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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Log lines, Blurbs and Excerpts as a Minimalist Thing

In the magical world of the internet, people want speed and ease when they’re looking for something to read. Like distracted kids at the state fair, we have to grab their attention and fast tract them into becoming interested in our books. So how the heck do we accomplish that?

It all starts with a good log line. That magical log line is the lure on the fishing line. It has to be short enough to be read in just seconds, and yet, snag the attention of the reader in a powerful statement about the story. I like to keep my log lines at 10 words. It’s not easy capturing immediate attention in 10 to 25 words, but if I don’t, my potential reader is going to sail away to the next book of interest. Log lines should taunt the reader’s curiosity.


1.  DARK ISLE, Book 1 Legends of Winatuke trilogy

The legend begins when love and evil collide.


The legend continues with a curse, a quest and undying love.


A quest for an enchanted light...a Gypsy’s love...and a warrior’s sacrifice to save Valmora.

Next comes the blurb. The blurb is used to reel that reader’s interest into caring about your story and wondering how in the world the hero and heroine are going to find happiness together. Once again, I like to keep mine short. I don’t like to go over 300 words. Time being a high premium these days and the internet feeding the desire for speed, I have to state my case with limited words, but still effectively entice my potential reader. I remember browsing in the library for a good book to read. I took my time, read that jacket blurb and then thumbed through a few pages here and there to check out the author’s voice and style and get a feel for the story line. Readers aren’t going to the library as much now—a sad, but unfortunate consequence of the internet. A blurb should include the names of the lead characters and state their dilemma.

Examples (all of the following blurbs are less than 100 words):

1. Pennytook/Myths, Legends, and Midnight Kisses anthology

Pennytook is a war weary Gypsy who longs for peace from the past and wants something meaningful in his life.
Esmeralda, a Gypsy trick rider, has harbored a deep affection for the chieftain, Pennytook, for many years. But her dark secret will never allow him into her life.
A mythological creature is about to unleash its horror and change the destinies of Esmeralda and Pennytook.

2.  Heart Song
Gideon thought he had the perfect life as a musician with a beautiful model as his girlfriend, until he was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Ashamed and afraid he may die, Gideon hits bottom when his girlfriend dumps him for a real man.

Hope comes in the form of his father’s ghost and a person he has just met. Can he beat the odds and survive? And if he does, can he ever find happiness again?

3. The Light of Valmora

To free his father from the witch-queen of the Dark Isle, Falcon must find the legendary Light of Valmora that lies hidden in the darkest place on earth—right under the witch’s feet.  To complicate things further, he is falling in love with Izabelle, the Gypsy woman who loves his brother, Peregrine.
Izabelle struggles with her feelings for her first love, Peregrine, and her growing affection for his brother, Falcon.
No one may survive the quest for the Light of Valmora or the wicked queen of the Dark Isle who intends to rule the world of Winatuke.

I like to keep my excerpts short, too. I keep them under 300 words. Celia Yeary wrote a blog about how to construct a good excerpt so I won’t go into any detail on that account. You do want to choose something that will peak the reader’s interest and then…quit while you’re ahead.


1. From Pennytook/Myths, Legends, and Midnight Kisses anthology

Where is Esmeralda? Surely, she could not have made it beyond this place. He choked down the dark thoughts that tried to take over his mind.
"Aye, my friend, this place is still foul. Light is always balanced by darkness. It is the way things work in the world of Winatuke." Sabo's expression grew solemn as he reigned in his horse beside Pennytook.
From the depth of the forest, Pennytook heard something. The sound had to be a horse screaming in pain, as if set upon by something huge. But a second sound sent a chill down his spine and urgency flashed through his body. Pennytook and Sabo glanced at one another in silent communication, and with agile speed, they dismounted their horses, and ran toward the sound they had heard.

2.  Heart Song

Something electric sparked in the air as silence ensued. He gazed into her eyes as if attempting to read her heart. The oxygen left her lungs and her heart flung itself against her ribs as he moved his lips closer to hers. The black irises in his eyes widened. His hand held the back of her neck and his fingers slid into her ponytail and loosed the clip that held it in place. The moment stilled. His voice sounded no more than a raw whisper when he spoke. “I’ve wanted to do this for so long. It feels like I’m in a dream.” Then his lips, firm and warm took hers in a kiss that started as gentle as a snowflake falling on a pine bough.


