What’s Your Book About?

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As I've mentioned before, I'm an avid photographer — the photos at the top of the MW home page are mine — and on occasion I have taken lessons from my experiences with photography and applied them to writing. I'd like to do that again today.

One of my favorite photographers, a guy named John Shaw, is famous in part for his wonderful books designed for beginning nature photographers, and he offers an observation that those of us who make our living with the written word should take to heart. Shaw suggests that the more effective a photograph, the easier it is describe. Here's the quote:

It takes several paragraphs to describe a bad photograph, a few sentences for a mediocre photo, one sentence for a good picture, and just a phrase for a great photograph. (John Shaw, Nature Photography Field Guide, Amphoto Books, 2000.)

Photographs, like novels, should be about something — the easier it is to convey that something verbally, the better your photograph probably is. And so it should be with your books. We often speak of  the pitch here at MW — the need to be able to tell an editor or agent what our books are about in the most direct, most compelling terms possible. And obviously what I'm talking about here has great relevance for the pitch. But I'm trying to get at something more basic. I was speaking to someone the other day who mentioned that she was working on a book. When I asked her what her book was about, she launched into a description of her plot that carried me through all sorts of details. At the end of her answer, I knew what happened in her book, but I still had no idea what it was about.

A better answer to the question could have worked at any number of levels. At the risk of boring you by once again using Thieftaker as an example, I'll offer you a few possible answers to the "What's your book about?" question. I can tell you all about the mystery the drives the plot of my Thieftaker book. I can give you every twist and turn, every encounter with the historical figures I've placed in the book.  But that doesn't tell you what the book is about, nor does it give you any sense of why you should want to read it.  Instead, if I want to focus on plot, I might answer by telling you that the book is about a thieftaker — an investigator — who, against the backdrop of the American Revolution, tracks down a sorcerer who has committed a series of murders.  I could also say that the book is a chess match between two sorcerers, one a thieftaker, one a murderer, set in Colonial Boston.  Or I might take a more thematic approach and say that the book is about one man's attempt to solve a series of murders and reclaim his place in a society that has made him an outcast.  I could be whimsical and say that it's kind of like The Rockford Files, but with magic and a pre-Revolutionary setting.

Really, it doesn't matter how you describe your book.  The important thing is that you can do it simply, briefly, accurately.  Why?  In a way, it relates back to Edmund's wonderful post on Saturday — knowing what your characters want.  Knowing what your story is about — not what happens, but what it is about — keeps you focused as you write and revise.  Your characters should always be working toward their needs, desires, goals.  Your story needs to be just as directed.  When you get into the details of your plotting — all those twists and turns that make your story so much fun to write (and so hard to describe) you should keep sight of the larger, simpler themes.  Anything you do with your characters and narrative should fit into the "What is your book about?" answer, however you phrase it.  If your plot wanders, if your characters stray into territory that has little to do with the story you're trying to tell, your book is going to founder.  This is not to say that you can't have subplots, and twists and turns, and all those other toys with which we authors like to play.  Any reader of my books knows that I LOVE subplots.  But they need to be as directed as your main plot line, and they need to tie together eventually. 

I didn't find it easy to come up with those brief descriptions of Thieftaker.  It's a full length novel — describing it in a sentence took some work.  Describing it four times with different sentences took a lot of work.  It also made me eager to go back to the book (which I still need to revise) so that I can make certain that my book is as directed as I'm telling you your book should be. This is not easy.  But it ultimately will make your book tighter, more coherent.  And it will make it easier to develop your pitch when it comes time to market your book.

So, what's your book about?

David B. Coe
http://DavidBCoe.livejournal.com
http://www.DavidBCoe.com
http://magicalwords.net
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35 comments to What’s Your Book About?

