Blurb! Excuse me. – A New Blurb Exercise for W.I.P. “The Water Castle”

I'm not sure I know what a blurb is...
I’m not sure I know what a blurb is…

What’s in a blurb?

EVERYTHING.

In December 2013, Digital Book World’s Beth Bacon posted “4 Easy Steps To An Irresistible Book Blurb.”

Today I’m going to walk through the steps to see if I can create an irresistible blurb for my newest story, a fantasy Work In Progress called The Water Castle.

Remember, your eBook is largely an impulse buy. The cover image has to be compelling enough for potential readers to click on the blurb, and the blurb has to be a good enough mini ad to get them to buy.

Well, maybe that last one...
Sure, I’m not busy.

First, let’s walk through the steps, then let’s have some fun and think up ideas for an attractive cover that captures the essence of the story – and sells it to readers.

According to Bacon – love saying that – we begin at the beginning. (Her words and summaries are in bold)

(1) Situation. Every story has to start somewhere, with some people in some sort of circumstances. Describe them simply here.

Gina is a 15-year old with her life planned out. She takes advanced placement classes with designs on graduating high school early, leaving Tampa, zipping through UCLA medical school and starting her real life. She has a few close friends but other than saving the world through medicine, she has no real direction – a fact that worries her workaholic, out of touch mother.

(2) Problem. Every story (every interesting one, anyway) has some sort of hitch that either makes that situation untenable or makes change inevitable. This part of the description often starts with the word, “But…” or “However…” or “Until…”

On the 10th anniversary of the death of her father, Gina skips school to visit an old stone water tower near a park he once took her to. Although she has ridden her bike past it many times, she becomes strangely drawn to it.

(3) Hopeful possibility. Here’s the potential to overcome the crisis. This “cool thing” or “longshot opportunity” makes your audience want to read your story. Yes, the situation (above) seems doomed by the problem (above). Still, there’s hope because of this new twist. Parts 1, 2, and 3, if concisely written, together create the drama that propels the story.

Inside the tower, she discovers a strange well that acts as a portal, taking her back 400 years to a time when then Spanish were settling Florida, and a new settlement is being built on the grounds of what will become the city of Tampa. When the castle is complete, it is to become a palace and home to the prince, as Spain looks to set up European-style royalty throughout the Americas. Each afternoon, Gina visits the old world, and each evening she comes home in time for dinner, never letting the two worlds know of the other’s existence. She even becomes friends with a water maiden, an apprentice to one of the prince’s advisors. As Gina spends more and more time in Old Florida, she learns that what she does there affects things in modern times. A poem she writes for the prince in 1600 appears in her history book back in 2016!

(4) Mood, tone or spirit of the story. Finally, readers want to know what kind of emotional state they’re going to get into while they’re reading this book. Is it a dark, dystopian tragedy or humorous chick lit cotton candy? This is where you set the tone and clinch the deal, turning browsers into buyers.

Reading ahead in class, she sees a looming plague that will kill millions – unless she can stop the prince from returning to Spain and inadvertently taking the terrible disease with him. As time is running out, her secret world is discovered. Gina’s friends and Aunt Sam try to visit, only to be captured by the Spanish army, who believe them to be witches – and intend to burn them at the stake. As Gina works through her connections to persuade the prince, she finds herself falling for him and wondering which world she really belongs in – and whether she should abandon the life she knew and stay in 1600’s Florida, saving millions of lives but instantly becoming dead for centuries to everyone she ever knew, and forever leaving the mother she always hoped to reconnect with.

I can cut it down!
I can cut it down!

The next things Bacon recommends are:

  1. Make it short. Internet book buyers don’t have a lot of time.
  2. Make it dramatic. Readers want tension in a blurb. If your blurb doesn’t hook your readers, they’re going to assume your book won’t hook them either.

You need to compel your visitor to buy. Don’t tell them everything, just the dramatic core of the story.

So there’s our new, big, fat blurb of about 400 words, which we will now dissect and distill, line by line, into shorter blurb filled (hopefully) with TENSION and DRAMA and BUYABILITY:

15-year old Gina takes advanced placement classes with plans to graduate early, leave Tampa, zip through UCLA medical school, and start her real life. She has a few close friends but other than saving the world through medicine, she has no real direction – a fact that worries her workaholic mother. (Old word count for this paragraph: 63, new word count: 50)

On the 10th anniversary of her father’s death, Gina skips school to visit an old stone water tower near a park he once took her to. Although she has ridden her bike past it many times, she becomes strangely drawn to it. (Old: 44, new 42)

Inside, she discovers a portal that takes her back 400 years to a new Spanish settlement that will become Tampa. Spain intends to establish European-style palaces and royalty throughout the Americas. Each afternoon, Gina visits the old Florida, coming home in time for dinner, never letting the two worlds know of the other’s existence. She befriends an apprentice to the young prince’s advisors and learns that what she does there affects things in modern times. A poem she writes for the prince in 1600 appears in her history book back in 2016! (154/ 92)

Reading ahead in class, she sees a looming plague that will kill millions – unless she can stop the prince from returning to Spain and inadvertently taking the terrible disease with him. As time is running out, her secret world is discovered. Gina’s friends follow her through the portal and are captured by the Spanish army – who intend to execute them as witches. As Gina works to help her friends and persuade the prince, she finds herself falling for him and wondering which world she really belongs in. Should she abandon the life she knew and stay in 1600’s Florida, saving millions of lives but instantly becoming dead for centuries to everyone she ever knew, and forever leaving the mother she always hoped to reconnect with? (135/ 124)

You rocked it!
You rocked it!

Old blurb total: 396 (which wasn’t bad, really)

New blurb total: 308, or about 22% shorter with basically the same message.

Now, the questions: is the blurb GRIPPING? Does it have DRAMA? TENSION? What would you do to increase the tension?

And more importantly, what would the cover of this book look like?

.

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

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Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Check out his other works HERE.

11 thoughts on “Blurb! Excuse me. – A New Blurb Exercise for W.I.P. “The Water Castle”

  1. Reblogged this on Andrea M Alexander and commented:
    I used to think my novel was the most difficult thing to write and edit. Now, after going through a dozen drafts for a blurb, I’ve come to the conclusion that this really short piece of writing is even more difficult to perfect! Thanks to Dan for this helpful article!

    Liked by 1 person

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