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Blurbs

Lugh

Given the attention that many here mention about the "blurb" paragraph, I wonder if there is a place for focused criticism of actual examples. I don't know if this can be done without reading the full story, but perhaps there are examples of turnons and turnoffs.

Reviewing these seems a different problem than story review.

Replies:   ustourist
ustourist

@Lugh

The problem with that suggestion is that some are so bad, either because of poor spelling or because of a total lack of information, that criticism would tend to dwell on those and that could be seen as destructive not constructive. I believe Lazee has requested that there aren't really scathing published reviews and can understand why.

docholladay

I think the blurb should be as carefully planed as the story itself. Remember regardless of the methods used to select stories. Filtering: codes, size, downloads, genre or scores. The odds are there will still be more than one story listed. The blurb will probably be the last factor in picking the story from that short list after everything undesired is filtered out. Will the blurb (paragraph, make a reader want to read it instead of something else on the short list of stories.

As for the importance. There are those who suggest that codes and other factors are the key factors. Realistically its a combination of factors. Just which factor is the final one is the question.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@docholladay


I think the blurb should be as carefully planed as the story itself.


Personally, I think they deserve more attention than the rest of the story, as no one will ever read your story if you have a poor description. Typos mean you (the author) aren't proud of your work, incomplete descriptions won't be a good indication of the story and meandering, unfocused sentences are a warning your entire story is badly written.

The key to a decent story description is to capture the feel and the main conflicts of the story. I'll provide a few examples of my own stories, rather than dumping on anyone unfortunate enough to get picked on.

The Cuckoo's Progeny (just published)

Al and Betty aren't like their classmates. They've developed peculiar skills which set them apart, and which sets them in a search for others like themselves. As they discover who they might be, they become alienated from friends, family and humanity in general. They must discover who they are, and where they belong, as there's no longer room for them in their old community. Between walking into disasters, ungrateful rescues and government agents tracking their every movement, they're searching for a way out and a way home, wherever that might be.

Searching out others like them, they build a crew to search for a ship which may take them to a home they've never known, to a reception they aren't sure will be welcoming. What's more, they have no one to rely on other than each other.


Here, the first paragraph lays out the various conflicts: isolated, disenfranchized teens, realizing you're different from everyone around you and they're attacked by everyone they encounter--the "paculiar skills" hints at the series title Not-Quite Human.

The final paragraph summarizes the plot (i.e. what they're trying to do, as well as what might happen in the future books).

The Zombie Leza: The Marriage of the Quick and the Undead

(My next, as-yet unpublished, book)

Leza's an unusual young woman. She lives with Zombies, protecting and caring for them. In an apocalyptic wasteland, where the living are few, she represents a unique hybrid, a living zombie. She speaks with the undead, and can teach the living how to survive. If they can only keep from killing her, that is.

Discovered during a final confrontation between a refuge of survivors and an oncoming horde of the undead, Leza steps up, saving the day. She represents more than just another day of survival, but whether that spells humanity's rescue or the future of the undead, is anyone's guess. She may spell redemption and rescue, or their ultimate annihilation.


Here, the "She lives with Zombies" establishes the main conflict, no human will trust her since she can call upon the combined might of all the zombies surrounding her, though she represents an unusual chance to learn more about how to control the zombie hordes.

The second paragraph summarizes the human's challenge, while she threatens their very existence, she also represents a chance of discovering a zombie cure.

Singularity (my currently posting story)

An experimental NASA flight goes horribly wrong, and the unlucky test pilot wakes up unhurt, back home. Struggling to discover what happened, Eric Morgan returns to NASA prepared to face a thousand questions as things continue to unravel around him. Is he still human or a new species, and what does that mean for those around him?

Eric encountered something strange in the dead of space which left him forever changed. Testifying before a Congressional subcommittee, he inspires fear and hope. As the danger mounts, he tries to fall off the grid and begin a new life as he struggles with what happened, but the rest of the world won't allow him to walk away. Is he a threat or a blessing? Is he helping humanity or threatening them? Should he explain himself or hide? And what about those close to him? How will the changes to him impact them?


Here, the first line contains the story's premise, while the second conveys the character's challenge. The third incorporates his main conflict: who has he become?

The second paragraph goes into more detail, outlining that he was altered in some way, and that the government (i.e. Congress) is out to get him, and that he's ultimately forced to runaway to escape everyone, presenting yet another challenge. It wraps up by summarizing how everyone views him after he's been changed.

Replies:   docholladay  Bondi Beach
docholladay

@Crumbly Writer

Good examples CW. I do admit I tried to carefully word my earlier response. Its surprising how easy it is for others to get the wrong idea from a comment. Although that can be fun too. Sometimes that kind of thing leads to a nice debate.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@docholladay

I do admit I tried to carefully word my earlier response. Its surprising how easy it is for others to get the wrong idea from a comment.

