Had an excellent writers group meeting on Tuesday at which we discussed blurbs: each of us wrote one or more for books we are working on, and we sampled several published ones. We each made a list of qualities that seemed to be important in a blurb, discussed our list, then applied these criteria to the blurbs each of us had written. Then we discussed whether we’d buy the book based on the blurb, and if it gave an accurate indication of what the book was about.
It was very cool, not only for improving our blurbs (which are notoriously hard to write), but for focussing on what the book is about. We told one of our members that the inciting incident was buried toward the end of his blurb and should be closer to the top. The author said, “the increasing violence in the world IS the inciting incident.” No, the point where his brother goes missing is the inciting incident, because this makes the world’s problems personal: the increasing world violence is only setting, but the personal connection turns it to plot. The author had a real “aha!” moment and decided to go back and re-write chapters 1-3, but was very happy to do so.
Here’s the list we generated:
- short but clear, readable (no long elven names); not a plot summary
- present tense, active verbs
- instant, fresh images
- surprise: a sense of normal and change, a “shock” word (eg; Mars) or a key word that indicates tone / genre
- central character choice; what drives the character
- strong voice
- one classic, short line
The central idea we came up with is: if the protagonist is the entry point for the reader to everything in the book, then the main thing the blurb must accomplish