  • Alan Kellogg

    1. An Imperial Chinese super battleship is sunk thanks to poor material and bad design decisions while bombarding San Diego CA in 1937 (A Lotus Fades: The sinking of the Golden Lotus and the end of Imperial China)
    2. A San Diego homicide detective investigates a string of homicides with apparent cannibalism involved (Troll Night)
    3. A troubled young woman investigates the odd sexual biology of an alien species (A Song of the Dancing)

    4. Dragons. Dragon metabolism, dragon diet, dragon sex, and dragon psychology among other things (Walking with Dragons)

    <i>A Lotus Fades</i> Snippet</i>
    <blockquote>The Chinese fired first, a twelve pounder sending a ball straight through the steamboat's pilot house. A second twelve pounder sent its ball through the Endeavour's hold, killing some twenty of the 80 British rifleman seated therein. Observed the platoon sergeant upon this event, "Either we're facin' fuckin' Yanks, or the Chinks have been practicin'."</blockquote>

  • Mikaela

     When a dwarf is found dead, the Einavalir, and the nightcaptain must race time to find the killer before the Dwarven King arrives.
     

  • A girl will bring back the real warriors and saviors of the world; on the way, she'll be the first Golden Rider.

  • I love these kinds of posts David. I am right smack in the middle of the rewrites this week (deadline Friday {eeek!}) and I've found that when ever my editor finds a problem with the novel or plot, it's when I've forgotten *what my book is about* and gone off on a tangent. SIgh…again.

  • First off, my apologies to all who visited the site and found no post here.  The problem seems to be fixed now — thanks for your patience.
    Alan, Mikaela, Wade —  those are all great distillations of your books.  Seems that you all had less trouble doing that than I did with my book.  Perhaps I have more rewriting to do than I thought.  I think it would be interesting — if you three are willing — to see what you'd write from a more thematic, less plot driven point of view.  Same books, but more about the underlying themes — just as an exercise.
    Faith, thanks.  I find that the same is true.  My biggest rewriting issues come when I have forgotten the point and themes of the book or when I have forgotten what a character wants (thanks again, Ed).  And I think that it happens to all of us now and then, no matter how experienced we are.  Did I mention that this is hard…?

  • My biggest problem. at the point, is I don't know what my themes are.  I never do until I finish a book (if I do).

  • That's all right, Wade.  Sometimes I don't know what my themes are either.  As you say, sometimes my theme or themes come to me when I reach the end of the project — sometimes I recognize them earlier.  If they haven't revealed themselves to you yet, that doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong.  I just thought it might be interesting to see what kinds of themes you all were dealing with.

  • Current WIP #1 (Sarah can correct this, since she's the co-author): Deor, a changeling woman, moves to the Winter Court of Faerie to find her father and gets caught up in a plot to assassinate the king.
     
    Current WIP #2: Mary, a reluctant demon hunter,with the help of an anglican priest and a vampire, must use hellfire to stop a powerful demon whose powers she stole from coming back into the world.

  • This is the one thing I've had trouble doing, writing the "logline" for my novels.  Specifically, how do you add enough interest into the one sentence to hook the person you're pitching enough so that they'll ask for more information.  Enough to make it seem like it's different than all the other stories that have the same basic plot, but still keep it manageable.  I always find that I have so many things that seem useful for interest factor that it becomes a painful practice to try to smash the bits that would garner interest into that small of a space.  Usually something that I feel is one of the "hooks" of the piece inevitably gets left out due to lack of room.  It's a balancing act of giving just enough info so that the person you're pitching to hopefully goes, "okay, tell me more."  A balancing act that I still haven't fully mastered.

    Here's mine……..yeah, and this is why I never seem to have enough time.  Must…focus…on one!  And I've not used this editor yet, I hope this comes out okay on the cut and paste.

    Loglines for my current novels in progress.

    Rogue 5 – Epic Sci-Fi (one-shot with the possibility of a sequel and prequel)
    Two Battle Suit pilots on opposite sides of a galactic civil war, drawn together by love and a power they don’t understand, must stop a megalomaniacal usurper from plunging the known galaxy into chaos.
    (one of those that has a lot more going on, but would require too much description to add it to the sentence.)

