summing up: the synopsis and blurb

One of the most difficult steps in publishing for me is writing the blurb. (When you’re playing with the big boys, I’m sure there’s a staff to do just that. With a small press, it’s up to the authors.) I found a good article on synopsis writing years ago that I still refer to: How I Eat – er, write – a Synopsis by Victoria J. Coe. (Unfortunately the domain has expired or I’d link to the article. I have a copy stashed away in my OneNote files for reference.) 
The main points are these:

The first thing I do when writing a synopsis is sum up the whole story in one paragraph.

* Begin by telling the entire plot in one sentence.
* Next, explain the main character’s motivation in one or two sentences.
* Then summarize the “middle” of the story and climax in one or two sentences.
* Finally, tell how the main character grows or what he learns as a result of his experiences.
* Of course, if you can combine any of these points, by all means do!

Skip a line, and dive right in to the plot outline. Think of your story in three major sections:
* Beginning – Main character’s motivation is established and basic plot is set up
* Middle – Main character faces obstacles, which build to a climax
* End – Climax is resolved.

The beginning, climax and ending will take up most of the synopsis, with less weight given to the middle:
* Reveal your beginning in two or three paragraphs, leaving off with your plot clearly set.
* For the middle, lead with an introductory sentence, then encapsulate your major plot points as bullets, leading up to the climax. Take two or three paragraphs to describe the climax and twists.
* Finally, tell how the story is resolved in one or two paragraphs.

A blurb is similar, but you don’t want to reveal the entire plot! I use the synopsis as a jumping-off point for the blurb, but it takes some judicious editing to tell the story without spoiling the ending or giving away too much. The blurb is supposed to make the reader want to see how it ends, so you don’t want to tip your hand. (Even if, due to genre, the reader has a general idea of how it will end: with the killer caught, the lovers united, or the dragon slain.)

The hard part, for me, is finding the balance between selling the story and revealing too much. Since this story is part of a series, I want to tell long-time readers that they’re about to get what they’ve been waiting for, but I don’t want to alienate new readers, of course. And I want to hint at the climax without spelling it out.

So, the structure of a blurb should be something like:

* The characters
* The circumstances
* The conflict

Oh, hey. The three Cs of blurb-writing. How about that.

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