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Penguinball

Synopsis/Blurb Resources?

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Hello All! We are looking to do a synopsis and blurb writing workshop, where we would write up a synopsis and/or blurb, and have others critique it. To that end, I am looking for your best resources on how to actually WRITE a synopsis and/or blurb. Got any good blog posts? Links? Personal explanations? Share them here!

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Honestly, the best advice I can give for writing a blurb is to read the blurbs on your bookshelf to get a feel for what they include and how they are structured.

I thought it would be interesting to look at two popular novels and analyze their blurbs. The first is A Game of Thrones, book 1 in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. This isn't actually from the back cover, but from the inside sleeve. The back cover just has author citations. The blurb on the sleeve consists of 3 large paragraphs, but the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs are marketing summaries and not part of what would be included in a back cover blurb, so I'll just include the 1st paragraph.

Quote

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister forces are massing beyond the kingdom's protective Wall. To the south, the king's powers are failing: his most trusted advisor dead under mysterious circumstances and his enemies emerging from the shadows of the throne. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the frozen land they were born to. Now Lord Eddard Stark is reluctantly summoned to serve as the king's new Hand, an appointment that threatens to sunder not only his family but the kingdom itself.

Most stories have one character who is more important than the others. Game of Thrones has one family that is more important than the others, but the concept is the same. Whomever your most important character is (if you have one), your blurb should probably focus on that character. Odds are that this is the character who will be introduced first in your story.

The first two sentences give us the setting, while the third introduces the threat of the White Walkers. The fourth sentence introduces the human threats. In the fifth sentence, we are finally introduced to the most important family and the key member of that family (the one who will be most directly involved in the inciting incident). The last sentence gives us the inciting incident, gives us the stakes, and provides a hook.

The blurb for The Way of Kings. the first book in Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive, looks very different. If you've read the book, you know that there are three separate characters, each with their own story line, plus other characters who get POV time. In this case, there is no "most important character". It's really like 3 separate books all in the same world, with all of the stories being tied together at various points. The blurb has been written to account for this.

Quote

 

I long for the days before the Last Desolation. 

The age before the Heralds abandoned us and the Knights Radiant turned against us. A time when there was still magic in the world and honor in the hearts of men.

The world became ours, and we lost it. Nothing, it appears, is more challenging to the souls of men than victory itself.

Or was that victory an illusion all along? Did our enemies realize that the harder they fought, the stronger we resisted? Perhaps they saw that the heat and the hammer only make for a better grade of sword. But ignore the steel long enough, and it will eventually rust away.

There are four whom we watch. The first is the surgeon, forced to put aside healing to become a soldier in the most brutal war of our time. The second is the assassin, a murderer who weeps as he kills. The third is the liar, a young woman who wears a scholars mantle over the heart of a thief. The last is the highprince, a warlord whose eyes have opened to the past as his thirst for battle wanes.

The world can change. Surgebinding and Shardwielding can return; the magics of ancient days can become ours again. These four people are key. 

One of them may redeem us.

And one of them will destroy us.

This blurb doesn't focus on the inciting incident (there is more than 1). Instead, it gives us some history of this world, while providing a high level view of the conflicts to come. Each character (the 3 main ones and the assassin who starts the story) only gets one sentence, but they are very effective. The surgeon who had to become a soldier. The assassin who doesn't want to kill. The scholar who is a thief. And lastly, the warrior who no longer wants to fight.

Notice how the last 2 sentences give us the stakes and provide a hook for the story. The ending should always be the hook.

The blurbs are different, yet they both accomplish the same things. If you can write a blurb that introduces your world and characters to the reader, and hooks the reader into buying/reading your story, it has done its job. Take a look at the books on your shelves and read the blurbs. You'll see that they all do basically the same things, though not always in the same way. 

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That's a great suggestion @Banespawn! We could do this for the first part of our synopsis/blurb challenge, each of us share what it says on the back of our favourite book, and discuss what makes them work.

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17 minutes ago, Penguinball said:

That's a great suggestion @Banespawn! We could do this for the first part of our synopsis/blurb challenge, each of us share what it says on the back of our favourite book, and discuss what makes them work.

Another thing you can do is write blurbs for your favorite books, then go and read the blurbs for those books and see how they compare. 

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43 minutes ago, Penguinball said:

That's a great suggestion @Banespawn! We could do this for the first part of our synopsis/blurb challenge, each of us share what it says on the back of our favourite book, and discuss what makes them work.

I dig this. When do we start?

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I have an entire book on blurbs and how to write them depending on the story. It's called "How to Write Fiction Sales Copy". It's pretty good. I found some of them not as usable in a fantasy fiction setting, but they have been pretty good to use for my books. Those looking to write their own wouldn't hurt to pick this up.

 

Roh

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1 hour ago, jdvollans said:

I dig this. When do we start?

We are looking to do this in August as the monthly writing challenge as something different. Still hashing out details but I'm thinking the first week, we would discuss blurbs from our favorite books and what makes a blurb, then second week write our own and start exchanging them, critique and improve the rest of the month. Then submit the final product at end of the month.

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