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Author Topic: Hidden Magic
Unwritten
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I could really use some help with the back cover of a book I am self-publishing in January. It is called Hidden Magic, and many of you old-timers probably read pieces of it. It is a paranormal fantasy, but I'm having a terribly difficult time getting the balance right--the romance is crucial to the plot, and yet it is the longing for freedom that drives Jenny's actions, much more than the romance. Here's the most current version:

Jenny feels trapped by her overprotective family. Except for stolen autumn nights with the gypsies, her life is like a prison. Then the door to that prison bursts open, revealing a world brimming with adventure.

And electricity.

That's what Jenny feels when she looks at Arram. She knows he feels it too, but instead of bringing them together, it pushes him away.

Stung, Jenny turns to Arram's former best friend, Jack. But Arram and Jack's rivalry is darker than Jenny suspects, and so are Jack's intentions. Soon she is tangled in a web of old murder and ancient prophecies.

When Jenny uncovers a hidden magic, she is offered two choices. Arram wants to keep her safe. Jack wants to show her the easy way out. Whatever she decides, freedom may be the one thing Jenny can never have.


And, in case you are curious, here's the first version I posted:
Freedom.

When Jenny sneaks visits with the gypsies, she gets glimpses of a life of freedom she can barely imagine. A small slice of that glorious independence is all she's really hoping for when she moves to Port Williams. Instead she finds something else altogether:

Electricity.

That's what Jenny feels when she looks at Arram. She knows he feels drawn to her too, but apparently that's not nearly enough to charm the celebrated Arram Douglass.

Stung, Jenny is all too happy to be courted by Arram's former best friend, Jack. But Arram and Jack's rivalry is much darker than Jenny suspects. Soon she's caught up in a mystery of old murder, ancient prophecies and magic hidden where no one has thought to look...

Freedom may be the one thing Jenny can never have.

[ November 06, 2013, 02:40 PM: Message edited by: Unwritten ]

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shimiqua
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First off. Yay! I like this a lot. I think this is definitely the right track.


Freedom.

When Jenny sneaks visits with the gypsies, she gets glimpses of a life of freedom she can barely imagine. A small slice of that glorious independence is all she's really hoping for when she moves to Port Williams. Instead she finds something else altogether:

Electricity.

That's what Jenny feels when she looks at Add description. Is Arram a Gypsie? because that's what it feels like you're selling. If not, tell me what he's doing among the gypsies, or a hint of his purpose. Arram. She knows he feels drawn to her too, but apparently that's not nearly enough to charm the celebrated Arram Douglass.

Stung, Jenny is all too happy to be courted by Arram's former best friend, Jack. But Arram and Jack's rivalry is much darker than Jenny suspects. Soon she's caught up in a mystery of old murder, ancient prophecies, and magic hidden where no one has thought to look...

Freedom may be the one thing Jenny can never have. Love it! Great hook.

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Meredith
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I recognize this. It used to have a different title, though. [Smile]

I think the basic idea of this blurb works very well. But unless the story has changed dramatically--and it probably has--I'm not sure you need the gypsies to set up Jenny's longing to be free of the restrictions she's been raised under. That might just be confusing the issue 'cause Arram's no gypsy. [Smile]

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MAP
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The biggest problem I have here is why doesn't Jenny have any freedom. Is there a controlling government? Is it family expectations? Is it social constraints? Is she a slave?

When you say she wants freedom, that can mean a lot of different things. You need to be specific about what exactly is keeping Jennie from being free.


quote:
Freedom.

When Jenny sneaks visits with the gypsies, she gets glimpses of a life of freedom she can barely imagine.(The gypsies don't seem to play a big part in the rest of the query, so I'd drop them. Focus on what keeps her from being free and why she thinks the move to Port Williams is going to change anything) A small slice of that glorious independence is all she's really hoping for when she moves to Port Williams. Instead she finds something else altogether:

Electricity.

That's what Jenny feels when she looks at Arram. She knows he feels drawn to her too, but apparently that's not nearly enough to charm (I don't like charm. I don't think the electricity between Jenny and Arram is trying to charm him, maybe attract, entice, or tempt him?) the celebrated (No idea what celebrated means. It is too vague. Is he rich, royal, immensely talented or famous? A little more specific would be nice) Arram Douglass.