I wasn't really disagreeing, only emphasizing that, without the description, the rest of the story isn't worth much if no one reads it. Same point, different emphasis.

Replies:   docholladay
docholladay

@Crumbly Writer

That is why I said "Good examples".

Very logical to pick the prime paragraph for sites which only allow for one paragraph in the blurb, yet would definitely fit on the back cover of a paperback book or on the flyleaf page. I may be crazy, but I never bought or traded for any book based on the New York Times reviews or similar reports. (I always suspected they were paid advertisements)

richardshagrin

"Blurb" is an unattractive way of mentioning the story description. Say Blurb, to yourself if in public, several times in a row. Would you want something that sounds like that?

sejintenej

@richardshagrin

I think that Lugh picked up on a word I had used elsewhere which to me implies a bit of text which is not of mind-shattering importance or is so long /abstruce as to require an unnecessary length of time to understand (insurance policy T & C for example)

If you have a better word then fine.

For me the one or two short para intro is less important than the story itself.

Switch Blayde

@richardshagrin

"Blurb" is an unattractive way of mentioning the story description.


Blurb is a publishing term. It's what you find on the inside jacket on a hardcover or the back of a paperback. It contains both a description and kudos from other authors and critics. It's nothing more than a marketing tool to get the person to at least sample the book if not buy it.

docholladay

Regardless of the label for the term. The intention is clearly to get the user to purchase/read a particular story. That makes it a critical component of the story or book. This is the final step in the selection process of what to read or purchase.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@docholladay

This is the final step in the selection process of what to read or purchase.


Actually, when it comes to purchase or even borrow a book from the library, my last step is to read the beginning of the novel. That's why the beginning is so important.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde


Actually, when it comes to purchase or even borrow a book from the library, my last step is to read the beginning of the novel. That's why the beginning is so important.


I rarely read the begining. Way too many people put 95% of their good work into the first 2 pages and the rest is crap. Thus I flick to a random spot near the middle and see what it's like at that point. That'll tell you more about the overall quality of writing continued through the story.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
docholladay
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

It still needs something to actually capture the reader's attention over the rest of the available selection. I usually preferred to read a little more first before deciding, but that was not always possible.

edited to add: With all the available stories online both free and 'for sale'. A wise writer will consider that last screening factor. Some sites may have different standards for describing your a story. But that description regardless of site is critical to getting a story actually read. Too many stories will fit any given code selection which narrows the selection nicely. So something else has to set the story aside as the number one choice.

Lugh

Blurb was indeed I picked up from someone else. I am going through and revising. I wonder if a blog post is appropriate?

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Lugh

Blurb was indeed I picked up from someone else.


Probably from me. I think I'm the most prolific user of the term because I saw it a lot when i first started writing for publishers and sites over a decade ago. Then the publishers spoke about writing a good blurb for the story, so it stuck with me.

If you're revising a story, a blog post about the task is a good way to tell readers about it.

Bondi Beach

@Crumbly Writer

@docholladay

I think the blurb should be as carefully planed as the story itself.

Personally, I think they deserve more attention than the rest of the story, as no one will ever read your story if you have a poor description. Typos mean you (the author) aren't proud of your work, incomplete descriptions won't be a good indication of the story and meandering, unfocused sentences are a warning your entire story is badly written.


From the author's pitch for his new book, which is---wait for it---How to write a sizzling synopsis:

The author is Bryan Cohen. I seem to be on his email list, but I know nothing about him.

bb

BEGIN QUOTE

Next week, How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis goes live on Amazon.

While you wait for it, I thought I'd provide a little excerpt! Enjoy.

Excerpt from Chapter 3: How Do I Simplify My Plot?

Imagine that you've finally scored that dream meeting with a big-time movie producer. Like most pitch clichés, this one takes place in an elevator. You know your story forward and backward, and you can't wait to tell him everything there is to know about your book. I may not know many movie producers myself, but I do know if you actually were to tell him everything, this producer would be doing everything in his power to get out of that elevator, possibly even plummeting to his death to avoid hearing about one more side character or one more subplot. 


Does that mean I'm saying you should avoid writing complicated stories in the first place? No, not at all. Complex characters and plots are awesome, but you don't need to include all of them in a simple sellable synopsis.


Complicated romances, thrillers, mysteries, and horror novels have it relatively easy. Even in the most complex of these stories, you generally have a basic framework for a certain plot. It's when you start getting into the complex worlds of sci-fi and fantasy that authors tend to run into trouble. These books often have so many characters and subplots they would make Shakespeare roll over in his fancy British grave.

What you need to keep in mind is that no matter how important you think they are, you do not need to have every character and every location referenced in your synopsis. In most cases, you can simply follow the main two or three characters.

Let me give you some general rules of what needs to go in the essential version of your story:

Only Explain Character Details That Are Relevant


It would not be completely out of the question to present some synopses as character résumés. I've seen characters with so many qualifications noted in the first few sentences that I'd be more than willing to hire them for a job. The problem is, I would never read that book.

