Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Blurb Is Just A Synopsis Missing Its Extremities

There comes a time in every writer's life where he/she has to write the dreaded blurb for their novel. Doesn't matter whether you're a newbie commercial writer (like myself) or an old pro at it, it's something that we all loathe to do, but it's an essential if we want our potential readers to do more than just fondle our book.

I have never been any good at writing short concise summaries of anything, so asking me to write a blurb is tantamount to asking me not to talk to my computer at work when someone irritates me by showing their stupidity.

In other words...well, we're all adults here, so you can pretty much figure it out.

Still, writing a blurb is a necessary evil, and fortunately, I've had some practice in doing it. Not very well, but I did it just the same.

The first blurb that I'd wrote was for my first self-pubbed book "Shades of Love":

Stuck in a marriage where the only thing he had in common with his wife were their children, Wally was one very unhappy soul. One of the few things that gave him happiness was flirting with his co-workers. On this particular day though, those flirtations turn serious with one particular person.

She was a bold, dynamic, vivacious free spirit who triggered a yearning deep within Wally's very soul. Azalea was intrigued by this charming yet down to earth person, whose wit, guile and audacity, ignited a long dormant fame of passion and sensuality.

United by their growing love for each other, they experience emotional upheaval and heartache, as they strive for that final golden ring.
Average don't you think? Would it make you pick up the book and read a few pages? Or would you put it back on the shelf and move on to another book?

In any event, it was a decent first attempt at writing a blurb. A bit wordy and it rambled a little, but you pretty much got the basic idea.

My next attempt at writing a blurb was precursor of things to come. As some of you may have read in the past year or so while I was going through the submission process with Line 21, I had a tendency to procrastinate in doing the real important things that were needed for querying (the query letter and the synopsis) until I decided to sit my ass down and hammer it out in one fell swoop.

Well, the blurb for my chapbook Betrayed! was pretty much written that way. I procrastinated for about a week, then simply sat my ass down and wrote this in about thirty minutes:

Theirs was a doomed relationship that even a marriage couldn't fix.

Ray was the antithesis of a hairdresser. Handsome, muscular and a natural flirt, he was the solution to every women's fantasies. All he wanted, though, was to be loved by the mercurial woman of his dreams.

Gwendolyn was a passionate young woman with a temper that ran as dark as her complexion. Desirable to both sexes, she was determined to find love, no matter what the consequences.

Who would be the first to betray their marital vows? Ray, who although was enlightened about the world around him, still had those old fashioned values that made him a hot commodity. Gwendolyn, vivacious and passionate, had the looks and the body that could destroy anyone that got in the way of her ultimate goal.

To be unconditionally loved. Can that particular end really justify the means?
Compared to the first one, this one is on a whole other planet. Doesn't ramble, the wording is tighter and you definitely got the idea of the plot right from the first sentence. The questions are still the same. Would it make you pick up the book and read a few pages? Or would you put it back on the shelf and move on to another book?

As you can, the difference between the two blurbs is like night and day. The first one was written back in '08, when I really didn't have a clue about writing. The second was written in '09, when I started to have a clue about writing. The reason as to why I brought up these two blurbs is that I'm trying to get a jump on writing a blurb for my novel. Believe it or not, I am a bit anal about being surprised. I don't like being surprised by stuff that I saw coming ahead of time and didn't bothering preparing for it.

So as a rough draft, I'm thinking of using the mini-synopsis from my query letter as a basis for the blurb:

Playing the game of public sex is hard enough when you got the family loan shark bothering you for a piece of your action, but when your symbiont wants a piece as well, it can make you question your own sanity.

Flat broke with no job, Jeannie was terrified of becoming just like one of her uncle’s deadbeat customers. Even though she was able to smooth talk her way into a five day extension of her loan, she was still stuck in the same dead end with the same problem: no money. Still, God must’ve had an ulterior motive, because no sooner than she had closed her phone, a young man sat down next to her and began talking. A few minutes later, Jeannie was holding a business card that could just be her potential salvation from a world of hurt. After a brief, yet highly insulting conversation with her symbiont Aissa, Jeannie was determined to test her mettle as an adult performer. Not because she needed the money, but more to the point of proving her symbiont wrong as well as proving to herself that she could play the game of public sex and still have her morals intact.