Stung, Jenny is all too happy to be courted by Arram's former best friend, Jack. But Arram and Jack's rivalry is much darker than Jenny suspects. (I think we need something more her. Why does their rivalry matter if Arram has no interest in Jenny? I think we need a sentence about why Jenny flares up this rivalry) Soon she's caught up in a mystery of old murder, ancient prophecies and magic hidden where no one has thought to look... This whole ending doesn't feel connected to what has come before. It seems to me like a list of complications that I'm sure are important in the story, but I don't know what they have to do with Jenny fighting for her freedom or the rivalry between the two boys. I think you need to end with the classic what choice does Jenny have to make, and what is at stake if she makes the wrong choice.

Freedom may be the one thing Jenny can never have. This is a nice ending, and it connects to the beginning, but I'm not sure what is keeping her from being free. Is it the rivalry, the mystery, the ancient prophecies or all of it?

I think we need something more specific. Jenny wants freedom, what is keeping her from being free?

It's a good start, but I think it needs a little tweaking. Good luck!
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extrinsic
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Conventionally, back cover content excerpts are promotional review copy, like Deen Haymaker of the the New Tork Birdcage Liner: Uncoming breezes through a skyrise drug culture. Part dark farce, part poetry, part ironic metaphor, author Blunt Montechristo delightfully exposes bleak undercurrents flowing through cubicle workspaces.

Jacket flap content, on the other hand, conventionally, dramatically summarizes the main dramatic action of a novel. Shorter summary parts are sometimes included on back covers when insufficient or no promotional review copy is available. However, electronic media precedents are changing the general layout of book design, doing away with jacket flaps, for one.

What should as a best practice a summary on a book jacket do, regardless of where it physically appears? One that reads like a TV Guide summary will have a bland, objective, brief synopsis. Megan finds a handgun under her pillow where Jerry sleeps.

One that offers emotional appeals will use emotional appeals. This summary reads like that to me, too directly stating the emotional meaning of the novel. Like for narrative content, I prefer a little mystery and implication that I can reasonably infer meaning from without being directly told.

I was done by the second word. "When" begins about three-quarters of the pitches, blurbs, queries, synopses I read. Why use the identical language that millions of other struggling writers use and many people use in everyday conversation? Isn't the purpose of a promotional summary to excite reader interest and curiosity?

Further than everyday conversation language, freedom and romance concepts are intangibly dramatic. Tangible drama orients around subsistence, security, and societal bonds. Gypsy lifestyle is a potentially curiosity exciting and tangible drama from a throw caution to the winds antagonism. Actually, Jenny's association with gypsies is one of the stronger curiosity exciting motifs for me. Gypsy life would tangibly impact subsistence, security, and societal bond antagonism features.

In other words, tying Jenny's sneaking into gypsy camps with her move to Port Williams, her love interests in Arram and Jack, and why she's trapped in a stifling existence may spring from her struggle for independent social and physical mobility.

As this summary is, to me, it feels like a summary of four different, unrelated stories: gypsies, moving to Port Williams, romance, and personal struggles. Who, when, where, what, why, and how ties them together?

I'm most intrigued by the gypsy motif for its potential for developing into exotic events, characters, and settings.

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Denevius
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I'm kind of torn here. On the one hand, it reads like a blurb I've read on the back of books, meaning you've struck that tone perfectly.

On the other hand, I tend not to read those types of books because I feel that I'm going to get something I've already basically read.

That's my only issue. You've written something familiar, which I think will draw many people in. The language is all there. As Extrinsic noted, you start off with 'When', which feels like where these blurbs often start off at. And you end with the common language of 'can barely imagine'.

In how many movie previews have you heard that exact same phrasing? And you have more of it.

'something else altogether', 'feels drawn to her', 'mysteries of old murder, ancient prophecies...'

I'm torn, though, because this type of language sells. That's why you hear it so much, that's why we all know it when we hear, and it's probably why it creeps into our writing.

Again, my main thing is that I wouldn't read it, but I'm probably not the target audience. For the people who are, I think what you have works.

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Unwritten
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You are awesome! Oddly enough, all your suggestions dovetailed nicely with a synopsis I wrote years ago. So, here is the next version. At this point, I can't even tell if I'm headed in the right direction, but hopefully it is better, though it is definitely too long. Thoughts?

