I feel like I've posted so many new threads today...
I'm working on the blurb for my novella I just finished, "Carolina Rain." The blurb is WAY harder than the actual story! I'm having trouble coming up with something that gets the feeling of the story across, w/o saying too much, thereby preserving some of the surprising elements along the way, and w/o being corny and trite.
So far I have 2 sentences: "Carolina heads south for a week of relaxation in Savannah, Georgia. She doesn’t know yet that the life she left behind in Chicago will never be the same and she is faced with decisions she never thought she’d have to make."
Is this enough??? I know the blurb can make or break a sale. Some books seem to have blurbs that are 1-2 paragraphs, not 2 sentences.
Helping people with blurbs is one of my favorite things to do. Nothing can sink a book faster than a bad blurb. Yet writing it is easier said than done. The good news is, you can change it as often as you like.
I use a simple formula - Choose a character, describe the problem and add a hook. You have the basics, but consider expanding on the problem and adding some power words.
Example: the old man wasted my time vs the cranky old man wasted my precious time.
See if this formula helps. Be a little more specific about what the problem is, without giving away the ending. I know, it's hard. Keep trying and post your new attempt here. You'll get different opinions, but lots of help.
"Carolina heads south for
a week of relaxation in Savannah, Georgia. She
doesn’t know yet that the life she left behind in
Chicago will never be the same and she is faced with
decisions she never thought she’d have to make."
Ok, I could point out the problem with the clauses here - as in - if she doesn't know then how can she be faced with a decision based on that fact - also if she's just away for a week then she's hardly left a life behind yet before makeing a decision - let's just say I hope your book is better written - and let's skip into some USEFUL advice - rather than me being a pompous arse (I'm from England, btw).
Personally, to me this sounds far too generic and clichéd. Almost like ever move trailer for every straight to video film I've ever seen. Like, there is a man, he's on a mission but there was one thing he never bargained up. It just doesn't cut it.
Also ignore the other posters comments about adding more adjectives. Adjectives are the first refuge of the poor writer and the poorly written. All good writers know that you discover things through adding subtle texture.
Also, I wouldn't be to worried about giving the away everything from your book. Basically with any narrative / plot you have the set up and then the journey, from the moment of departure - the thing that changes. The turning point that makes the reader interested in the story. There's no problem giving that away because it should be the thing that starts your book. If you have three or chapters about how nice a time she's having relaxing in Savannah before the 'big' thing happens ... then I would suggest a re-write. Nobody wants to read about that. I mean it, you think it might be set-up for the first pay off. It's not! Really it's not. The first paragraph should always be the pay off - the start of story. People want action - even if it's action of the heart or the head. They want to be thrust into the pit of human emotion right from the get go. You can recap over what happened on her jollies later on in the book. Even use that relaxing last few days to balance out the turmoil she's feeling now - in a way that's clever because it performs a good contrast.
If you've never read 'Cathedral' by Raymond Chandler - he's just like - my wife had a friend and he's blind, and he's coming to stay and I don't know how I feel about blind people. And that's what the story is about. It's deceptively simple. But he introduces the whole story by saying just that. And you're like, we I know blind people or I know how I would feel about blind people. So you're hooked. You have an emotional attachment. And that's what you need to do with your book and your blurb. The Raymond Chandler blurb could just say, "Billy doesn't know how he feels about blind people but one's coming to stay." And that would have me hooked. It has an emotive response. You could even put on yours, "Carolina is on holiday when everything back home is going wrong, it's all out of her grasp. 1000 miles away." And the re-action is the same - people go - damn, that would be hard, being on holiday and stuff back home goes to crap - proper annoying - it already conjures up ideas of long distant phone calls and trying to explain stuff when all you want to do is have a good time. See that's the job of a good writer - to put you in a place where you can empathise.
But I might be putting the cart before the horse here. My point is this - if the big thing that happens that thrusts her into the decision making comes at the start. Then just give the game away. Tell people what they're in for. Because they can look at it in the look inside any way. The real entertainment is going to come from how the character handles the situation - surely.
So I would have something more like this (just as a rough idea, and I've added my own suppositions, obviously yours will differ - also what I mean about texture, is the stuff like who Caroline is, and her thoughts about the place, etc):-
"Carolina, a retired school teacher and mum of three (we have a grasp of the character), is miles from her the touch-stone of her home-base (gives a sense of how she feels when things go wrong), for what she thought would be a week of relaxing southern-style in Savannah, Georgia, when she finds she gets a call from her lay-about husband telling her their house had burnt down. When all she thought he would do was was sit around and surf internet porn (see give the reason why she starts on her journey).
