Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The dreaded "blurb."

I hear time and again from writers they can't stand writing blurbs.

I'm weird (not that that's news) and don't mind writing them. The secret? Approach them like a book review. (Hint: if you master writing a blurb, you can use the same approach for your synopsis. Just flesh out the logline and blurb further.)

The "standard" book review, especially for romance, goes something along these lines:

A smart, funny heroine who suddenly inherits an old mansion discovers there's a deep, dark secret.

In walks a handsome, hunky hero...but he's got a mysterious past.

Now the events are ramping up, but is the hero going to help her, or bury her with the other secrets?

Now, obviously, that's just out of my ass, and very simplistic. One common issue I hear writers complain about is, "I can't just compress my book into a sentence!" when it comes to creating the "logline" (or "elevator pitch").

Bucky, you WROTE the darn thing. If you can't summarize it in one sentence, you need to go back and re-read it, and possibly do a hella lot of editing to figure it out. I've written some pretty long-ass books I can easily summarize.
  • A dying man enlists his best friend's help in replacing him as his wife's husband and Master. (The Reluctant Dom)
  • An out-of-love woman decides to divorce her husband before a summer vacation in a possessed house turns deadly and drives her back into the arms of her former love. (Out of the Darkness)
  • A reincarnated goddess and her dragon mates struggle to merge past evils with a present mystery. (Fire and Ice - A Triple Trouble prequel)
  • A career-driven woman discovers she's not just an average human when her hunky boss reveals he--and she--are both vampires. (Love and Brimstone)
  • A virginal preacher's daughter finds love in the arms of a heartbroken arch demon. (Good Will Ghost Hunting: Demon Seed)
  • A divorced single mom of a disabled child survives a cross-country trip with her kids and mother, but also finds love along the way. (Cross Country Chaos)
  • A disillusioned woman must learn to trust again under the patient tutelage of a lonely Dom. (The Denim Dom)
I'm going to steal a line from Blake Snyder's awesomsauce screenwriting book, "Save the Cat!"--what do all those loglines start with?

A person who...

"But my book isn't ABOUT a person!"

Stop the whining. Please. You want to be an author, this is part of the dirty work.

A mysterious situation that...

A talking dog which...

A dying civilization tries...

What do they have in common?

They start with a described subject/object/topic/focal point.

No, I'm not saying this has to be your one-sentence "hook" short blurb that many publishers want. (Your logline is your focal point to enable you to condense the topic when pitching the book to agents and publishers, as well as when you formulate your blurb.)

It's better to start short and fill in. If you try to write the long version first, you'll be all over the map and including every damn thing.

No, we don't need to know the subplot.

No, we don't need to know hot smexy goodness in graphic detail.

No, we don't need to know _____.

All we NEED to know is WHO and WHAT. And we need to know it in such a way as it draws us into your book.

"Well, that's FINE, but my book is COMPLICATED. You can't POSSIBLY expect me to summarize it."

Really? REALLY?

Okay. I'll take that bet.

Stephen King's The Stand. (You've heard of that little tome, haven't you? It's like eleventy THOUSAND pages long.)
  • A group of survivors struggle in a post-apocalyptic world to rebuild and fight off an evil man bent on further destruction.
Good thing you didn't bet against me, huh?

Taking a couple of my own examples above, here are my short version "hooks":
  • Sometimes, love hurts...if you're lucky. (The Reluctant Dom)
  • Can a virginal preacher's daughter find love in the arms of an archdemon? Bet your soul on it. (Good Will Ghost Hunting: Demon Seed)
  • Who needs leather when you can have denim? A denim Dom, that is. (The Denim Dom)
  • He's hell on wheels, but can he win her heart? (Cross Country Chaos)
I know it feels like a painful process.

Get over it. We all had to go through it in the beginning. If you plan on making this your career, you need to rid yourself of the mental block about blurbs and loglines.

I don't mean to sound snarky about this, but seriously, if you had a doctor who was squeamish about giving shots, would you take your kid to them or think they were incompetent?

Okay, I know that's an extreme example, but writing blurbs and selling your book (blurbs are a HUGE part of selling your book) are part of your JOB.

And no, do NOT include excerpts in your blurb or, if you're self-publishing, in the description section of your book. STOP IT. You're lazy if you do that, and if your self-pubbed sales are in the toilet and you have done that, I've got a hint--WRITE A DAMN BLURB. People can get the free sample from Kindle and Nook. You DO NOT put it as your book's description. If you can't write the blurb, you need to unpublish the f*cker and wait until you can to republish it.

Write the blurb in present tense. Trim, trim, trim, until it's the barest skeletal summation.

THEN, and ONLY then, do you start adding a little meat to the bones. Just enough to make the reader hungry. If they can't skim your blurb, then it's too long or too convoluted.

You have to start with the short version to accomplish this. If you aren't sure how to do this, go pull your FAVORITE book by another author off the shelf, read it, and summarize it in one sentence. (Or two VERY short sentences.)

See? Sometimes, distanced emotionally from the actual "birthing" of the book, it's easier to figure it out and the light bulb will come on.

If you still hate the process (and now me LOL) do yourself a favor: go buy  Blake Snyder's "Save the Cat!" (all three books in the series). If you still can't write a logline for your book after reading those, then I don't know what to tell you, sorry.

When you wrote your book, the logline should have hovered in the back of your mind during the entire process. Maybe not consciously, but it should have flavored the entire writing process for you. If it didn't, go BACK and edit your book until you see that thread running throughout the novel.

Now suck it up, buttercup, and go get busy!

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