Line 21 is not just a story about a young woman’s dilemma in reconciling her values to a new and exciting career, but it’s also a story about living with a free spirit that’s crying out for adventure.

So my friends, your opinion of this last blurb would be what? Needs more depth? More punch? Does it answer the question "Would it make you pick up the book and read a few pages?" or does it answer the question "Would you put it back on the shelf and move on to another book?"

Inquiring minds do want to know, because not only will the truth set me free, but it will sure as hell point me in the right direction.


  1. Writing blurbs is very hard, I think. You seem to be on the right track there.

  2. I think it might make a good basis for the blurb. It's certainly too long, though. The first line is very strong. The introduction of the "symbiont" may cause a bit of confusion.

    I think the last paragraph could be cut. It's too much of a non concrete summary.

  3. Lynn: Thanks.

    Most definitely, they ain't easy to write.

    A good blurb will definitely make me pick up a book and flip through it and on other side of the equation, a bad blurb will make me move on to something else.

    Charles: Thanks for the advice.

    It definitely can use some tweaking, which is why I posted it on the blog. Multiple pairs of eyes can often pick up what I'd missed.

    I agree that the last paragraph can be dropped as it was more geared towards hooking the editor/agent than hooking the reader.

    And thanks for the compliment about the opening line. That originally took me about week to write and tweak.

  4. I'm not an expert on this kind of thing as I only read non fiction, but it seems to me that maybe you are going into a bit too much detail for a blurb. Maybe a bit shorter and less detailed?

  5. Joe: It can definitely be a bit shorter. As for too much detail, I think it's a fine line when you're making it shorter.

    When you make it shorter, you still want to give just enough detail to make the person want to continue further.

    Good suggestion though.

  6. The first blurb on the Line 21 synopsis made me laugh out loud the first time I read it (this is a good thing), so I would definitely read more.

    I don't know about you, but it's hard for me to write about my own writing.

  7. M: Okay, glad I was able to make you chuckle.

    It's not that hard to write about my own writing, since I do it all the time on the blog.

    I just find it hard to summarize things in general.

    However, short stories are a bit easier to summarize, since all you need is one sentence to describe the story.

    To whit:

    "Cedar Mountain" is story about the four stages of a person's life as played out against the four seasons on a mountain.

    "Red Stripe": Day in the life of a punk rock singer.

  8. Hi Georgie, it's interesting how your blurbing has progressed from the first to the latest. The symbiont made me think "dystopian" coz I didn't know what it meant. Probably could whittle down the paragraph a bit. But has good detail.

    I was just thinking myself how I would write one of my novels'synopsis, and it's hard!

  9. It would make me Google symbiont, but I'm not the average person, my vocab is quite small actually.

    I thought the first and second ones were awesome, G! I like how in those you used shorter lines sometimes. Gets to the point faster, makes more impact than the longer sentences.

    All in all, pretty darned-good I think. You should think of doing these for fellow writers -- you seem made for blurbs.


  10. Jewel: That was something that I had actually thought about while writing the novel, in that there would be a small segment of the poplulation who wouldn't get/understand the word "symbiont", which is sci-fi/medical term meaning a living organism that feeds off/lives off of a host body.

    It definitely can use some trimming, but I'll probably have to come up with a couple of versions, one for the back and one for the inside cover.

    And thanks for the compliment about how my blurbing has progressed, and I agree, it's wickedly hard to write a synopsis for a novel.

    It took me about a month to write one, and then two weeks to whittle it down from eight pages to three.

    Jannie: Thanks for the compliment.

    No, I don't think that I can do it for fellow writers. I have a hard enough time as it is writing a book review for books that I like, let alone writing a blurb, although I suppose writing a blurb is a lot like writing micro flash fiction.

    I agree, shorter is definitely better. Grabs the reader's attention more quickly than if it was longer.


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