Nerida Walshe

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Worlds have been forming in my head for as long as I can remember. When I was ten years old, I began to experiment with putting them onto paper. My mother loves to write, and when we began homeschooling, she began to share that with me. I still consider myself very much an amatuer, and have created an account here to learn and share as much as I can. It is my hope to begin the journey toward publishing my first novel this year! But before I am a writer, I am a mom... So we shall see what time brings. 

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Nerida Walshe Discussions
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My experience so far is that blurbs are the worst. I've never written one I've cared for, but it's a…
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  •  · I like succinctness 😊 Consider:The Kingdom of Draehn is crumbling beneath King Kygore’s tyranny. His…
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Good day everyone! I am brand new here- I'm looking for a writing community to become involved in to…
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  •  · The obvious answer is - ask us! There are plenty of people here (myself included) who would love to …

I really enjoy it. I'm definitely no professional, but here are a few of my thoughts!

The atmosphere in Chapter One is tense, you can hear the rain and feel the emotion in the house. I'm curious if her father being accused of murder could be said in a way that would increase the impact. Perhaps by highlighting it's effect on her at the time, or lasting effect through her life if there is one? It's in the blurb, and said almost exactly the same way in Chapter One, without any additional context.

Are you sure though that what you currently have as Chapter One wouldn't better fit as a prologue? Is it twenty years apart? Going from Chapter One to Chapter Two, it would be easy to assume that it's still a girl you're observing, not a woman.

A couple sentences in Chapter Two confuse me. "An engine suddenly sputters and then apparently confident in voice, the machine drones defiantly." I'm not sure what exactly is happening here. The engine has a confident, defiant voice? What does this mean?

"She thinks of Catriona and her stomach lists." Lists?

What exactly is being dug? I'm a little confused by that.

The creation of the setting is detailed and smooth, I enjoy the feel of the environment, and how easily you lay out the general atmosphere and behaviour of the community. I feel like there would be easy characters to become invested in or against. I know that you shift between present walking and past memory, but going into the memory I was a little confused as to whether or not we were going to stay back in time, and coming out I found the tense switch jarring. I wonder if using italics, or extra spaces between paragraphs, or some other indicator might be helpful? 

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I really appreciate everyone’s advice. 

I’m back again because I’m struggling with the details… Perhaps I’m taking suggestions too literally, as I tend to do that, but I could use a hand getting my thinking outside the box. 

For instance, the issue of who is the protagonist/antagonist… I have two protagonists; but they begin positioned as each other’s antagonists. Ultimately the reigning king is the big “bad guy”, and he is an antagonist to Shane (Treyson as well… But extremely far removed from Treyson’s situation. The entirety of this book, he does not meet the king in person, whereas he and Shane face off in the first chapter). As for who the reader roots for, to me that’s half the fun. In my mind it would be easy to love or hate both characters, and I can’t say who most readers would prefer. Personally, I root for them both… and eventually I hope the reader will too. This also will become more natural as they transition to be allies late in the book and moving forward in what I plan to be a series. 

I still have no idea what my unique selling point would be, honestly. But I’m having a tough time leaving this be. I pulled a random selection of books off the shelf; each of them introduced the setting, the character, and the conflict in that order. So to try again based on that and the formula noted above, as well as trying to make a clearer indication of protagonist/antagonist, this is what I've got this time… 


Heart of Draehn 

The Kingdom of Draehn is crumbling beneath King Milros Kygore’s tyrannical paranoia. As the king’s laws and punishments become more erratic than ever, new fuel is given to the Allegiant rebellion- and Treyson Gallaen finds himself rapidly swept up in the current. Treyson flings himself heart and soul into the battle for a better Draehn, desiring nothing more than to purge Milros, his right hand man, and all of their followers from the land. Perhaps then, the bloodshed will finally end. 

Lord Prince Shane Herrale is the king’s prized possession. Trained from childhood to be the perfect warrior; he is willing to cross every line for the end goal. Trouble is, he is no longer certain what that goal should be. But he was born to rule, and Milros is in the way. 

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Thank you again. I'm going to let this simmer in my mind for awhile before I try again... I really hate blurbs. Will definitely consider all of your points here. 

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Is this an improvement?


Lord Prince Shane Herrale is not quite the most hated man in Draehn. Trained to be the perfect warrior, he is willing to cross every line for the end goal. If only it were clear what the end goal is. Shane knows only that he was born to rule; and that there’s only one person in the world he can trust. 