    Pheonix Rising – Urban Fantasy (hopefully serial)
    A man back from the dead with strange abilities must discover why he’s returned while investigating a series of mysterious deaths in New York City.

    On Starfire Wings – Epic Fantasy/Sci-Fi (one-shot with the possibility of a sequel)
    A fiery object from the heavens brings with it a scourge that will plunge the realm of Thollen into a war that will threaten to destroy the all of civilization.

    The Exodus Chronicle – Epic Sci-Fi Serial
    An experimental craft malfunctions sending its crew to the farthest reaches of space. They must survive and make alliances to get back home before the Earth is engulfed by an evil force destroying the galaxy.
    (yeah, it’s two sentences…but they’re short! 😉 )

    The Dagger’s Champion – Epic Fantasy (one-shot)
    To stop the plans to bring back the world’s most powerful Dark Magus, an unlikely heroic weapon must mold an unlikely hero into the greatest warrior of his time.

    The Huntsmen – Epic Fantasy (possible duology)
    When a group of monster slaying mercenaries takes on a job that dredges up an evil from Ryak’s past, he and his team find themselves key players in a struggle to halt an advancing horde of Dark creatures once thought banished forever.

    The Heartstone’s Heiress – Epic Fantasy (duology)
    No one believed in the tales of elves and dragons anymore, but when the evil from beyond the Veil returns, Andreia, last tender of a mythical heart that balances the magic in the world, must venture far away from the comforts of her life in the castle and trust a man that she’s done nothing but constantly annoy–the one man that will lay down his life for her–so that she can repair the balance and bring peace and magic to her world once more.

    The Darkling War Saga: The Darkness Between – Epic Sci-Fi (possible serial)
    When salvager and sometimes mercenary thief, Pol Vega, is busted out of prison by a crazy old man spouting nonsense about the “darkness between the stars,” he’s drawn into a war with an enigmatic alien invader from another dimension.

    One Who Calls Gods – Epic Fantasy/Sci-Fi Romance (one-shot or duology)

    When the master spy from a neighboring country is framed for the murder of the Captain of the Guard in Sandier, the Guard’s headstrong sister begins searching for the killer, plunging both spy and guardswoman into the midst a secret plot to start a war between their two nations that will open the door for an ancient race from beyond the stars to retake what was once theirs.  To save their world, they must fulfill the prophesy of The One Who Calls Gods.
    (Another that sounded better as two sentences…and this is also one of those that has a lot of other things going on that would have to wait for the "tell me more" line…)
     

  • Emily, these are great, and they work as pitches very well.  When writing your book, you could also say simply, it's about a woman's search for her father and the politics of the Winter Court.  The exercise here isn't so much to pitch the novel as it is to focus your writing.  It sounds as though your second novel is about religion and the supernatural and the struggle to reconcile the two.  That's just a guess based on what you wrote here.  I'm not criticizing what you wrote at all — I just want to keep the focus where it should be for the purposes of this post:  on the writing.  That's why in a way, for this exercise, the thematic approach is the best, and I should have emphasized that more in my post.
    Daniel, check my comment to Emily above.  Same applies to your blurbs here, all of which are quite good as pitches.  I understand what you're saying about honing the pitch without gutting it.  You have unique, wondrous things in your book and you want to convey as many of them as you can.  I understand completely.  But, your pitch can't be so laden with details that it becomes a jumble.  And you seem to understand that — as I say, these are good.  But for this exercise, think about it in a slightly different way.  So your first book is about love overcoming the divide of war, and the need to place limits on power.  Your second is about the boundary — perhaps the ever-shifting boundary — between life and death.  Etc.  And a note on the last one — I don't think that last sentence is necessary.  The one works just fine, and can be simplified without losing much.  "A spy is framed for murder in the court of his enemy and as he and an unlikely ally search for the truth they are plunged into intrigue that may lead to war and the return of an ancient conquering race."  Simple, quick, and it works as a pitch.  When they ask for more, you give them more.  Yes, my short version leaves out much and makes it sound more generic, but trust me when I tell you that an agent or editor will do that editing in his or her head.  He or she will hear — "Castle intrigue, epic fantasy with mystery elements, and a romance."  Based on that, they'll decide if it fits with their other titles or not.  The rest is superfluous and not necessary, at least for the pitch — I understand that it's essential for the story.  And so will they.  They know that one sentence can't do justice to a novel.