Jenny has always felt trapped in her role as the overprotected youngest daughter in a house full of women. A small slice of glorious freedom is all she's really hoping for when she has the opportunity to spend the summer with her sister. Instead she finds something else altogether:

Electricity.

That's what Jenny feels when she looks at Arram. She knows he feels drawn to her too, but electricity doesn't seem to be enough to entice the brilliant mage-in-training.

Stung, Jenny is all too happy to be courted by Arram's former best friend, Jack. But Arram and Jack's rivalry is much darker than Jenny suspects, and so are Jack's intentions. Soon she's caught up in a mystery of old murder, ancient prophecies, and magic hidden where no one has thought to look...

When Jenny uncovers a secret that will change her life forever, she must choose between letting Arram help her do the right thing or letting Jack show her the easy way out.

Either way, freedom may be the one thing Jenny can never have.


And now I see I've got more comments. Even better. This is what I wrote before I saw what you wrote, and I appreciate your comments. I need to think on them before I answer though. [Smile]

[ November 05, 2013, 04:55 PM: Message edited by: Unwritten ]

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extrinsic
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Wordy to a superlative degree, though more focused.

Look for exciseable superlatives and overly wordy statements. "Always" is rarely so absolute in any credible scenario, "Always" means without exception. In logic, absolutely every time cannot be proven as true. A single time would make that statement false. Hence its only points are to overemphasize and call undue attention to the wordiness of the statement and an attempt at using a feature of character voice. It is an overstatement that lacks the artful context of irony.

Similarly: "Really" hoping for, "altogether," "all too happy," "forever," "must," "never." These are superlatives.

Wordiness: "small slice of glorious freedom," "has the opportunity," doesn't seem to be enough to entice," "brilliant mage."

I think these overwrought features blunt the impact and tell what the meaning is.

For example, the dilemma Jenny faces is doing the right thing or taking the easy way out. I feel that paragraph obscures that the decision is Jenny's by assigning responsibility to Arram and Jack for her decision. In other words, the awkward syntax obscures the implication yet directly states the dilemma.

Consider what are the proper subjects of the predicates and the predicates and objects.

"When Jenny uncovers a secret that will change her life forever, she must choose between letting Arram help her do the right thing or letting Jack show her the easy way out."

//Jenny uncovers a secret magic. Arram wants to help her do the right thing. Jack wants to show her the easy way out. Whatever Jenny decides, her life will irrevocably change.//

Though in my voice, offered by way of example to demonstrate how syntax considerations might reduce word count, wordiness, and superlatives, clarify and strengthen meaning, and imply, accessibly so readers may infer, rather than declare indisputably what the novel's main dramatic action is about.

[ November 05, 2013, 09:13 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Unwritten
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The gypsies are the most interesting part to me at the moment as well, extrinsic, but not for reasons related to this back cover blurb. They have a tiny part in Hidden Magic, but a much larger part in the sequel. They probably don't belong on the back cover, given that they are only in one chapter of the book. Only my wishful thinking kept them there.

This is a simple story, definitely a light read for paranormal romance fans, and while it has taken time for me to accept that is all it is, and to love it anyway, I still want my back cover to shine, so I appreciate everyone's comments so much. Here's the newest version.

According to my own observations, I've still got to lose about 11 words before the back of my book will have the white space it needs.

Jenny's family has always been...overprotective. A sliver of glorious freedom is all she's really hoping for when she has the opportunity to spend the summer with her sister. Instead she finds something else altogether:

Electricity.

That's what Jenny feels when she looks at Arram. She knows he feels drawn to her too, but electricity doesn't seem to be enough to entice the brilliant mage-in-training.

Stung, Jenny is all too happy to be courted by Arram's former best friend, Jack. But Arram and Jack's rivalry is much darker than Jenny suspects, and so are Jack's intentions. Soon she's caught up in a mystery of old murder, ancient prophecies, and magic hidden where no one has thought to look...

When Jenny uncovers a secret that will change her life forever, she must choose between letting Arram help her do the right thing or letting Jack show her the easy way out.

Either way, freedom may be the one thing Jenny can never have.

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Unwritten
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Wonderful suggestions, extrinsic, and exactly what I needed. I'll be back.
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Unwritten
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I'm starting to feel enthusiastic about this. I was hoping to get it under 150 words. It is 148, which is still a lot, but do-able for a back cover. Thoughts? And thank you to everyone who has already offered suggestions.

