Last May 25th, 2013 CBWLA was fortunate to have one of its own, Author Samantha Combs, as its workshop presenter.

samantha combs

 

YA Author Samantha Combs

YA AUTHOR SAMANTHA COMBS’ BIO

I am a Southern California author with six published books; the Global Ebook Award-winning debut title: SPELLBOUND, EVERSPELL, and GHOSTLY, all YA paranormals. My Middle Grade horror, THE DETENTION DEMON is out, along with two adult horror collections, TEETH AND TALONS and WAY PAST MIDNIGHT.  WATERDANCER, a new YA fantasy, comes out in Sept. I enjoy writing YA paranormal romance and supernatural fantasy, but I also dabble in the horror and sci-fi genres as well, and writing for the Middle Grade audience.

When I’m not writing, I enjoy spending time with my husband and two children, and my guilty pleasures include reality television, the Food Network channel and shoes. I truly believe I can accomplish anything if I have the right pair of shoes.

I love writing and I am in awe of the technological advances of our lives. Ereaders and similar gadgets are bringing the written word to a generation that might never have discovered books otherwise and every time I see a kid pick one up to read something it fills me with joy to be a small part of that process. If a child can connect with literature because he or she did so electronically, a connection still was made. I am excited to see what our world has in store for literature and excited to be along for that ride.

http://samanthacombswrites.blogspot.com/ 

samantha combs audience

Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines

Samantha’s talked focused on three things which every writer has to write at some point: Queries, Loglines and Blurbs.

QUERIES

She began her workshop by defining what a query was and giving us various techniques that writers can use to formulate their own query, along with very helpful examples to illustrate each technique.

She also shared with us her own tried and tested formula for writing a query, which involves answering the following questions:

1. Who is the protagonist and what is their goal? (Motivation.)

2. What is keeping the protag from achieving that goal? (Conflict.)

3. How will the protagonist overcome this problem? (Plot.)

4. What happens if the protagonist fails/what choice does the protagonist have to make? (Stakes, and why the reader should care.)

samantha combs YA Author1

 

Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines

Samantha broke down the three paragraphs that are essential in a query (the hook, the mini-synopsis and the writer’s bio) and explained what important details to include in each one.

She also gave us a helpful list of the Do’s and Don’ts  of a Query:

-Skip rhetorical questions. No “what ifs?”

-Don’t name too many characters

-Don’t describe your book as a theme (about peace and love)

-Don’t clutter the query. You don’t want to tell the whole story….leave ‘em wanting more

-Spell check, proof, revise and edit. This will be more important than the actual book

-Don’t mention other manuscripts.

-Don’t grovel, beg or plead

-Do research the agent and mention something proving you researched them; Did you meet?

-Do address the query to a specific agent and spell their name correctly. Also get their gender correct

-Do state the title of your book

-Do mention word count and genre of book

-Do advise why you are approaching this particular agent

-Do be professional and respectful

-Do have many, many people read the query before you send it

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Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines

BLURBS

When dealing with blurbs, Samantha encouraged us to think of the dust jacket of our favorite book, or the description line for a lifetime movie. From these examples, we can gather that a blurb is designed to entice, tease and ultimately make the audience buy the story.

According to Samantha, a Blurb is used for the following things:

Book cover

Press releases

Interviews

Bloggers

Publisher’s site

3rd party seller sites: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance, etc.

She gave us examples of blurbs taken from her own books in the Spellbound Series.

samantha combs YA Author2

 

Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines

 

When writing a book blurb, she gave us the following reminders:

* A good blurb will only introduce one character in an intimate way.

•Introduce others via the experience of the main protag – always keep focus on MC

•This way, the reader develops a bond and learns to root for your MC. Make the reader care what happens to them.

•Focus on one specific conflict, not theme.

•If your theme is strong, it will shine anyway

* Appeal to universal human emotions, even with less than human protags

•Don’t be flashy; be concise and write with restraint. This impresses publishers

•Subplots need not apply.

•Never give away the ending; coyly suggest with precise, gripping language

•Pick exact verbs instead of spineless ones like “seem” or “being” or “may”

 

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Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines

 

LOGLINES

After condensing 300 our manuscript pages to 3-4 paragraphs, we now have to whittle them down further into two sentences which comprise the logline.

The logline is sometimes called a pitch or a tagline.

Samantha gave us examples of loglines based on popular movies, asking us to guess which movies each described.

Afterward, she gave us another helpful formula for creating loglines:

  1. Give the main character an epithet: vengeful divorcee, bitter amputee, struggling aspiring author
  2. Identify the MC’s main mission and what he stands to lose if he fails
  3. Brainstorm words and phrases that conjur up images of your book
  4. Pick 25-30 that sound the most compelling
  5. Now pick 5-8 that sound even MORE compelling
  6. Now use them to fashion a tight, 25 word pitch


 CBWLA workshop with samantha combs1

Samantha Combs at the CBWLA Workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines

Samantha wrapped up her workshop by saying that there is no right or wrong way to really write queries, loglines and blurbs. But however we write them, we should put the same passion into our few sentences that we put in our 300+ manuscript pages. Most importantly, we should edit, edit, and edit.

 She ended with these words of wisdom regarding the stories we write: “If you believe in them, someone else will too.”

samantha signing books

 

Samantha Combs signing books after the workshop

Samantha was a wonderful speaker. She spoke in a fun, engaging manner, sprinkling funny comments and jokes throughout the workshop to keep us all entertained. Her explanations were easy to follow, and the examples she gave were very helpful in understanding the material.

Her workshop on Queries, Blurbs & Loglines was a definite hit, and many of our members left with valuable information, and heaps of inspiration to use in their own writing.

 

 

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11 Responses to “May 25, 2013 (44th CBW-LA Meetup): Queries, Blurbs & Loglines: Oh My with YA Author Samantha Combs”

  1. Nick Wilford says:

    What a great load of tips! The 25 word pitch is definitely one of the hardest things to do.

  2. shelly says:

    All good advice.

    Hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

  3. L.G.Smith says:

    Sounds like a great workshop. I will need to dust off my query writing skills again soon, so those were some timely reminders. :)

  4. Good tips for the query letter.
    I do better with loglines than I do with the actual synopsis. I guess it pays to be a man of few words.

  5. That’s a good tip about researching agents. It shows you’re not just treating them like machines.

  6. Emilyann says:

    Cool event. I love her advice about blurbs. It makes so much sense that the focus should be on the MC and should be intimate. That does seem like the likeliest way to pull in the reader :)

    Thanks for sharing!

  7. That sounds like an amazing workshop, and what great pieces of advice! I would have loved to be there.

  8. I loved doing the workshop and am eager for the query critique. If you didn’t get a chance to attend, I invite you to check out a blog series on the same topic on my bloggy: samanthacombswrites.blogspot.com. And I always welcome you to contact me, anytime, with questions. It’s my pleasure to help you on your writing to publishing journey!

  9. Carina Olsen says:

    Amazing post! Thank you both for sharing 😀 I loved reading all the advices. Thank you :)
    Thank you for commenting on my blog. <3
    Love, Carina @ Carina’s Books

  10. Excellent advice; I’ll be bookmarking this page. Thanks for sharing what you glean from these gatherings!

  11. Nas says:

    Thanks for all these excellent advice. All aspects would be so helpful.

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