dragovianknight: a woman spans fire filled with fanciful shapes from one hand to the other (Writing - Telling Tales by the Fire)
[personal profile] dragovianknight
For a while, it seemed like everyone on the writing forums I frequent was recommending Take Off Your Pants as THE book to teach so-called "pantsers" how to outline. Hell, in the initial rush of reading it, I might have recommended it to people; I don't, honestly, remember. If I did, I don't regret it, because she obviously has advice that works for a lot of people.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work FOR ME.

I was reminded of this yesterday, when - as part of my week-long-and-counting bout of depression and writerly angst - I decided I was going to write the blurb for The Fantasy Story I'm Not Allowed To Write Because Porn Makes Money. And lo! did I discover I owned Libbie Hawker's Gotta Read It: Five Simple Steps to a Fiction Pitch that Sells.

It should surprise no one other than ME that of COURSE her methods for breaking down the important elements of the blurb follow the same pattern as breaking down the important elements of a PLOT. Likewise, it should surprise no one other than me that this clash of my brain vs methods that don't work the way my brain works made everything worse in my head.

Luckily, Amazon is the Center of All Things, and simply typing "blurb writing" into the search bar brings up a lot of results. After carefully reading the look inside, which fortunately showed enough of the book to indicate that, yes, the author's methods might work with my brainmeats, I picked up Julie C. Gilbert's 5 Steps to Better Blurbs.

I've never heard of Julie C. Gilbert before, but she apparently has a blurb doctor service, which she has mined for a book full of case studies, from original blurb to final blurb. She talks about why things work and why things don't work, the importance of language choice and matching the tone of the blurb to the tone of the book.

She never once mentions things like Theme, which is where my soul usually shrivels up and dies in these conversations. (Libbie Hawker is very big on Theme.)

At the end of the day, stripped down to lists of 5 Things What Make a Blurb, these two approaches may be very similar, but apparently how it's phrased makes all the difference to me brain.

Libbie Hawker's 5 Things Julie C. Gilmore's 5 Things
1. Who is your main character 1. Tagline
2. What does she want? 2. Introduction
3. What stands in her way? 3. Elaboration/complication
4. What will she/must she do to attain her goal? 4. Stakes
5. What is at stake? 5. Conclusion/teaser

Yeah, listed out like that they look very similar, don't they? But it's 2-4 that make my brain balky and angry. Because what my characters want is very seldom the POINT of the book. For example, Kayl? Kayl wants to be a mage (I'm pretty sure her personal tagline should steal one of Jaina's dialogue bits from WoW: "All I ever wanted was to study."), and she's at loggerheads with her father because when you're set to inherit a magic sword you really don't get to ignore your sword lessons, and if this was a young adult book that, right there, would likely be all the plot it needed. But what the book is ABOUT is Kayl being sent to inspect something that blew up on the border, falling off a cliff, and figuring out how to get out alive...which involves figuring out the balance of her magical and non-magical abilities. If I focus on what she WANTS, aka her character arc, instead of what she's thrown into and must deal with, aka the actual plot, readers are going to go in expecting a very, very different book from what this will actually BE.

And yes, I recognize this is probably a matter of semantics, as in "what she wants is to survive the plot", but even knowing that my brain balks at prioritizing character arc as plot. Libbie Hawker also does things like insist the protagonist and antagonist want the same thing and only one can have it, which often requires me to define "want" so broadly as to be meaningless (or I legit can't figure out what they want beyond "the world, destruction of, y/n?", and that doesn't help me).

So, I'm not throwing any shade at Libbie Hawker, her books, or her method. But, for me, whether it's her approach to what makes a story, the actual method of breaking down plot, or just the way my brain parses the method, her stuff doesn't work and winds up being actively destructive.

Which, I suppose, is why there are fifty gazillion books on writing out there.
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