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Thursday, October 30, 2014

THE PERFECT EXCERPT


By: Celia Yeary

Excerpts—we love them, don’t we? There’s no better way to sample an author’s writing style than to read an excerpt. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to post the perfect excerpt. Many writers have their own methods, from very long, to very short, somewhere in-between, at times concise, and at others, rambling.

In truth, most excerpts are too long, and some are much too long.

What is the best method of selecting a sample of your writing? How can you entice a reader to read your full excerpt?

Choose one that contains dialogue or action, not just narrative, and keep it short and simple.
Consider the short story. The guidelines are: limit to a specific time, place, event, interaction, or character’s evolution. It is, in fact, a mini-novel, complete with a beginning, middle, and an ending, i.e., an abbreviated novel.
A good excerpt should follow these guidelines, too.

Attention span is the amount of time a person can concentrate on a task without becoming distracted. Continuous involvement without any lapse at all is as short as eight seconds. The average adult who is engaged in an interesting activity or topic will remain focused for twenty seconds. People are also capable of longer periods up to two and a half hours when they are doing something enjoyable or motivating, such as watching a movie.

Researchers have found that the modern adult’s attention span shortens as time goes on. The phenomenon of instant gratification in our technological world deters the attention span even more.

Now consider the excerpt. The guidelines are perhaps the same as those for a short story: one idea, one interaction, in one short time frame, wrapped up with a beginning, middle, and an ending, approximately three hundred words—a mini-short story with a hook at the end.  

Here’s a test for you. How many words are in this article to this point? (310) How long did it take to read it? (Average adult-one minute.)

EXAMPLE from a short story titled "Starr Bright," featured in the anthology Cowboy Cravings.

Short Excerpt: Conrad and Starr

   Starr laughed low in her throat. "Oh, I don't think I'll need a man to make the decision for me. I know all about stallions, or studs, as you say. However, I have asked Mr. Taylor, here, to accompany and advise me."
   Conrad remained silent. You did? You asked me to advise you? He wanted to laugh, but in truth, he was enormously pleased.
   With no expression, he nodded slightly to her. "Be glad to help."
   There was that tiny smile again, the one that was teasing, while at the same time a little sarcastic. Truth be known, he'd probably crawl through the burning fires of hell to get to her.

http://www.amazon.com/Cowboy-Cravings-Cheryl-Pierson-ebook/dp/B00L2JF6HU/ref=sr_1_10_twi_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414441465&sr=1-10&keywords=Celia+yeary 
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EXAMPLE from a short novel titled RODEO MAN.

Short Excerpt: Cody and Marla

   Smiling lazily, he looked her up and down, at her short white shorts, pink stretch T, and red flip-flops. With that salacious grin, he continued back to her hair, hanging to her shoulders in a tangled mass of curls, but right now, there was no time to brush it properly. Some day she would just get it all whacked off and stop worrying about it.
   “Stop staring,” she demanded.
   “Well, I can hardly keep from it since you’re standing right in front of me.”
   “Oh,” she muttered, straightened, and moved to the side.
   Cody kept staring at her even though she’d moved out of his direct line of vision.
   He drawled, “You know, if there’s anything I like in this world, it’s a woman with red hair.”
   “It is not red. And if there’s anything I hate in this world, it’s a man saying my hair’s red. For your information, it’s strawberry blond.”
   “Strawberry blond. Whadda you know? Now, I like that even better.”
   Narrowing her eyes at him, she said, “Well, I’m just as pleased as punch.”
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This short excerpt has three parts: Beginning: Cody stares at Marla while she watches him. Middle: they have a short argument. Ending: She has the last word.
It contains 260 words. Reading time: 20 seconds.

http://www.amazon.com/Rodeo-Man-Celia-Yeary-ebook/dp/B00B14S4X4/ref=sr_1_4_twi_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414441465&sr=1-4&keywords=Celia+yeary
~~*~~*~~
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/celiayeary
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28 comments:

  1. Yahoo ate my comment. Drat. Good post.

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    1. Dagnabit! Thanks for the note on the email, though! I'm glad you did stop by.

