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The Busy Author’s Guide to Writing Blurbs: A Step by Step Manual Part 1

I’ve been in the publishing business for a few years now, and I’ve come to one, undeniable, unarguable conclusion: writers are insane. Loco. Crazy. What else explains our need to take a question like “What if a woman fell in love with her neighbour?” turn it into a story worth a few thousand words, then break the whole thing down to a two-hundred word blurb? Insanity, I tell you…insanity with a colourful blend of masochism, despair, and crazy optimism (with a nice merlot to compliment the complex mixture and bring out the delicate yet fragrant tone of persistence).

Blurbs. It’s no coincidence the word sounds a lot like “blerg” and reminds me of the same sound you make when throwing up. Six letters: b-l-u-r-b-s that can send the most stoic writer racing for the safe comfort of a dark, quiet corner. Goodness knows, just the thought of having to write one makes me want to crawl under the desk and stuff chocolate like an unhinged chipmunk.

Blurbs are intimidating. Just how does one take an eight-thousand or eighty-thousand-word story and condense it into a two-hundred word paragraph that will entice readers? I mean, without including the sentence “read this book and I’ll pay you one hundred dollars!”

After months of research (by which I mean drank a lot, read a lot, and found a myriad of ways I could convince my husband that chocolate was a food group, and worthy of being a breakfast meal), I realized really good blurbs have a formula…of sorts. Sorry, guys, no easy answers, but thankfully, there are some cheat sheets.

To make this as easy as possible, we’ll break it into three parts.

PART ONE: WHAT IS THE MAIN PLOT OF YOUR STORY?

In writing a blurb, an author need to answer six questions: What does the main character want/what is the status quo? How does it change? How does it get worse? How does the character try to fix it? How does the character’s actions in question #4 make things worse? What is at stake for the character?

So, let’s take the questions, one at a time, and use one of my stories Love in Miami, as the example. Got your pen and paper? Good. Let’s do this together. I’ve put notes under the questions to help you figure out the answer you need.

1) What does the main character want/what is the status quo?

(note to author: you need to set up the jumping point for the story, to ground the reader in “life as-is” so they have a sense of “what life may be.”)

Angel Baxter wants some peace and quiet from the constant bickering of her nana and their next-door neighbour.

2) How does it change?

(note to author: change for the better—remember, story is about conflict. This is the perceived high point, from which the poor character’s life will turn into a roller-coaster and readers will happily strap in for the ride.)

The neighbor’s super-hot grandson, Harry Garret, shows up. Now, Angel has a potential ally, and if she’s lucky, a date for Saturday night.

3) How does it get worse?

(note to author: this is where is starts going bad. Enter the conflict.)

Neither Nana or Harry’s grandfather is willing to budge or say sorry.

4) How does the character try to fix it?

(note to author: your character wants to get back to the way life was at question one or two. They want to fix the problem.)

She and Harry make plans to go out together and come up with a way to bring the feuding seniors together.

5) How does the character’s decision in question #4 make things worse?

(note to author: ramp up the conflict. Think about the crisis that befalls the character just before the story climax. What happens?)

Before Angel and Harry can broker a date, let alone a peace treaty, Angel’s nana decides to sprinkle environmentally unfriendly fertilizer all over the neighbour’s lawn. This, of course, completely irritates Harry and doesn’t bode well for Angel ever getting a date.

6) What is at stake for the character?

(note to author: here’s the crux of the story, and here’s your chance to tell readers why they should care. What is the big loss, the heartbreak waiting?)

At the start of the story, the only thing at stake was Angel’s peace of mind. Now, she’s about to lose a super cute guy AND her sanity.

Thanks to the questions, we now have the following framework for our story blurb: Angel Baxter wants some peace and quiet from the constant bickering of her nana and their next-door neighbour. The neighbour’s super-hot grandson, Harry Garret, shows up. Now, Angel has a potential ally, and if she’s lucky, a date for Saturday night. [But] Neither Nana or Harry’s grandfather is willing to budge or say sorry. She [Angel] and Harry make plans to go out together and come up with a way to bring the feuding seniors together. Before Angel and Harry can broker a date, let alone a peace treaty, Angel’s nana decides to sprinkle environmentally unfriendly fertilizer all over the neighbour’s lawn. This, of course, completely irritates Harry and doesn’t bode well for Angel ever getting a date. At the start of the story, the only thing at stake was Angel’s peace of mind. Now, she’s about to lose a super cute guy AND her sanity.

Now...on to Part 2.

About Bronwyn Storm

Bronwyn Storm

Bronwyn Storm is a super-hero in training—hey, one day being a klutz will be a superpower…if she doesn’t break anything vital in the meantime. When not tripping over her feet, she writes for The Wild Rose Press and plays butler and cuddler to her furry boys.

Check out her website www.bronwynstorm.com and drop her a line, she could use the excuse to stop petting the dogs and cats.