3.  Curse of the Amber Tomb/2012 Fall Collection
The sky cracked open and rain poured down as Kate and Edward ran. Thunder shook the earth.  Edward took Kate’s hand and pulled her after him.  They got to the gorge but the bridge hung damaged by the wind.  All that remained was a rope and a few dangling boards.  The river roared below in a sweeping surge of deadly white water.
        “Edward, we’re not going to make it,” Kate cried as fear snaked up her spine.  They were trapped.  Behind them death approached in the form of a hungry visage of ancient terror.  Before them was nature at its worst with nothing but a few shreds of rope to get them to the other side and safety.  It was impossible.
        He held her close an instant.  He had to raise his voice to be heard above the wind. “Yes we are, Kate.  I’m going to tighten the rope up and I’ll walk us over to the other side.”
        “I don’t think I can do this. Besides, you’re terrified of heights.  You could hardly get cross the bridge before it was damaged.  How will you do it now?”  She felt her voice pitch upward in hysteria.  “There’s no way we can make it, Edward.”

Let me just say right now Website excerpts do not need to be a minimalist thing. If someone takes the time to go to your website for a look-see, they’re already interested and looking for more, so I think you should feel free to post longer excerpts. I have seen famous authors put the first chapter of their books on their websites. Some of them even follow up with a chapter on an upcoming release in the book just preceding it. Linda Lael Miller does that when she has a new trilogy coming out. You can’t fault with success. I’ve never done that. I’ve never had my first chapter written on the next book when I have a new release so I’ve never tried this technique. I only know what has worked for me and that is the minimalist thing.

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:


  1. Great advice about tag lines and blurbs. I really detest writing blurbs. lol I usually put it off to the very end. Loved your tag lines. Have to say I don't always write one, but definitely should. :)

    1. Karen, I know I can be really backward about things sometimes, but I write the tag/log line many times before I write the story because it's usually the story theme. I also write the synopsis before I write the story. It's my outline and guides me through the story. I always hated writing the synopsis after I finished a story so writing it first is a win-win for me. LOL I tend to worry myself into a knot over blurbs. Because of their importance, I never feel I have done an adequate job. I don't like long ones because I feel readers will lose interest (unless they're whiling away their time at the library). I actually like writing log lines. It's like a little puzzle of words.
      Writing blogs are tortuous for me. I worry about the what I'm going to write about and how I'm going to write it and on and on and on. Gee, do you think I'm a worry wart?
      Thank you for posting my blog on my time line on Face Book. And thank you for always being so supportive and helpful.

    2. It's not that I don't worry about the blurb, but usually I avoid it as long as possible. lol

      Always glad to help out anyway I can. :) Appreciate your support too. :)

  2. Super examples and succinct explanations! Well-done, Sarah.

    1. Thank you, Tanya. I am so concerned about writing blogs that are interesting. I practically freeze up just thinking about them. I know some writers who writes great blogs and never worry about what they're going to write or how for an instant. I wish I could be that confident, but I never am.
      Thank you so much for coming, Tanya.

  3. Replies
    1. dstoutholcomb, Thank you so much for coming by and reading my article and leaving a nice comment.

  4. Sarah, you are girl after my own heart. I dread doing these monthly blog posts. Selecting a subject is agonizing. Writing it even worse. As a rule, I don't read a lot of paranormal stories. I a reality-based, "grounded" person (read stick-in-the mud here). And in contrast, I am a "pantser" not a plotter, and allow my characters to dictate their stories to me. I am also long-winded and in today's reading world, that is definitely not a plus! I need to take all of your advice to heart and change my detrimental ways. Thanks for offering a solution to my bad habits.

    1. Linda, you make me feel so much better since you, of all people, find blogs intimidating, too. Choosing a topic is just excruciating. And I worry that it will be boring.
      I'm a realist, too, but I think that's why I love to read time travel and paranormal novels. I know they can't scientifically happen (that I know of), but I like to "believe" they can.
      I admire those of you who are pansters. I'd love to just sit at my desk and start writing a story not certain where it's going in the beginning, but allowing the characters to lead the way. I just get lost and everything unravels. I guess we all have our special ways of getting a story out. I would have never believed your stories are written without a plot. They seem pretty dang on target to me. I have loved all the stories I've read of yours.
      Thank you so much for coming by and sharing your thoughts.


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