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  2. Celia, this is great information. And it comes from a pro because I have always admired your ability to write a good excerpt. And you also have the talent to write a concise short story. As a rambler myself, I envy this! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Linda S,--oh, you don't really ramble--you do choose good excerpts, but maybe you just begin in the wrong place????

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  3. Great blog this morning Celia. Writing the excerpt is always troubling for me. What I think might catch the readers attention might not work. Thank you for the wonderful information.

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    1. Barb--writing a good excerpt is not easy. I learned some of this from co-owning a Yahoo Group years ago titled The Book Spa. We allowed excerpts on Saturday and Sunday, and I tried to read every one of them and comment. That's when it dawned on me--these are just too long! Some were the length of a chapter. Thanks for visiting.

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  4. I enjoyed your blog, Celia. Excellent information.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Connie.

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  5. Celia, great information. I've never give much thought to a length of an excerpt. I'm sure they're usually too long. But your strategy sounds sensible, especially from a marketing viewpoint. Thanks.

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    1. Tom--yes, we always need to keep our viewers in mind. Knowing how busy all of us are, a short excerpt is the way to go.

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    1. Thank you, Lorrie--I'm happy you think so.

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  7. This is such great advice, Celia. In a fast paced world where readers look online for their next book to read, they don't want to take the time to read a huge excerpt. I once saw an author post the entire first chapter as an excerpt. I think there is some confusion out there about what's the best way to promote a book. I've seen blurbs as long as excerpts, too.
    It's so nice of you to help out authors by giving them this excellent advice. It may be an extremely competitive business, but it's so good to see authors like you who extend a helping hand.

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    1. Hi, Sarah--oh, yes, I've seen excerpts that were entire chapters. Never read a one of them, either.
      With our busy lives--and short attention spans, we do need to think about those who are reading our posts.
      The main thing to include is a little about the hero and heroine--some interaction between them. Thanks!

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  8. Great tips, and very true about attention spans. I know mine is now very short, and I suspect even younger ones have shorter attention spans due to all the tech improvements spoiling them.

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    1. Oh, Mogan. Believe me, my attention span is very short. I can barely stay in a long conversation with a friend before I begin thinking about dinner, or my edits, etc. And yes, the tech improvements are probably not helping our young people.

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  9. Celia, I am one who needs to be reminded of this. I tend to think in longer scenes, and in my mind, I'm thinking, "Well, they won't know what's going on if I don't put this in...oh, wait, I need that line that's in the next paragraph to end it all nicely..." LOL You have a knack for writing excellent excerpts and making them just the right length to hold the readers' interest! Excellent advice here.
    Cheryl

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    1. Cheryl--oh, I hear you. It's hard enough to decide on a good excerpt, let alone one that is short. Been there, done that! Thanks so much.

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  10. Great reminder, Celia! I've posted some excerpts that fall into the too long category, because I always forget less is more.

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    1. Kirsten--don't we all! It's like loving the sound of our own voice--when others may be bored to tears. Thanks.

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  11. Celia, very sound words of wisdom and I sat right up and took note of every wise word you said. I've always wondered if mine should be shorter or longer and your food for thought will stick with me from now on. Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. Beverly--well, thank you. I thought of this long ago when I was reading an article about our dwindling attention spans as citizens of the 21st century.I try to concentrate on that hook on the end, too.

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  12. I appreciated this post. Excerpts have always intrigued and frustrated me. Thanks for the clarifications. Doris

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    1. You're so welcome, Doris. Some may not agree, which is fine. I've been known to read long excerpts, but not many. I go for the short ones, and always appreciate one with a punch. Thank you for visiting.

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  13. Great advice. Agree that many excerpts are far too long. In the case of excerpts, less is definitely more!

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    1. Paula-- I'm so glad you agree. I almost always skip long excerpts, and since we're all so busy, I believe others do, too. Thank you for commenting.

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  14. Excellent advice, Celia. And one I shall definitely follow.

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    1. Margaret--I appreciate your visit to the post and your comment...Thanks!

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