  • HarryMarkov

    I plan on nailing that down during the edits, when I straighten things up and figure out the true identity of my novel. 
    So far: The humanization of a control freak sociopath, when faced with abominable acts and disasters she cannot control. [theme-wise] 
    Plotwise: A high-ranked trophy magician investigates her superior and mentor and discovers an American-wide conspiracy.   

  • Harry, yes, I always feel that I can nail things down better when finished.  But these work very well and should help you keep your work focused.  Well done.

  • David> ah! that makes a lot of sense.  I'd have to say that for the second one, thematically it is about the nature of guilt and redemption. Can my MC ever be forgiven (and forgive herself) for a murder she committed completely without remorse, even though the end result of the murder were good.  (The vampires and demons and stuff are just an excuse for the thematic matter. 😉 )

  • "Thematically it is about the nature of guilt and redemption. Can my MC ever be forgiven (and forgive herself) for a murder she committed completely without remorse, even though the end result of the murder were good."  Oh, that's very, very good.  And way cool.  Keeping that in mind throughout as you write will result in a powerful (and marketable) novel….

  • R.O. Kashmir

    Once again class is in session and the lecture is worth is every second.
    So, let me try these:
    Catspaw Pirates: Traditional political, economic, and racial intrigues cross to leave an exiled princess seeking revenge with a hodgepodge crew that will turn the universe on its head.
    2 and 40: In 2012 man botches the return of the 13 Olde Gods, now deciphering the cursed world is the only way to survive.
    Valkyries 2010: Confused suicides find themselves apprenticed to the Corps of Valkyries in a Valhalla overrun by bureaucracy.
    South: Warrior-Explorer Robert of Kashmir emerges from the bunkers to explore both inner demons and those inhabiting the post nuclear holocaust world.
    Future Games: What if the only place your cybernetic body is legal is inside the games of a theme park?
     
    That last one is where I need to work on the two main characters reacting to Edmund's post on wanting. Which really has me jazzed about getting back into that stalled work. The first three have been developing on-line at PanHistoria.

  • Great post, David. You were right when you said (in respose to my last post) that simplest is best — and it applies in so many areas. It's too easy to get caught up in all the little (but necessary) details and lose sight of the big picture.

  • Alan Kellogg

    David,

    Underlying themes eh?
    Walking with Dragons: a natural history of dragons. Dragons as they might be were they real creatures living in a world much like our own
    A Song of the Dancing: A search for justification and forgiveness in the midst of a mystery.
    Troll Night:Death stalks the mean streets of San Diego. Set in the same universe as Walking with Dragons.
    A Lotus Fades: Corruption and human venality doom an ancient empire. A Lotus Fades uses the story of the Imperial Chinese super-battleship The Golden Lotus to illustrate the forces that led to the end of the Chinese Empire in the Great War of 1933 to 1941. Also set in the world of Walking with Dragons.
    That what you were looking for?

