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In A Couple Sentences Tags: taglines writing resources novels

Can you describe your novel in a couple lines? Itís not easy to sum up a book in such a short space and also encapsulate the flavour of it but thatís what authors have to do when marketing their novels. Itís called a tagline and I had to write one last week for the novel Iím currently working on. I jotted down lots of ideas and possibilities, re-wrote them and tried again, looking for what would help to sell my novel to the agent I was scheduled to meet at the Historical Novel Societyís conference in London last weekend.

Taglines are often used on the covers of books or as the heading for the back cover blurb to entice readers. The idea is to draw in the reader and make them want to read more. I know it works because when Iím browsing in a shop or online I have to pick up a book that has an interesting tagline and find out more. ††

It works and looks effortless, but it isnít easy to write. It has to do a lot in a short space: it needs to provide a sense of what and who the book is about concisely.

It also needs to convey a sense of the setting, mood or tone, and theme of the book as well as defining what genre it is. So the wording has to be chosen carefully to provide not only information but also to create the atmosphere that will appeal to the type of reader who will likely enjoy the book. Add an emotional punch that grabs the reader and it will be a winner.

When I set out to write my tagline I googled information on how to write one, as well as examples to help me concoct my own. Thereís a lot written on the topic but the recurring theme seems to be that a tagline should be clear and simple. Multi-syllable words arenít necessary or desirable. It should be easy to understand so the reader gets the message. Thatís what writers must aim for.

Taglines make me think of water-filled snow globes, the ones that have a tiny scene inside and when you shake them tiny snowflakes fall on the scene. You look into them and see a tiny world inside a glass ball. If a tagline is well written it brings an image of the story to life in the readerís mind and makes them want to step into that world.

September 1st 2014 - This Week
Category: Site News

The Writers Abroad magazine has just come out today! If that isnít cause for a glass of bubbly I donít know what is. Well done everyone, it looks fabulous: pats on backs all round.

Angela has provided our blog this week with a fascinating piece on houses and a sense of place as a driving force in literature Ė and I noticed Alyson immediately posted up a link to a Historic House competition. How apposite! Reams of think-and-do material there. †Not only that, but Alyson herself is up on the Bragging Stool with an acceptance to Peopleís FriendÖ with a story originally written for the very same Historic House competition! Apposite AND serendipitous.

Nicola has given us a bunch of exotic picture prompts for the Monday Muse, which are meant to be Dragon writing prompts but personally I think the one with the blue key chimes in uncannily with Angelaís blog.

The September challenges are up and running. Itís the first day of Spring here and Iím doing a bit of mental sleeve-rolling myself after a bout of writerly inactivity Ė lots of good comps to choose from so dive in, one and all.

Please do let me know if Iíve missed things. For reasons best left untouched Iíve spent most of the past week elbow deep in papier mache and chicken wire and my perception of reality might be commensurately distorted. In any case, happy September, everyone!

Through the Keyhole
Category: Writing
Tags: Literary houses reading early memories Country houses mansions country estates in literature

I recently got back from a home-exchange holiday in Shropshire. We stayed in a family home at the foot of the magnificent, Caer Caradoc. A tortoiseshell cat, a goldfish and a flock of chickens were our charges for ten days. Staying in someone else's house is a very personal experience. A casual look through kitchen and book cupboards reveals the family's class, level of education, political persuasions, eating habits and which shops they patronise. It just turns out that most home-exchangers are middle-class, well-educated, and have theoretical leanings to the left. Not unsurprising considering it takes a certain democracy of spirit to share your home with people other than friends or family.

During my break in England I was invited to a Pony Club reunion at an old country estate called The Mynde, in Herefordshire. From the ages of six to fourteen my sister and I were keen members of the pony club and pony club camps were held at The Mynde every summer. The drive to the house is a mile long and an aristocratic residence has been on the site since the 13th century. It is still owned by a family with royal connections and was recently on the market for 15 million pounds. In pony club days the house was derelict, partially razed to the ground by fire. But its grounds are inextricably linked with halcyon days of childhood; swathes of emerald fields, gnarled oaks, swans on mirrored lakes and the sound of ponies hooves mingling with the smells of equine sweat, saddle-soaped leather and Bazooka Joe bubblegum from the tuck shop.

I love a deep-rooted sense of place and preferably a crumbling country mansion at the heart of a novel. When I moved to Holland I was homesick and often dreamed of that sun-dappled drive to The Mynde; a road that led to my 'land of lost content.' To assuage those feelings of not belonging I reread novels like Rebecca, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Wideacre (Phillippa Gregory's trilogy before The Boleyn Girl) and imagined that I was the homecoming heroine in the story. Novels in which the house is almost a character, not just a backdrop have always grabbed me and perhaps this can be traced back to my early experiences of The Mynde. Right now I'm reading Longbourn, by Jo Baker; Pride and Prejudice retold from the point of view of the servants. It introduces another aspect of the country house, the unseen toils of the servants. Downstairs folk paddling away like a swan's webbed feet, keeping up the calm, serene elegance of upstairs folk.

Often the crumbling mansion has sinister aspects too. Manderley was so interwoven with Rebecca's life it had to burn down so that the new Mrs De Winter could reign supreme. Eel Marsh House in The Woman in Black, reveals Alice Drablow's past and without the house we would know nothing of her tragic life. So maybe there's a ghost or two rattling about The Mynde and perhaps it's a little girl wearing elephant-ear Jods, galloping her Welsh Mountain pony towards the furthest edges of the demesne.

Are there any early experiences that have influenced your reading choices? Could you describe a character just by writing about their home? What is your favourite literary house?

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