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03:44 pm: Possible Back Blurb–thoughts welcome.


Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts—a school of magic like no other!

Who knew so much could go awry in one week?

Rachel Griffin is a thirteen-year-old girl with one small goal. She wants to know everything! To this end, she has come to Roanoke Academy—located in New York State’s Hudson Highlands—a year younger than her peers. Her perfect memory, which helps her excel at scholastic pursuits, had an unexpected side effect. With it, she can see through the enchantments sorcerers use to hide their secrets.

When someone tries to kill a fellow student, Rachel begins paying attention. She soon discovers that, in the same way her World of the Wise hides from mundane folk, there is another more secret world that hides from the Wise. Rushing forward where others fear to tread, Rachel finds herself beset by wraiths, embarrassing magical pranks, a Raven that brings the doom of worlds, and at least one fire-breathing teacher.

This does not stop her learning magic, making friends and, most importantly, finding romance!

Curiosity can kill a cat, but nothing stops Rachel Griffin!


Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)


Date:May 3rd, 2013 12:02 pm (UTC)
Thoughts? Shall I be the first? Just my reactions reading through it:

"a school of magic like no other" doesn't say much since Roanoke is already the only school of magic I've heard of (unless this is an allusion to Harry Potter or some other book). A tag like 'for the Magically Afflicted' or 'Exceptionally Gifted' or 'Terminally Curious' might be more interesting or funny if played right -- I don't know if this is supposed to be funny though.

"Who knew so much could go awry in one week?" is not much of a hook for me; "What could possibly go wrong?" has at least the advantage of being a cliche.

I'd cut out more of the uninteresting detail or spin it so it's interesting: thirteen-year-old, a year younger than her peers: could just be Rachel Griffin, thirteen, ... if her age is important (I think you've said that it is in the past). New York State instead of New York is stuffy. 'helps her excel at scholastic pursuits' is boringly obvious (it would be unexpected if it didn't). I'd drop 'at least one' [fire-breather]; there may be more fire-breathing teachers besetting her that she doesn't know about, but the question seems pedantic. The explanation about a secret world in a secret world is boring, though possibly it could be restated in a more interesting way.

'helps her' / 'had an unexpected side effect' / 'can see' seems like a mix of tenses.

'come to Roanoke Academy' - is there a better word than come? 'enroll'? 'infiltrate'? 'sneaks into'?

If I were writing the first paragraph, I'd be tempted to set up a bigger expectation in the first sentence: "When Rachel Griffin comes to Roanoke Academy, her perfect memory has an unexpected side effect: ..." Not a great example, but you start by describing her goal as "small", which comes across to me like it's meant to be funny but isn't.

Strong, interesting details for me are: Hudson Highlands, see through enchantments, someone tries to kill a fellow student ('someone kills' would be stronger but maybe a different book), the whole sentence beginning 'Rushing forward where others fear to tread...', and 'Curiosity can kill a cat, but nothing stops Rachel Griffin' (though it sets up a slight expectation that what stops her might be called Nothing, readers would probably not expect that unless they've seen it before).
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Date:May 3rd, 2013 12:21 pm (UTC)
The first two line you did not care for were both suggestions from people who had read the book. I tested this blurb on a 13 year old girl...and that was the part she liked. Those two first lines. She felt that they made the story sound really interesting.

It is always thus...that what pleases one person does not please another.

But I shall look over your suggestions carefully. Your comments made me realize that I might be able to just say Hudson Highlands without the NY at all.

Date:May 3rd, 2013 12:48 pm (UTC)
I understand that I'm not really representative of the target audience. :) In fact I don't read back cover blurbs often, at least not until after I've finished the book; turning to the first page tends to be more helpful in seeing what it will be like, and less frustrating when the cover turns out to be totally inaccurate or spoil the surprise ending.

It's my understanding that the cover art is more important in getting someone to pick up a book, and yours looks quite good.