  • Alan Kellogg

    For those who want more on Troll Night;
    A body is found on the street, eviscerated and partially devoured. Interrogating the deceased reveals little and it is only through diligent work on the part of authorities that the identity of the killer as a troll is determined. All while the predator continues to prey on targets of opportunity. A fairly straight forward tale with the usual interpersonal complications. The focus is on the killings and the victims. So far I really only have four characters, plus a sketch of a fifth. These people are…
    Detective Sergeant Thomas Malory, chief investigator on the case.
    Albert Long, chief of forensics; an orc.
    Charlie Briggs, drunkard and bum. First victim of the troll and none too happy about his consignment to Hell.
    Patricia James, deceased traffic accident victim (1918) and Detective Malory's live in ghost.
    An unnamed homeless woman, who provides the first evidence of what the police are pursuing. (She bites off one of the troll's fingers and swallows it. It's found crawling around in her stomach during her autopsy.)

  • Tom G

    My turn:
    Black Heart – A vampire hunter is changed into the thing she hates the most, and must deal with her new reality, avoid her vampire hunting friends who want to stake her and hunt down the family of vampires that changed her to exact her revenge.

  • Deb S

    Tom,
    You should have posted a spoiler alert, dude. Did you post that chapter yet? I'm behind in my reading.

  • Tom G

    Yes, it is posted.  Sorry.  I keep forgetting the member of the beta reading group all came from here.

  • Bill Hause

    Excellent post David.  Very timely for me also because I feel like my work was starting to stall.  I feel like looking at it from a new angle help to prevent any more foundering. 
    Am I on the right track with this…
    Does it matter how you achieve your destiny?
    The theme for The Sea God's Avenger is change and how characters struggle with it.
    When one of the five archmages of Coladden is assassinated it leads to society changing civil war and sparks changes for many characters: assassin to hero, innkeeper to tyrant, officer to traitor, narcissist to humanitarian, and barmaid to lady wizard.
    Pitch
    Stripped of his past, Cavaren's first memory is the sea god explaining that he could change society, so he struggles with his destiny, trains to be an assassin, and kills one of the five archmages which begins a chain of events that plunges the island into a civil war that will upset the centuries old dominance by the magic-wielding nobility. 
    This is the first book of a pair that is divided by which side of the war the main character is on…but most minor characters also find their postions changing from one book to the other. 
    Thanks for your help in changing my view as I look at my story.

  • R.O., those are very good, quick descriptions that will serve you well when pitching your work.  Particularly with the first three, I would love to see you tease out thematic summaries as well, as these are a bit vague on the emotional content that your characters might face.  And, as I've said to others, for the purposes of this exercise, the more you can tease out themes, the more valuable these quick statements will be to you as you write the books.
     
    Edmund, yes.  Simplicity is something I've been striving for more and more in the way I think about my work, and to a certain degree, in how I write as well.  I'm trying to teach myself to take a "Less-is-more" approach.

    Alan, yeah, something like that.  I particularly like the breakdown on "A Song of the Dancing".  That's exactly the kind of thematic breakdown I had in mind, and that can keep your writing focused.  Excellent.

    Tom, thanks for that.  Good job of touching on both plot points and thematic points in the same blurb.  Sounds like you have a good handle on the project.

    Bill, glad to know that you found the post helpful.  Your thematic blurb is excellent.  And I think that the one sentence plot description works wonderfully as a pitch.  The last paragraph works very well as a follow-up to the pitch, for when people say, "Oooooh.  Tell me more!"

  •  

     

     

    Tom, I second the spoiler alert! Though I had a feeling it was headed in that direction … 😛
    David, thank you for addressing the subject I was ready to ask you about: the idea that it can be very easy to get bogged down describing what happens – and how do we tell what's important? You helped me realize what that is.
    So here's my go (warning, Tom-the-prescient and other Magical Betas, SPOILER ALERT):
    (Aside: Sign of the Star was 100K, but I found during rewrites that it was a larger story, and so to tell it better i had to break it into 3 parts. So here's both, with Sign of the Star just being the first title.) 
    Sign of the Star: A princess, gifted with healing powers and long believed dead, wants nothing to do with her royal heritage, even when she may be the best person for the throne. Although she is frequently confronted with the opinions of others, the decision on whether to be a ruler or a healer is one she alone must make.
    All three: A princess, gifted with healing powers and long believed dead, wants nothing to do with her royal heritage, and she thinks she can get away with it. As she completes her year-long healer's journey, she must face the opinions of others, but only she can make the choice between her powers and the throne. As both the year and her awareness progress, she comes to realize how badly a healer is exactly what her country needs. 