Jenny's family can be...overprotective. A sliver of freedom is all she hopes for when she spends the summer with her sister. Instead she finds something else altogether:

Electricity.

That's what Jenny feels when she looks at Arram. She knows he feels it too, but electricity isn't enough to entice him. [or: the brilliant mage-in-training. I'm not sure.]

Stung, Jenny turns to Arram's former best friend, Jack. But Arram and Jack's rivalry is much darker than Jenny suspects, and so are Jack's intentions. Soon she's caught in a mystery of old murder, ancient prophecies, and magic hidden where no one has thought to look...

When Jenny uncovers a secret magic, she is offered two choices. Arram wants her to do the safe thing. Jack wants to show her the easy way out. Whatever Jenny decides, her life will irrevocably change.

Either way, freedom may be the one thing Jenny can never have.

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Denevius
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The last version is the most compelling. I still think there are some words you need to lose, however, and some words that need to be tightened.

First all, I beg you not to go with that ellipsis in the first sentence. I would also lose the vagueness you create with phrasing like 'can be'. Just say Jenny's family is overprotective; though I think what would be strongest is to give a nice example in that first sentence of how they're overprotective. If you did this, your next sentence can show us what this freedom is instead of just using that uninteresting word, 'freedom', and that cliche, a 'sliver of freedom'.

Same for 'something else altogether'. Give a nice description there, a hint of what she finds that tantalizes the reader to dig further.

Actually, it took me a while to figure out that Electricity is what she found, in reference to the romance between her and Arram. To me, though, the impact of having that word on its own line isn't as strong as I think you want it to be. Mostly because that word by itself doesn't give me any images.

What does Jenny feel? I think this can be done in a better line. 'mage-in-training' at least gives us something to hold on too, though again, it's familiar language.

Anywho, though this version is better, I think your word choice should pop off the page more. If this is a self-published book, it's going to be one of thousands a reader can choose from. I use Kindle quite often now, and for me at least, if that first line doesn't grab me, my mind is always drifting to the next title. I might read another line or two, I might not, but that first sentence in those descriptive blurbs is really the one that usually makes or break whether I make a purchase.

Back cover works the same way when I use to shop in person for a book. Right now, yours just sounds too uninteresting.

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Unwritten
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Weighing in at exactly 150 words, here is my best try at what you have suggested. Thoughts?

Two years ago, Aunt Callie and Phillip vanished. Since then, Jenny's family has kept her segregated her from the rest of the world, and refused to let her go to school. Except for stolen autumn nights with the gypsies, Jenny life has felt like prison.

Now the door to that prison has swung open. The world is an exhilarating place, full of excitement and romance, and her biggest decision is whether to explore it with Arram or his former best friend, Jack.

But Arram and Jack's rivalry is much darker than Jenny suspects. Soon she is caught in a web of old murder and ancient prophecies.

When Jenny uncovers a secret magic, she is offered two choices: Arram wants her to be safe. Jack wants to show her the easy way out. Whatever Jenny decides, her life will irrevocably change.

Freedom may be the one thing Jenny can never have.


[ November 05, 2013, 09:24 PM: Message edited by: Unwritten ]

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Unwritten
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Does it even sound like a romance anymore?
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Meredith
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How important are Aunt Callie and Phillip to this story? I don't remember them being central.

I think you could ramp up her attraction to Arram--or maybe to both of them. It's not like she's ever had much chance at romance. Instead of making it sound like she's just choosing a date for Saturday night, give a hint of what it is she likes about each of them.

I might also change "Arram wants her to be safe" to "Arram wants to keep her safe" hinting back at the lack of freedom. Just a thought.

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wirelesslibrarian
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I think I liked the one before last best. I agree with Denevius about the ellipsis, but electricity and the leading something else altogether didn't bother me. Opinions, huh?

I can tell you this. Reading all the iterations has made me really want to read the entire book, so I guess you're doing something right.

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Unwritten
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You are right, Meredith. I can lose the reference to Phillip and Callie. Thank you wirelesslibrarian! I'm glad it had piqued your interest.

I've added the romance back in. Thoughts?

Jenny feels trapped by her overprotective family. Except for stolen autumn nights with the gypsies, her life is like a prison. Then the door to that prison bursts open, revealing a world brimming with adventure.

