My apologies to anyone who received repeated posts on E. Pauline Johnson. This website has been the victim of some malicious hacker. The nasties were too deep to clean, so we had to rebuild the whole site. My techie assures me it now safe. Why are there so many evil-doers in the world and what benefit do they gain from turning innocent people’s lives upside down, not to mention the cost! Okay, enough rant. On to writing business.
Recently I attended a workshop on writing the back cover blurb to your story. The instructor was the fabulous Shelley Adina Sneft Bates – she writes under all those names –and the worksheet looked straightforward.
To begin she told us to write a “shout line.” That’s the line that goes at the top of your back blurb, maybe on your website or advertising copy. It’s a single sentence that intrigues the reader and suggests something about the story.
I’m no good at summarizing a whole book into one line, but my attempt, “You’ll need a rifle,” said the preacher, Received applause and a big thumbs up. I felt pretty good.
The first paragraph of the blurb on a romance novel is supposed to talk about the heroine, the second paragraph introduces the hero and the third paragraph provides the setting and the conflict and a hook. All in about 200 words.
At this point I moved from star pupil to bottom of the class. My effort had the group asking all kinds of questions that had nothing to do with my story, so my blurb must have been misleading. Also, my story contains a love triangle, so I didn’t want to introduce only one hero on the back blurb, that would be a spoiler. I want to reader to wonder “whom will she chose?” I felt pretty dumb.
Was the problem my ability to write a back blurb, or was it the story itself? I have plenty of angst over my writing without any help from “my friends.”
The drive home over a mountain road in a torrential rainstorm cleared my head! While trying not to hydroplane or cross the invisible lane markings or have a panic attack, I mentally worked on my back blurb. By the time I got home, I was much happier with it. Not only that, I’m happier with my story.
So, two lessons learned. One is an old lesson I seem to need repeated at frequent intervals. Namely, I cannot wedge my story into someone else’s pattern. Those charts and headings and “musts” paralyze my brain, and I feel imprisoned by the boxes. I know this, I just forget when confronted by a shiny new template.
Second lesson learned, the exercise of writing a back cover blurb even before the book is finished serves as a tool to clarify the plot and the story question. With those two points clearly in mind the writing and editing process is faster and more effective.
Oh, third lesson: read the weather forecast before committing to driving that road!