     

  • Moira, thanks.  Glad the post proved helpful.  Cutting something like this down to bear essentials is both hard and — when you finally get it — incredibly rewarding.  For the purposes of your pitch, I think you could shave this even more without sacrificing too much:  "A princess with the power to heal must choose between her royal heritage and her magical talents, reconciling her ambition with the needs of her land."  Or something like that; I might have some details wrong, but you can fix that.  Im just suggesting a way to make it a more concise, one sentence pitch.  For a thematic breakdown — something you can use to keep your writing focused — it sounds as though you're dealing with issues of fate and responsibility; destiny and choice.  Fascinating issues and ones that I've dealt with in some of my books.  Sounds like a cool project.

  • Thanks, David! Your pared-down pitch is … actually very eerily on the mark. Is it okay if I use it?
     
    I do have to work with those thematic issues, which is why the "long-believed dead" part felt essential, since most of the story involves her trying not to advertise the fact that she's still alive.But I can also see how her secret existence is just an extra complication, and the absolute bare bones are about the choice she makes. I used to describe it starting with "a healer goes on her year-long journey" and then mention the teeny-tiny fact that she's royal, but that's really only the way the character sees it, and I spent a lot of the first draft getting my thoughts entangled with hers. So the things she likes to dwell on seemed more important than what's actually happening in the story. I wonder if maybe this is why it's so easy to feel like the story can't be pared down. When I spend so much time in a character's head, everything *feels* important, even when it's not.

  • Moira, of course you can use it!  It's your book.  Glad to have been on the mark.  And yes, one of the reasons I keep on saying that this is hard is that we are all too close to our work at times to separate out the superfluous from the essential.  In my thieftaker books, the two most important people in Ethan's life are the woman he's with now and the one who rejected him when he went to prison.  Oh, and yeah, he went to prison.  To him, those are the defining elements of his life.  But when I step back as author and look at the books, they are not the most important elements of the story.  They are essential to make his character and world come to life, but they don't define the work — they don't set it apart for the purposes of a pitch.  Forcing that distance between ourselves and our characters runs counter to our artistic inclinations.  But sometimes we have to do it.

  • Ryl

    Late the the party, again — I plead blonde.
    The themes in my wip's — once they've gelled into recognizable form — tend to be aphorisms / proverbs / maxims, and they tend to bounce from book to book, breeding like rabbits along the way.  The most virulent ones are:
    Be careful what you wish for, or else;  Looks can be deceiving, so look deeper;  Love conquers all, to become a despot if you lose your sense of self;  Autonomy, as the true-yet-hidden goal of a treasure hunt;  Some secrets must be kept, no matter what;  Be decent to folks on your way to the top, because you'll meet them again during your downfall;  There *are* things worse than death;  etc.
    Yeah, I know, *vague* — but they're my themes, not my elevator speeches.

  • Ryl, I like these very much.  They would work very well as writing cues — thematically they're very strong.  But more, once your books are contracted and ready to be marketed, they work incredibly well as the bold sell line above jacket copy on the back of the book.  Marketing 101!  They're brilliant.

  • R.O. Kashmir

    Ah, more homework is it to be tonight? Not sure I’ve got the right idea of the thematic. But let me try it on those first three stories. With comments on a couple of ’em.