Treyson Gallaen was born in a sawmill five years before Milros violently claimed the throne. At seven, he watched his parents and his entire village die at the hands of ruthless soldiers for the sole purpose of a political statement. Fervent idealism for a better world and ardent desire for retribution drive his every decision- and he rapidly climbs to the head of the rebellion.

Threats greater and darker than Milros loom unknown above the Kingdom of Draehn, growing in secrecy. A brutalised population struggling to survive in a breaking kingdom may be the last defence of the mortal world. With Treyson and Shane as the rising powers, do the people have a future? 

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Thank you :) Definitely feeling harder than the actual book right now... I lack confidence that others will find my story interesting, which I think is part of my problem. I don't want to give away too much and spoil what little interest there might have been... Guess I've got to work on the confidence. 

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Thank you! I will definitely consider this all. I suppose I struggle balancing information with giving away too much to make the story feel appealing, if that makes sense? 

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My experience so far is that blurbs are the worst. I've never written one I've cared for, but it's also never mattered before. I am very serious about this novel and an attempt to get it published... So anyone who's willing to toss me some feedback, what do this title/blurb make you think, and what do you like, dislike, or wonder?

Heart of Draehn 

One broken kingdom floundering for posterity. Two leaders locked in combat; diametrically opposed. Decades of violent tyranny have made the once prosperous Kingdom of Draehn unrecognizable, and Draehnians are grasping for hope to stand on. King Milros’ heir and the gathering rebel forces each have their own plans for the direction of their kingdom. 

Lord Prince Shane Herrale is not quite the most hated man in Draehn. Trained to be the perfect warrior, he is willing to cross every line for the end goal. If only he could find what that goal is. 

Treyson Gallaen was born in a sawmill.  Fervent idealism and ardent retribution drive his every decision, and rebellion heads have noticed. 

With these as the rising powers, do the people have a future? 

I very much appreciate that you took the time to write this out for me :)

Self publishing is not my go to; I have no knowledge of marketing, and none of the money to do all the little pieces myself... I wouldn't rule it out as a future option though. 

I am working my way through my first revision, I completed a draft of the novel a few weeks ago and am thrilled to finally have a complete story, as I am notorious for becoming discouraged and abandoning my characters for years. This bout of effort feels different... I am more engaged and hopeful than usual. Another element I am struggling with however is finding those people to read and provide feedback... Again, I do not have any funds to do so. Previously I had writing friends, but that's no longer an element of my life. Any recommendations as to how to find interested parties to help? 

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Good day everyone!

 
I am brand new here- I'm looking for a writing community to become involved in to help myself with motivation, and to learn some of the details. I have never tried publishing before, but am working on a novel that I would very much like to publish. There is so much information, and misinformation, all over the place regarding publishing, and I barely know where to begin. What is the benefit of having an agent? Is an agent necessary, or if you're willing to do the research and contact yourself, is it acceptable to send your own submissions to publishers? What exactly is an agent's role? Pros and cons?

I am a kindergartener in regards to this topic- please answer accordingly! 😅 

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Of all the writing habits I have, one of the worst – the worst from good financial sense point of view – is that I like writing LONG books.

My first novel was a spine-breaking 180,000 words. Not one of my novels has ever been less than 110,000 words. The first “short story” I wrote was 8,000 words, which is to say miles too long to be an actual short story. Heck, even this email is likely to be far longer than any other email you get in your inbox today.

Ah well. There are some things you can’t fight, and my addiction to length is one of them.

But that also means that when it comes to short-form copy, I’m at a loss.

I’m not especially good at book blurbs, which want to be about 100-120 words (depending a bit on layouts and where you’re expecting them to appear.) Since titles need to be short and punchy, I’m not especially good at those either.

In a word: I’m pretty damn rubbish when it comes to coming up with titles … and this email is going to tell you how to write them.

Which means if you want to ignore the entire contents of what follows, on the basis that I obviously, obviously, obviously don’t know what I’m talking about, then I have to say that the evidence is very much in your favour.

That said, I think it’s clear enough what a title needs to do. It wants to:

  1. Be highly consistent with your genre
  2. Offer some intrigue – for example, launch a question in the mind of the reader
  3. Ideally, it’ll encapsulate “the promise of the premise” in a few very short words, distilling the essence of your idea down to its very purest form.