Perhaps you've done this (it might make an interesting writing post to share what you've found), but studying effective blurbs to see how they work might be helpful. Writing them is a craft analogous to writing stories, with certain techniques and conventions.* Looking at just one on Lucky 13's, I notice: first paragraph is two sentences saying what the main character likes and dislikes; second paragraph is one line creating an expectation of disaster; the third is longest and full of hooks, including quite a few questions that the reader might not know to ask about what's going on. (This has the downside of upsetting readers if the questions are not answered in the book.)

* One convention I didn't mention in my comments on your blurb: often italics implies something taken from the text of the story. You could consider making those first two lines more obviously Rachel's thoughts or reactions to the school.
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Date:May 3rd, 2013 01:05 pm (UTC)
I'm rather horrible at blurb writing...though this is better than many previous efforts...which is why I asked for help. LOL

The girl who read it says she does pick her books by the back blurb, so I thought she was a good person to consult.

Studying effective blurbs is a good idea. I will take a look. I love doing things like that.

Re: Italics. I don't think they will go in Italics on the cover. I just did that here to make them stand out.
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Date:May 3rd, 2013 12:50 pm (UTC)
By the way, as to a 'school of magic like no other'...there are so many school of magic series out there that every major publisher is running at least one.

For the target audience (Older YA girls...though, frankly, the story is readable by adults, too.) they have a glut of such stories to chose from.
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Date:May 4th, 2013 12:39 am (UTC)
"located in New York State’s Hudson Highlands" also didn't work for me (too long). I've never heard of the Hudson Highlands, so if the goal is to locate the school in the real world, it might be better to stick with "located in New York State". Or better yet - "located on the Hudson river".

- Rachel Griffin is a thirteen-year-old girl with one small goal. She wants to know everything! -
This seemed slightly awkward for some reason. I would rephrase this as "Rachel Griffin is a thirteen-year-old girl with one small goal - to know everything!"

- "helps her excel at scholastic pursuits" sounds a bit... formal? I might go with "helps her in class". That way the attention of the sentence is less on the school classes and more on the unexpected side effect (more on the exciting danger of seeing through enchantments.) Also, that sentence might create the impression that Rachel can see through any enchantment at all, so perhaps adding "invisibility enchantments" could create a more accurate impression, and add a bit of pizazz as well.

- "Rachel begins paying attention" ... this sounds odd to me only because Rachel *always* pays attention. I think I would delete this part and just transition straight to the next sentence: "After someone tries to kill a fellow student, Rachel soon discovers that, ..." [I would also put commas around "more secret" in "there is another, more secret, world that hides"... it is a little bit easier to read and a little bit more melodramatic.]

- "Rushing forward where others fear to tread" ... My brain firmly expects this to be 'angels' not 'others', and gets caught up on that every time I read it... But that might just be me.

- "Rachel finds herself beset by wraiths, embarrassing magical pranks" ... So for some reason, the first time I read this, I found myself expecting it to be 'finds herself a, b, and c' instead of 'finds herself beset by a, b, and c'... and thus the follow-up threw me off. I don't see any easy way to revise that, though, and I may be alone in that reaction.

- "a Raven that brings the doom of worlds" ... This seems awkward to me at that point in the sentence. I suggest "a doom-bringing Raven" or even "a doom-heralding Raven". You could even go with "a world-doom heralding Raven" for that extra bit of drama.

The last line struck me as cheesy, but given the audience, that's probably a good thing.
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Date:May 4th, 2013 01:28 am (UTC)
Thanks. ;-)

still working on it.
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Date:May 5th, 2013 09:17 pm (UTC)
You could omit the "State" from the location.

This does not stop her learning magic, making friends and, most importantly, finding romance!

I stumble on this sentence. I feel as though a "from" should be inserted in front of "learning magic."

I'm looking forward to meeting Rachel.
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Date:May 5th, 2013 09:22 pm (UTC)
You are right about the from!
(I think it was there in an earlier incarnation.)
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