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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Back Cover Blurbs

On Forward Motion someone brought up the subject of back cover blurb building. I love playing with blurbs and hooks. To me, it’s more challenging than the story and hence more fun.

As a reader, I don’t want flowery prose or endless characterization in a blurb. Save that stuff for the novel. Convince me that your story is worth my time.

Remember too, that not everyone is your audience. A blurb should speak directly to those who will like your kind of story. If you lead me to believe that your story is about a new kind of supernatural evil and it turns out to be just another vampire story, your book is headed straight for my garage sale box. I’ll likely never try you again for deceiving me, too.

A blurb should be crisp, tight and engaging. There should be a certain bounce in its cadence, so mix up your sentence lengths. Identify the conflict, the protagonist and the antagonist.

The conflict should not take more than a couple of sentences. One thing I recommended in my answer to the thread on Forward Motion is to go to IMDB and pick out a few movie trailers.

Don’t watch the video. Instead listen to the sound only. Ignore the scene audio and wait for the narrator to chime in. Every trailer should give you the thrust of the story in under 10 seconds.

Pay attention to the words they use. They are active, compelling and precise.

Now read your blurb out loud. Is there a rhythm? Is it focused on the core of the story? Does it tease you to want more?

Blurbs are normally not a comfortable stomping ground for novelists. And chances are you won't have to create your own if you go the traditional pub route, but it's not a bad habit to learn. It comes in useful when writing your query's hook.

Take a look at your existing hook or blurb and isolate the key words that describe the novel's conflict. Play with the sentence structure until it expresses only the very heart of the story.

I know. It’s hard. You’re dying to tell book browsers about the cool thing that happens on page 221, or the weird world building, or the character’s secret flaw. Hold back and just waggle the carrot. If it’s juicy enough, they’ll beg to read more.

3 comments:

Maya Reynolds said...

Hey, Maria: I just realized that you've linked to a writer in the North Texas RWA chapter. Shannon Cannard, who is a really lovely person. I didn't realize she was blogging. Thanks!

Maria Zannini said...

I found Shannon through Candy Havens. She gave a killer workshop on handling rejection. None of that woe-is-me, they-don't-understand-me crap.

She may have a follow-up to that workshop in the summer. I'll be sure to post it when she does.

Maya Reynolds said...

Yeah, I know Candy. She's also a member of NTRWA, along with her next door neighbor, Britta.