Tips, Writing

Write the Novel: Blurbs

My apologies. This should have been published May 6th, but it ended up in the drafts folder.

“What’s your book about?”

It’s about a woman named Laura, who moves to Las Vegas because she has this great job lined up, only the job falls through, so she’s forced to work in one of the clubs, which she doesn’t like. Then she meets this neat guy named Wally, but she gets the wrong idea about him and thinks he’s with the mob, only he’s really an undercover cop. She blows his cover, and they have to hide out for a while, while they solve a murder, and they sort-of fall in love, except both of them have a lot of hang-ups and they’re not sure they’re ready for a new relationship. I want to kind of bring their relationship along for two or three books. Then they save each other’s lives, and trap the killer, so everything works out for the best.

Does this blurb make you want to rush out to read the book? Probably not.

It rambles. It’s full of this happens and then that happens. There’s no sense of who Laura and Wally are. There’s not a single new thing in it. We’ve all read stories about women working in clubs, about undercover cops, about people hiding out from the mob, and about people almost falling in love. Not only is the ending telegraphed, but since this obviously is intended as a series, we can guess that everything works out for the best in subsequent books, too. We’re not even sure if this is a comedy or a dark thriller.

A blurb — also called an elevator pitch — is a precise, condensed description that piques the listener’s/reader’s interest to the point they are eager to read the book.

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. If a publisher has blurb requirements, we write our blurbs to meet them. However, if we’re left to our own devices, there’s no one formula for writing a blurb. This is the formula I’ve found works for me.

Don’t include in a blurb

  • Secondary characters. We don’t want to know about Laura’a Aunt Minnie.
  • Subplots. So the neighbor fell in love with Laura’s sister. Great. Keep it in the synopsis—not the blurb!
  • The ending! A blurb is a teaser! A taste! An irresistible invitation to turn the next page of our query letter and read our synopsis, or go straight to the library or book store and get the book. Make the editor or prospective reader drool in anticipation.
  • Extraneous details. We don’t need to know where Laura and Wally went on their first date, and what they ate.
  • Don’t ramble on. Keep it short. Keep it snappy. Keep it at 100 words. Actually count the words.

A blurb is a 100-word (yes, count them) teaser that contains the following elements

  • Hooks (click here to see an earlier blog about hooks)
  • A sense of the external conflict
  • A hint of emotion — the internal conflict
  • Style — the flavor of danger, if it’s a suspense, or comedy or family drama, etc, whatever suits the style of story you’re writing
  • Characterization — tell something about the characters’ inner lives
  • Setting — where the story take place
  • Goals — what the characters want
  • Motivations — why they pursue these goals
  • Disaster — What or who is stopping them from attaining their goals?
  • The final question — will they overcome?
  • Bonus points if we can work in the title of the book

“What’s your book about?”

It’s a fast-paced comic romp, set in Las Vegas’ sleazy underbelly. Laura White, a newcomer to Vegas, has been perpetually stunned since she stepped off the plane. Being the only witness to a double murder hasn’t helped. All she wants is to go home. All LVPD Detective Wally Rackham wants is to keep her alive long enough to testify. When Laura decides the quickest way to be allowed to leave Las Vegas is to solve the murder herself, Wally has his hands full. He has to solve the murders, outrun the mob, and find Laura’s mother, a compulsive gambler.

The name of the book, by the way, is Perpetually Stunned, so bonus points.

I hope to see you again on Thursday, May 8, for Level Thinking: Ramp It Up. What to do about those times when the writing just won’t come.

Next Tuesday, May 13, we move from Blob to Synopsis. They’re not at all the same thing.