And electricity.

That's what Jenny feels when she looks at Arram. She knows he feels it too, but instead of bringing them together, it pushes him away.

Stung, Jenny turns to Arram's former best friend, Jack. But Arram and Jack's rivalry is darker than Jenny suspects, and so are Jack's intentions. Soon she is tangled in a web of old murder and ancient prophecies.

When Jenny uncovers a hidden magic, she is offered two choices. Arram wants to keep her safe. Jack wants to show her the easy way out. Whatever she decides, freedom may be the one thing Jenny can never have.


[ November 06, 2013, 02:39 PM: Message edited by: Unwritten ]

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MAP
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quote:
Originally posted by Unwritten:
Jenny has always felt trapped in her role as the overprotected youngest daughter in a house full of women. A small slice of glorious freedom is all she's really hoping for when she has the opportunity to spend the summer with her sister. Instead she finds something else altogether:

Electricity.

That's what Jenny feels when she looks at Arram. She knows he feels drawn to her too, but electricity doesn't seem to be enough to entice the brilliant mage-in-training.

Stung, Jenny is all too happy to be courted by Arram's former best friend, Jack. But Arram and Jack's rivalry is much darker than Jenny suspects, and so are Jack's intentions. Soon she's caught up in a mystery of old murder, ancient prophecies, and magic hidden where no one has thought to look...

When Jenny uncovers a secret that will change her life forever, she must choose between letting Arram help her do the right thing or letting Jack show her the easy way out.

Either way, freedom may be the one thing Jenny can never have.


Overall, I like this one the best, but there are parts of all of them that I like. I'd like to take a little from each and piece it all together, but that is just my personal taste.

I think you've gotten a lot of good advice, but personal tastes are all so different. I think you need to consider everyone's opinions, but trust yourself, and choose the one that best fits your story. [Smile]

[ November 06, 2013, 04:13 PM: Message edited by: MAP ]

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MAP
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Okay, I couldn't resist. Here is my merged version. This is all Melanie's words except for one small change. "She knows he feels drawn to her too..." is changed to "She knows he’s drawn to her too..."

But my above advice still stands. Do what feels best to you.

quote:
Jenny feels trapped by her overprotective family. A small slice of glorious freedom is all she's really hoping for when she has the opportunity to spend the summer with her sister. Instead she finds something else altogether:

Electricity.

That's what Jenny feels when she looks at Arram. She knows he’s drawn to her too, but electricity doesn't seem to be enough to entice the brilliant mage-in-training.

Stung, Jenny turns to Arram's former best friend, Jack. But Arram and Jack's rivalry is much darker than Jenny suspects, and so are Jack's intentions. Soon she's caught in a mystery of old murder, ancient prophecies, and magic hidden where no one has thought to look.

When Jenny uncovers a secret magic, she is offered two choices. Arram wants her to do the safe thing. Jack wants to show her the easy way out. Whatever Jenny decides, her life will irrevocably change.

Either way, freedom may be the one thing Jenny can never have.


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Unwritten
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That is actually pretty awesome, MaryAnn. You've got an incredible talent for reaching into the chaos that is my mind and culling out the essentials. (This isn't the first time she's done that. It's a gift!)

I'm going to sleep on it and finish in the morning. Thank you everyone!

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BoredCrow
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I agree - that's pretty fantastic, MaryAnn. I might rearrange the second sentence - it's really long.

Maybe, "Jenny feels trapped by her overprotective family. When she has the opportunity to spend the summer with her sister, a small slice of glorious freedom is all she's really hoping for."

The comma breaks it up a bit. Overall, though, it looks really awesome.

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shimiqua
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Yeah. MaryAnn's is my favorite.

Can you do that to Waxling's blurb, MAP?

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Unwritten
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I just sent it to the guy designing my cover. Thank you all so much! I truly couldn't have done it without you.
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extrinsic
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I think that think tank brainstorming promotional copywriting is an effective method. Unlike actual prose content, conventional promotional copy is often a group creative vision effort. This one and this purpose benefits from rewriting and projecting by contributors, where a story or novel itself is ultimately a writer's creative vision prevailing. Hence, I feel that these rewriting proposals are appropriate. That none of them are couched as imperatives is noteworthy.
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