The genre-consistency is the most essential, and the easiest to achieve. It matters a lot now that so many books are being bought on Amazon, because book covers – at the title selection stage – are no more than thumbnails. A bit bigger than a phone icon, but really not much. So yes, the cover has to work hard and successfully in thumbnail form, but the title has more work to do now than it did before.

Genre consistency is therefore key. Your title has to say to your target readers, “this is the sort of book that readers like you like”. It has to invite the click through to your book page itself. That’s its task.

The intrigue is harder to do, but also kinda obvious. “Gone Girl” works because of the Go Girl / Gone Girl pun, and those double Gs, and the brevity. But it also works because it launches a question in the mind of the reader: Who is this girl and why has she gone? By contrast, “The Girl on the Train” feels a little flat to me. There are lots of women on lots of trains. There’s nothing particularly evocative or intriguing in the image. I don’t as it happens think that book was much good, but I don’t think the title stood out either. (I think the book sold well because of some pale resemblances between the excellent Gone Girl and its lacklustre sister. The trade, desperate for a follow-up hit to Gone Girl, pounced on whatever it had.)

The third element in a successful title – the “promise of the premise” one – is really hard to do. I’ve not often managed it, and I’ve probably had a slightly less successful career as a result.

So what works? Well, here are some examples of titles that do absolutely nail it:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Brilliant! That title didn’t translate the rather dour and serious Swedish original (Man Som Hatar Kvinnor / Men Who Hate Women). Rather it took the brilliance of the central character and captured her in six words. She was a girl (vulnerable), and she had a tattoo (tough and subversive), and the tattoo was of a dragon (exotic and dangerous). That mixture of terms put the promise of the book’s premise right onto the front cover and propelled the book’s explosive success.

Incidentally, you’ll notice that the title also completely excludes mention of Mikael Blomkvist, who is as central to that first book as Salander is. But no one bought the book for Blomkvist and no one remembers the book for Blomkvist either. So the title cut him out, and did the right thing in doing so.

The Da Vinci Code

Brilliant. Dan Brown is fairly limited as a writer, but it was a stroke of genius to glue together the idea of ancient cultural artefacts with some kind of secret code. Stir those two things up with a bit of Holy Grail myth-making and the result (for his audience) was commercial dynamite.

And – boom! – that dynamite was right there in the title too. The Da Vinci part namechecks the world’s most famous artist. The Code part promises that there are secret codes to be unravelled.

Four words delivering the promise of the premise in full.

I let You Go

This was Clare Mackintosh’s breakout hit, about a mother whose young son was killed in a hit-and-run car accident. The promise of the premise is right there in four very short words … and given a first person twist, which just adds a extra bite to the hook in question. A brilliant bit of title-making.

___

So that’s what a title wants to do. A few last comments to finish off.

One, I think it’s fair to say that it’s quite rare a title alone does much to propel sale success.

Because there are a lot of books out there, and because everyone’s trying to do the same thing, there’s not much chance to be genuinely distinctive. My fifth Fiona Griffiths novel was called The Dead House, but there are at least three other books on Amazon with that title, or something very like it. That didn’t make my title bad, in fact – it did the promise of the premise thing just fine – but I certainly couldn’t say my title was so distinctive it did anything much for sales.

Two, if you’re going for trad publishing, it’s worth remembering that absolutely any title you have in mind at the moment is effectively provisional. If your publishers don’t like it, they’ll ask you to change it. And if they don’t like your title #2, they’ll ask you to come up with some others. In short, if, like me, you’re bad at titles, you just don’t need to worry too much (if you’re going the trad publishing route, that is.) There’s be plenty of opportunity to hone your choice well prior to publication.

Three, you don’t want to think about title in isolation. There should, ideally, be a kind of reverberation between your title and the cover. That reverberation should be oblique rather than direct. Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go had for its cover image a butterfly trapped against a window – a metaphorical reference to the anguish of the book’s premise. If instead it had shown a mother obviously distraught as a car struck her son, the cover – and title – would have seemed painfully clunky and ridiculous.

If you get a great cover image that doesn’t work with your chosen title, then change the title. If you have a superb title and your cover designer’s image is too directly an illustration of it, then change the image. That title/cover pairing is crucial to your sales success, so you can afford no half-measures in getting it right.

That’s all from me.

My kids are making elderflower cordial and singing as they do so. They are also wearing helmets for no reason that I can possibly understand.

Till soon

Harry

PS: Want to know what I think of your title? Then I’ll tell you. Just pop your title (plus short description of your book) in the comments below. I’ll tell you what I think.

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