From a Work-In-Process

sunlight through a window

They were gone. That much was obvious. Most of their clothes, all of what little jewelry they had. Two of her grandmother’s best tablecloths, no doubt to hold the other things. A third tablecloth lay abandoned on an unmade bed, spread out, discarded probably because of the large mend near the center.

Aleta stood in the stillness. The sun came in through the windows and made motes of dust seem to sparkle as they floated aimlessly through the air in front of her face. This whole part of the house felt abandoned, as though it had been empty for a long time. But just this morning it had seemed too small to contain her girls and their laughter.

She might have guessed. Lately, the girls had giggled more and talked more often in whispers. But they had done this often enough, so why should Aleta have thought this was anything out of the ordinary? They were silly girls. They had been born silly. Their father had been silly. Handsome and smart and silly. And one day, he had taken it into his silly head to leave them. The girls were like him. But Aleta had chosen him, so maybe some of their silliness was hers.

Blurb or Babble?

Text Balloons

Image via IndieReader Publishing Service

Like most readers, I have a never-ending appetite but not a purse to match, so I must take care to spend my money wisely. Lately, I’ve become more aware of book blurbs. I subscribe to a couple of lists that tell me what e-book bargains are available and every day I get a new batch of recommendations. In grid form, they show the book cover and next to it, the blurb.

A blurb, the way I see it, is an open-ended summary of your story’s characters, conflicts, and goals delivered in a compelling, short form that will inform the potential reader and entice her to buy, or at least look at, your book. When seen in grid form, where comparing blurbs is easily done, lazy blurbs stand out.

Want one? All you have to do is follow this formula:

When Suddenly + Chosen One = Question

When Suddenly

The protagonist is living a happy-go-lucky life as a normal person when suddenly mysterious people start picking on him/her. Alternate: protagonist is a former military person with issues or a woman with an unhappy past.

Chosen One

The protagonist becomes aware that s/he is the person foretold by the prophecy and the salvation of the entire world rests on her/his shoulders. In fantasies, they usually awaken to powers hitherto unknown or in other types of books, they end up being the only one with the right skills to find the truth.

Question

This is the part that’s supposed to get the reader’s blood going and generally includes a list of the obstacles: On the run from the police/evil sorcerers/abusive ex-husband, can the protagonist find the killer/control the power/defeat the ex before the murderer strikes again/destroys the world/deals out more abuse? Not that a question can’t be useful, but if your protagonist is a cop trying to catch a killer, then it’s just silly to ask a question about whether or not he can do so – he wouldn’t be the protagonist if he couldn’t, right?

Bonus points if you use phrases like ‘race against time.’

So what makes a good book blurb?

As I expected when I began to research this topic, everybody’s got an idea and some even have it broken down into steps (there’s a list of the links I read at the bottom of this post). But here’s the gist I got:

  • Know what kind of blurbs appeal to you as a reader (augh, research? LOL)
  • Keep it short (maybe 4 paragraphs maximum)
  • Don’t give away the store (they’re supposed to buy the book to see what happens, remember?)
  • Remember that it’s about the story and characters, not the setting or the era (Ancient Rome was interesting, but if it’s a romance, I need to feel I’ll like the couple)
  • Set a mood (give me a taste your writing and how it evokes the atmosphere of the story)
  • Work as hard at polishing your blurb as you do your novel

Got your own list for what makes a good blurb? Tell me about it in the comments. In matters of writing advice, I’m like the Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. When Sheriff Bart asked him if he needed any help, he replied, “Ohhhh – all I can get.”

Blurb Writing Blog List

  1. How to Write a Blurb by Marilynn Byerly
  2. Four Easy Steps to an Irresistible Book Blurb
  3. How to Write an Effective Blurb for a Self-Published Book by Sarah Juckes
  4. The Five Core Elements of a Book Blurb by Frances Reid Rowland (my fave of the blog posts)
  5. Blurbs That Bore, Blurbs That Blare by MichaelBrent Collins