Last week my post was on writing flash fiction. Today I'm going to share some tips on synopsis writing, otherwise known as blurbs. You know, that pesky paragraph or two that goes on the back of a book? Hated by authors all over the universe. Unlike flash fiction, these aren't optional if you're headed down the author path. So the less miserable they make you, the better.
I actually love writing blurbs. To me, it's highly satisfying to make a book sound super exciting and all dramatic in a few short phrases. That doesn't mean it's always easy, though.
Tips to keep in mind
I always thought they needed to be as short as possible, but several well-loved authors I know getting published through big traditional publishers have super long blurbs ... like four+ paragraphs or just really long. So maybe length is personal taste. And my personal taste is short. ;) Mainly because I think being concise is important.
As I'm sure you know, the ultimate goal of a synopsis is to make someone read (or buy) the book. This means it has to be engaging and provide a "hook" that's unavoidable.
Of course, if it's not someone's genre or what have you, there may be only so much you can do. This is not about making false promises! If you give the wrong impression, you're setting yourself up for one-star reviews. But you do want to pose a problem or a "what if" that will appeal to people who read comparable books, which is why many blurbs end in a question.
Something lots of new blurb writers struggle with is the fact that it feels like you're giving spoilers. That's because you are. Often there's one vital piece of information revealed in the first few chapters that needs to go in the back matter to set up the story and the drama of the real revelation in the book. Trust me, it's a small worthwhile sacrifice to make and no one will mind.
So the real dilemma always becomes what do you tell? Only the pertinent details. Again, you're setting up the story. They don't need to know a bunch of names, places, eye color, or distant relatives yet. They'll get that throughout the first few chapters when they decided to start the book. The main character's name, role, where it's set, and whether or not God's a character would all be good things to include.
Ultimately, all those details to keep in mind make my process look something like this:
- Sentence 1: short and punchy introduction to the main character
- Sentences 2-3: set up the story with those pertinent environmental details
- Sentences 3-4: give the moment that changes everything
Paragraph Two (if there's a second main character or entity)
- Sentence 1: short and punchy introduction to the secondary character/entity
- Sentences 2-3: paint the scene for this character again with pertinent details
- Sentences 3-4: show how this character relates to the first *optional* (some people prefer not to connect those dots until later in the story depending on how it's told!)
Paragraph Three (this will be paragraph two if there isn't a second main thing to introduce)
- Sentences 1-2: state what begins to happen and what must or does happen as a result (fear, sacrifice)
- Sentences 2-3: present the dilemma this poses for the character (often a question)
I hope that's helpful as a basic formula, but don't let it restrict you. I didn't use the formula to write my published blurbs (it just fits them). I did use it on the bonus blurb below. :)
Here are the blurbs I have for my published books to exemplify that process.
Martin Hospitality (132 words)
Gemma Ebworthy is eighteen, pregnant, and alone. Now that she's been evicted, she finds herself sleeping in a barn, never dreaming that tomorrow could bring kindness of a life-changing magnitude.
The Martins aren't a typical family--even for rural Kansas. With more kids than can be counted on one hand and a full-time farm, Gemma must make a lot of adjustments to fit in. But despite their many differences, Gemma finds herself drawn to this family and their radical Christian faith.
When Gemma's past collides with her yet again, she must begin revealing her colorful history. With every detail Gemma concedes, she fears she will lose the Martins' trust and the stable environment she desires for herself and her unborn child. Just how far can the Martins' love and God's forgiveness go?
Andora's Folly (99 words)
A Pandora's Box retelling
Andora is a beautiful young woman with insatiable curiosity. Raised in splendor, she is spoiled by her privileged life. When a love letter is slid under her door, her life takes a drastically unromantic turn. Nothing makes sense—her arranged marriage, the gifts her parents bestow on her wedding day, or her new husband’s temperament.
As Andora begins to unravel the mysteries around her, she ignites a chain of events that have the power to sabotage her entire village forever. Only her new-found wisdom as a desperate peasant's wife can save her from her folly.
Both of those blurbs give away the entire first chapter, but they work! There are lots of optional goodies as well, like a log line, quote, descriptor (like with Andora's Folly), or even an editorial review. However, I think all of that is mere icing on the cake. The synopsis has to stand on its own.
You can do it! Those are not first drafts. I wrote and rewrote them, sent them to a trusted friend or two (who have good blurbs), and rewrote them again. Don't be afraid to revise! The synopsis for Andora's Folly underwent a total rewrite because I removed one chapter, thus changing the whole crux of the book. #oops
And just for fun, I'm sharing the brand new blurb for Martin Crossroads, subject to change of course! WARNING: contains mild spoilers for book 1.
Martin Crossroads (130 words)
Gemma Ebworthy won't be a single mother for much longer. Engaged to a man she's convinced she doesn't deserve, her new life with a husband, Savior, and growing family is only the beginning of her journey forward.
Farris grows up under pressures stemmed from his own conception. Fighting to exceed his mother's expectations, he finds a fast friend in his adoptive father. Yet the differences between him and his siblings continue to cause a rift in his heart.
With each development in the new Martin family's farm life, they must learn to overcome the past together. And when the past reappears in a form Gemma never thought possible, her trust in God and in her son will be tested. What will it take to bring them through the crossroad?
I sincerely hope that will be of help! Come back to leave your success stories!! On a scale of 1 to hellfire, how much do you hate writing a synopsis? If you're interested in some help, I charge a flat rate of $10 for a synopsis edit.
Once again, sign up for the newsletter in the sidebar to see the Martin Hospitality prequel flash fic in your inbox next week!
Speaking of my books, I'm participating in a Christmas in July event with a bunch of writer friends! My portion will be on July 28, but check out other stops along the way for individual giveaways and bonus ways to enter the really large giveaway (international option as well)! There's all kinds of Christmassy stuff going on to give you a break from the heat with a good read.
Have a great Independence Day!