Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Writing the Blurb: Where to Start?

There have been some wonderful examples and articles written this month about how to write a blurb, so I'm not going to repeat what's already been said, except to say this: Blurbs are important marketing tools.

You will use it to sell your manuscript to a publishing company. You will then use it to sell your book to the public.
You want your blurb to catch the reader's interest, to make your reader anxious to read that story!

That's all well and good. But one qu
estion I'm often asked by other writers is this: "Where do I start? I've written 100K words. There are plots and subplots. I can't possibly distill this intricate masterpiece down to one or two sentences. You can't be serious!"

I am serious. And you can do this!

The first step is to get at the heart of the story you've written. In order to do that, I use this simple exercise:

The hero/heroine wants _____________ but can't ___________ because __________.

In the case of a romance, you'll do this twice:

The hero wants _____________ but can't ___________ because __________.

The heroine wants _____________ but can't ___________ because __________.

That's the bones of your story. And you wrote it in one or two sentences.

This is what I wrote for my upcoming mystery, FLOWERBED OF STATE.

Casey Calhoun wants to succeed as the White House's new organic gardener but can't focus on her job because a murderer is targeting her.

That qui
ckly written sentence turned into this:

Free-spirited Casey Calhoun, the White House's new organic gardener, has a lot on her mind with her upcoming presentation to the Firs
t Lady outlining her plans for implementing organic practices on the White House grounds while preparing for the Spring Garden Tour and the annual Easter Egg Roll. But all her carefully made preparations begin to unravel after she's mugged in the same park where a Treasury accountant was murdered. Not long after that, she accidentally pepper sprays a Secret Service agent, a senator begins a campaign against organic gardening, and Wall Street's most eligible bachelor takes a sudden romantic interest in her. Not to mention the President's new puppy is constantly nipping at her heels and digging holes in the South Lawn.

The FBI and Secret Service assure her that they are on top of the murder investigation, but something isn't adding up. While they thwart a plot to assassinate the President, Casey follows the clues she’s found all the way to the Easter Egg Roll where she saves a senator from being killed by the Easter bunny.

I used this blurb along with two sample chapters and three short synopses to convince Berkley Prime Crime to offer me a three-book deal for the White House Gardener Mysteries.

Book 1 in the series, Flowerbed of State will be available May 3, 2011.

So now it's y
our turn. Using this exercise, take your latest manuscript and quickly distill your book down to one or two sentences.

Faith was looking for a one-night stand. What she got was an otherworldly hunk determined to make her his sex slave.

Dorothy McFalls/Dorothy St. James
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  1. Great two sentences to start with. Thanks for taking it to the basics.

  2. You're welcome. I learned about this exercise from a workshop years and years ago. Wish I'd written down who'd said it. It's been invaluable to me when I needed to figure out what my story is really about. As you know can sometimes that can be hard to do for a writer who can't see the story for the words. :-)

  3. I may be a little late, but I must also thank you for posting such a concise method for helping with the blurb-and not just that, but to see the real story you are telling. I used this on a story I am working on to clear my vision with it, and it has totally rejuvenated my original idea. Brilliantly helpful!!

    And Flowerbed of State sounds fabulous, intriguing premise for a mystery/thriller!! Will check that out come May 3rd. ;)