easy. That's not to say disappointment won't come and that the fire and flood won't overwhelm you. But He will bring you through, because He is the giver of all good things. Rejection does not define you. Your calling and your passion do.

And if the Lord has brought us into a place of abundance, who are we to live as if we've anything less?


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Saturday Show on The Writer's Alley

Today we have the privilege to host guest, Lindsey Brackett.  Lindsey was at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference with Mary and Pepper this year. We are giving a shout out to her debut release: Still Waters.

Here is a little bit about Lindsey. What a list of accomplishments! 

Award-winning writer Lindsey P. Brackett once taught middle grades literature, but now she writes her own works in the midst of motherhood. A blogger since 2010, she has published articles and short stories in a variety of print and online publications  In both 2015 and 2017, she placed in the top ten for Southern Writers Magazine Best Short Fiction. Previously, Lindsey served as Editor of Web Content for the Splickety Publishing Group, and currently she is a general editor with Firefly Southern Fiction, an imprint of LPC Books. In addition, she writes a popular column for several North Georgia newspapers.

Today on the Alley, Lindsey shares her thoughts on Time Management for the Writer with a Life. And boy can we use this, right?

Time Management for the Writer with a Life

People crack me up when they ask how I “do it all.” I’m pretty sure if these same people were a fly on my wall, they’d a) have full run of the house because I’m too busy to buy a fly swatter and b) realize pretty quickly, I’m definitely not doing it all.

What I am doing is a lot of little things that take up a lot of precious time. Some of these things help fund my writing. Some of these things help keep my sanity. A few of these things are because I’m still unable to use the word no to my best advantage.

And all the people-pleasers just whispered amen.

However, as my career grows, so do my commitments. I launched a book last month and suddenly social media, marketing, and networking have become black vortexes of time. I’ll sit at my computer for three hours, look up and realize I only accomplished one or two items on my Bullet Journal daily task list. (Canva is the culprit, I’m sure.)

I’m realizing pretty quickly I can’t go through life chained to my computer. There’s a time for “butt in chair, hands on keyboard”—and there’s a time for scrolling and posting and sharing. There’s also a time for walking and reading and cooking and showering. The trick is to realize: your time does not manage you. You manage your time.

I like to work in big chunks, so as my needs migrate, I’m muddling through a new system. I’m constantly self-evaluating, and I’m having to remind my task list that this thirty minutes of self-reflection is going to help me work more efficiently in the future.

Here are three questions to ask yourself as you manage your time:
1.    When do I feel most creative?
2.    What finished tasks bring me joy?
3.    What’s my return on investment (ROI)?

I’m at my most creative in the early morning hours, so right now I’m using those to work through my WIP and get it ready to send to my editor. I love teaching and connecting with other writers, so I’m changing some of my social media focus to allow time for engagement, rather than only sharing. I’m looking at my marketing techniques and putting my money into passive streams that make sales, but my time into places where I actually get to connect with readers, like libraries and bookstores.

We can all agree, as writers, we’re doing so much more than crafting stories. But I think we can also learn from and support one another so that venturing out into this beautiful busy place doesn’t have to be quite so intimidating. Don't you?

Here is Lindsey's debut novel!!

Still Waters, influenced by her family ties to the South Carolina Lowcountry, is her debut novel. A story about the power of family and forgiveness, it’s been called “a brilliant debut” with “exquisite writing.” A Georgia native, Lindsey makes her home—full of wet towels, lost library books, and strong coffee—at the foothills of Appalachia with her patient husband and their four rowdy children.

For more information about Lindsey and her writings: 

Wow, Lindsey. Thanks for those amazing time management tips! We loved having you here on the Alley and pray God's blessing on your debut novel.

Do you have any questions for Lindsey?
If not, please leave her an encouraging word.