The story tracks Carolina's gentle life-realisation set in the warm of southern hospitality, whilst her past life blows cold from the great lake up north, from the place she once called home - Chicago (and there you've given some sort of reason why she starts to think differently - that contradiction is a good thing - the reader will think about the different opposing settings - and it could be interesting)"
I would read that - because I already feel as though it's someone who's miles from home and some different environment makes them feel differently. And it's a an adventure of their soul and feelings. Although - that's sort of first draft material - needs spit, elbow grease and polish. But the structure is there. The hook is the line :-
ONCE CALLED HOME
ONCE CALLED HOME
ONCE CALLED HOME
ONCE CALLED HOME
THERE NO PLACE LIKE IT
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
You're not in Kansas any more Dorothy.
Is that the story? If it is then you should use some linguistic turn of phrase at the end which sort of makes people think of that. There aint nothing wrong with a bit of connection.
You might also want to have something in your blurb/description that gives a feeling of how long your story is - short story, novella, full length novel - you could use an approximate word or page count. If there's a particular genre that your story is firmly set in, you might want to make that clear as well, though the category identification and tags might help there.
But definitely something to give an idea about story length.
Honestly, summaries and blurbs are something that I struggle with myself, so I'm not sure that I'm a good source of advice for them. But since I can't look at an ebook to judge how long it is the way I can with a hard-copy book, I want some way to know how long of a read this would be. I want it to give me an idea what kind of story this is - do these decisions involve love, grand theft, where to hide the bodies? Am I supposed to laugh, to cry, or to be sitting on the edge of my seat biting my nails to the quick wondering if Carolina will make it out alive and with all the body parts she had at the beginning of the book?
About the only other useful thing I can tell you is - write out a possible blurb (save it!) and look at it again the next day, when well rested and suitably caffinated/awake. See if you still like it. If possible, have friend/relative/co-worker type person who actually reads look at the blurb and ask them if it would make them want to read the book (ideally they read in the correct genre for your story). Fuss with it until satisfied or resigned that this is as good as it gets.
I generally start thinking about story-blurbs ( and titles! - what it gets saved as while in progress needs to be something I can identify it as, not what it will sell under) after the completed first draft and/or the point where I know the story will be substantial enough to stand on its own (as opposed to hanging with some friends in a collection). I still tend to finish the actual story before the blurb.
People want to see something other than "The Sound of Music". That's why there are more movie companies than just Disney.
A novel should show a goal for the character to reach and a risk involved with reaching that goal. Death is the ultimate risk. It makes for great tension.
Not all stories should be about butterflies and puppies.
Death is afterall a part of life.
My blurb is nothing more than a copy of my query letter.
Life as detective Alex Mendez knew it came to an abrupt end two years ago with the murder of his wife. Now he is raising his teenage daughter alone. The demands of his job and the fact that his wife’s case remains unsolved have been a strain on both of them, but now a new case threatens not only what’s left of their fragile relationship, but their very lives.
When three local women are brutally raped, the case consumes Alex. His daughter, feeling abandoned, unknowingly befriends a looming shadow from Alex’s past.
DNA evidence found on the first two victims leads Alex to his suspect. It looks like an open and shut case until DNA from the third victim is matched to Alex. Now, to clear his name he must face the demons from his past and reveal a long kept secret that could disprove the evidence against him, but doing so would not only devastate his daughter, it could destroy them both.
[i]The gripping story of one man's struggle to save
his tortilla stand.[/i]
Tortillas were all Juan Rodriquez knew, and all he
Now the ruthless thugs of Del Monte Foods want to
kill his dream.
How far will Juan go to protect what is his?
A story filled with passion, drama, and even . . .
[b][i]The Burrito Stand of Death[/i] is the exciting
debut novel by Alan Smithee[/b]
Golem - I LOVED your reply! It made me laugh..out loud - literally! I also liked your formula. I'll give it a shot!
You might also want to have something in your
blurb/description that gives a feeling of how long
your story is - short story, novella, full length
novel - you could use an approximate word or page
I want it to give me an idea
what kind of story this is - do these decisions
involve love, grand theft, where to hide the bodies?
Am I supposed to laugh, to cry, or to be sitting on
the edge of my seat biting my nails to the quick
wondering if Carolina will make it out alive and
with all the body parts she had at the beginning of
LSiverling - Thanks! Your response helped a lot. I agree about indicating what kind of book and the length. I'll add that in.
I also appreciated your suggestion to give a general idea of what the reader can expect (beyond what the blurb itself says)...i.e. Love story, adventure, crime, etc.
All in all, great suggestions, all of them! Thanks again!
Bear in mind that the blurb wil be (partially) displayed on other websites.
Have a look at ereaderiq.com, which displays all Amazon free promos every day and is probably where the vast majority of download requests come from.
When you float the mouse pointer over a book your blurb will pop up, but theres a limit to what is shown.