    Catspaw Pirates is an ensamble piece. Basically I took 8 female characters I had in various other stories and turned them all into anime type catgirls. Sorry, several pints of Guinness were involved in creation of the original idea. However, the result turned into a fairly serious story of race-wars and political intrigue. I based the thematic on the character charged with herding the other catgirls in the story:

    In a universe filled with staid, hidebound cultures dedicated to social conformity, tradition, and making more money for the rich a feline race struggles to keep their free spirited ways. Against the background of a new bloody pogrom of persecution professional soldier Major Katomi Kiru finds herself a sacrificial pawn of the intrigues of her own father’s court. Fighting for survival. Fighting for her kind. Fighting to escape so that she might seek her own revenge another day. Seizing the first convenient spaceship Katomi struggles to mold a crew from among the flotsam of exiled catgirls with which to pursue her desires among the stars of the Catspaw Nebula. Or will the crew turn their strangely named ship, the Princess Britney’s Rehab to another course?

    Two & Forty Thematic: Twelve powerful cults emerged on December 12th, 2012 to triumphantly break the ancient seals that held the old Gods bound in sleep for twelve millenniums. Except the thirteen Olde Ones were angered to be awoken early. Their rampage leaving the earth a smoking ruin cursed 169 times. Enclaves of survivors have pushed against the darkness for two and forty years now. Struggling to build some kind of normal lives the survivors find that their biggest dangers may not be among the zombies, ghouls, and horrors beyond their walls. But from inside among the intrigues of their own.

    Valkyries has two thematics since I’ve written two independent stories against the same background:

    Corporate IT Specialist Bai Ling O’Murphy thought the corporate team building rafting trip would be a wonderful holiday paid for by the company. Until the volcano exploded and the murders started. In an insane moment Bai made a naked suicidal leap off a cliff. Only to find the afterlife not quite what she expected. Her suicide condemning Bai to a life of collecting the souls of the dying as one of Valhalla’s valkyries. Except her Murphy’s luck must have formed this afterlife. Bai Ling O’Murphy struggling to defeat the combined might of thousands of years of bureaucratic red tape along her path to becoming Valhalla’s best valkyrie ever.

    Midwestern child runaway Revy Zimmerman was molded into a homicidal maniac by LA gangs. Doing what she does best one night, killing cops, she meets an untimely demise leaping between highrise public housing tower rooftops. Only to find a Victorian butler with a big sword waiting to tell her that her accidental death is being defined as a suicide by the Fates. Taken back to Valhalla to win her way into the Corps of Valkyries Revy must first get past the lunatic gods and bureaucracy run amok before she can get on with enjoying the rest of her afterlife of murdering ghosts of the recently departed.

    Revy’s initial encounter with Jeeves the butler turned valkyrie may be included in an anthology PanHistoria is planning for a holiday release. All three stories can be read at the site.

  • Ryl

    David, thanks —

    In effort to pare down an idea to free it of superfluous bulk and noise, I often find myself in ‘fortune cookie’ mode — like Twittering, when I work to capture an elusive idea in only 140 characters. Or less.

  • RO, those are good thematic statements, and fine descriptions of what you’re trying to do with the books. Now pare them down. It might seem impossible, but it would be best for you as you work to focus your story to have a story definition of a single sentence. For instance, for Catspaw Pirates something like: A young warrior fights a culture of conformity and the tradition-bound expectations of her family to wage a war of liberation.” I may have details wrong — forgive me for that — but that is the kind of brevity that will serve you best. And it’s a good exercise for later when you’re working on a pitch. Best of luck with the projects!

    Ryl, that’s a great exercise! You might finally have found a productive use for Twitter….

  • Mikaela

    As requested by David, here comes a more plot focused summary :)

    To find a murderer, Bjarni will have to delve into the murky water of Dwarven court intrigues

    Yeah. That sums up the plot nicely.

  • That’s great, Mikaela. Well done. Thanks for sharing.

  • […] Magical Words: ♣ David B. Coe dishes out some remarkable advice for writers (like myself) who have struggled to condense their stories into a… and he does so by analogy to photography.  Great stuff! ♣ Edmund Schubert discusses the […]