You need to get into the meaty details in your synopsis almost right away, and spending too much time elaborating on your character's every virtue wastes time and space. I've even taken to the idea to mentioning my characters by just their first name (no last name or middle name) and trait for that character before I move on to the good stuff. You don't have to go that far, but you do have to know when enough is enough.


Avoid Using Names and Places That Don't Matter to the Full Story


You know that old memory experiment where scientists try to see how many playing cards average people can remember before they start to forget the first one? The gist of it is, we can only keep two or three main things running in our heads at any given time. If you introduce too many names and places in your synopsis, it's going to be very hard for them to keep track of everything. 


You have a choice: fill your reader's head with increasing emotional momentum and excitement OR the names of five main characters in your fantasy novel. I hope by now you know which one to choose. 


Avoid Highlighting Subplots That Don't Warrant the Attention


I see a pretty common problem arise when authors try to incorporate what they believe is an important subplot in their synopses. They introduce this "pit stop" that takes the heroes away from their main objective, which forces them to take several sentences to introduce place names and side characters that don't matter. Well, this little pit stop is the same exact place where prospective readers click away. 


It's much better to spend your time focusing more on the development of the protagonist and how his or her emotions tie into the main plot. Leave the side characters' subplots in the book.

END QUOTE

Switch Blayde

@Bondi Beach

A synopsis is not a blurb.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Bondi Beach
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


A synopsis is not a blurb.


Absolutely correct. The key points outlined in the excerpt above apply---in very condensed form, of course---to the blurb as well. (I note in passing the author refers to an "elevator pitch," which is certainly more of a blurb than a synopsis.)

A blurb generally is longer than a tag but no longer than the "Description" on SOL. Also, it's shorter than the story description on the inside front jacket of a hardback.

So, yeah, a synopsis is not a blurb, but the points in the excerpt seemed relevant to me. Just work on condensing each one to practically nothing, and you've got your blurb.

bb

Switch Blayde

@Bondi Beach

The key points outlined in the excerpt above apply---in very condensed form,


There's an author on wattpad who says you gotta have a 10-word pitch. She said that's what you give the guy in the elevator.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

I rarely read the begining. Way too many people put 95% of their good work into the first 2 pages and the rest is crap. Thus I flick to a random spot near the middle and see what it's like at that point. That'll tell you more about the overall quality of writing continued through the story.

I've got a similar approach, however I open to a random page, in the last third of the book, mid-chapter and mid-paragraph, and read a single random sentence. If that single sentence can entertain me, I'll purchase the book, regardless of content, because the book is so well-written, the writing itself is more captivating that the actual plotline. However, with the recent (since the 1960s) focus on TV action plots and short-attention span theater, such strong writing is in short supply.

Now books are rarely about good writing (craft), instead it's all about pacing. You can no longer include plodding development, instead you must just from action point to action point. :(

@Luch

Blurb was indeed I picked up from someone else. I am going through and revising. I wonder if a blog post is appropriate?

Blog posts are always appropriate, because a small minority of readers will select readers based almost exclusively on interesting blog posts, so to capture that market, you need to draw attention from readers who wouldn't ordinarily notice your story.

Crumbly Writer

@Bondi Beach

Avoid Using Names and Places That Don't Matter to the Full Story


You know that old memory experiment where scientists try to see how many playing cards average people can remember before they start to forget the first one? The gist of it is, we can only keep two or three main things running in our heads at any given time. If you introduce too many names and places in your synopsis, it's going to be very hard for them to keep track of everything.

The author is an idiot! Not only did he not comprehend the research (people remember a LOT more than three items), but he didn't even appear to have read it, just reading the summary instead.

However, you'll notice in my sample story descriptions (not blurbs), I skipped most of what he suggests by almost exclusively on the story's central theme and primary conflict. If I mention the character at all, I'll only mention a first name to make the description more personal to the reader (i.e. you're reading about a 'real' character, and not a vague shadow figure).

Concerning cutting the second paragraph given space restrictions, I'll typically keep the second paragraph (since it features the plot and conflict), but instead trim the fat from the first paragraph which details the essential conflicts.

Crumbly Writer

@Bondi Beach

So, yeah, a synopsis is not a blurb, but the points in the excerpt seemed relevant to me. Just work on condensing each one to practically nothing, and you've got your blurb.

What I found, from reading his suggestions, was that he reduced the overly complicated plots to an overly complicated list of single bullet points. Again, if you focus on the theme and essential conflicts, you can reduce the description to what the reader's interested in.

Ernest Bywater

@Bondi Beach

How to write a sizzling synopsis:


Synopsis is what you use to sell the story to a publisher. If you know the publisher, or editor making the decision, has a bias a certain way you lean the synopsis that way just to make the sale. You will never find a synopsis submitted to the publisher on the book cover trying to sell the book to the readers, because they have two very different purposes.

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