Blurb writing is difficult. But once you know the five steps, you have a chance at crafting something effective. See Writing Blurbs I: Five (Not So Easy) Steps.
I’m using my just-released The Hard Bargain as a before-and-after example.
Blurb Writing: Before
Here’s what I wrote before attending Kristin Wallace‘s blurb writing workshop last month:
An old-fashioned clause in the Wexler corporate documents requires Arthur to either get married within the year or forfeit his inheritance. Upon being ambushed by his aunt and the company lawyers with the news the clause will be invoked, he acts as if he has everything in control. He calmly assures his aunt he’ll bring his fiancée to the next family dinner.
Now he has to scramble. With the help of his best friend – a theater producer – Arthur hires Carla Pereira, a talented but currently unemployed actress, to play his fiancée-for-a-day. Carla performs perfectly, but real life doesn’t come with a script, and Arthur and Carla have to adapt to unforeseen circumstances.
When one simple dinner turns into an invitation for Carla to join the family on a week-long Caribbean cruise, the question becomes: How long can Arthur keep up the charade before the lines start to blur between acting and real feelings?
Blurb Writing: During
At the workshop Kristen gave us 5 imperatives for writing our blurbs:
Introduce your main characters.
Know your characters’ goals, motivations and conflicts.
Identify the romantic tension.
Hint at the big reveal / deep, dark secret.
End with a hook.
Blurb Writing: After
Here’s what I rewrote after attending the workshop:
New York billionaire Arthur Wexler needs a faux fiancée for one Sunday afternoon and one afternoon only. Actor Carla Pereira happily accepts a hefty paycheck for a few hours work. However, she plays her part so well that her role unexpectedly gets an extended run: it now includes a week-long Caribbean cruise on the Wexler yacht with friends and family.
Carla’s no dummy. She knows that, as a poor girl from Hoboken, she’ll never land a permanent part in the Wexler family cast. So, she does her best not to fall in love with Arthur on the cruise – and mostly succeeds – but now she’s back in the real world and attending to the broken pieces of her miserable family life.
Arthur is surprised when Carla ghosts him, and he now has to confront his own feelings. When he does, he realizes he has to figure out a way to track down the woman whose stage name is Carla Pereira.
Even if he can find her and establish a relationship, there’s still the pesky matter of what to say about the hoax Arthur and Carla perpetrated on the Wexler family when they first introduced her by a completely different name.
So, just who is this Carla person, and what is she hiding?
Blurb Writing: What Changed?
In the first version I introduced Arthur and identified his motives, but I skated by Carla and her possible motives. That left me with: i) a complete blank for one of the two major characters; and b) a lazy hook. The ol’ will-acting-turn-into-true-feelings? trope is pretty trite. Yes, the story turns on the trope but this doesn’t mean it should show up in the blurb.
By making Carla herself the central mystery in the second version, I (hopefully):
#1. Justify why I don’t make her motivations more explicit;
#2. Hint at a deep, dark secret; and
#3. Make her mystery the appropriate hook.
I also twigged to the fact that the term ‘actress’ is outdated. So I swapped it for ‘actor,’ which is now used for both men and women.
Blurb Writing: FYI
Blurbs comes in three lengths for different purposes:
200 words for the back cover of a book;
50 words for social media posts, paid ads and postcards;
15 words for a teaser.
My first version was 153 words, so neither here nor there length-wise. My second version is better with 211 words.
The 50-word version might be:
An old-fashioned clause in the Wexler corporate documents requires Arthur to either get married within the year or forfeit his inheritance. Arthur hires Carla Pereira, a talented actor, to play his fiancée-for-a-day. When Carla’s gig gets an unexpected and unwelcome longer run, the faux happy couple quickly discover that life doesn’t come with a script.
Arthur Wexler needs a faux fiancée. Actor Carla Pereira needs the gig. It’s for one Sunday afternoon only…. What could go wrong?
This post was written by Julie Tetel Andresen