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Musings April 2008

April 2008 Musings Column


This month, a new Muse Marquee contest is announced here. It’s the Musings contest, Blurb It! Wasn’t that the name of last year’s contest? Yes, it was so successful, I’ve decided to hold it again. Because of the contest, I thought it might be timely to discuss what a blurb is, and how to write one.



Advice to a Blurber



Have you ever watched people browsing in a bookstore? Most of them turn to the back cover of the book they pluck from a shelf, and read the blurb. A great blurb can lead to a sale.


What is a blurb? The Free Online Dictionary defines Blurb as:  “A brief publicity notice, as on a book jacket.” That doesn’t help much when a writer wants guidance in how to write one.


In that same spirit of not helping, here’s what a blurb isn’t. It’s not a synopsis or summary of the whole plot. It walks the line between giving a concise description of the main plot points, and not giving too much away. Its purpose is to entice a reader to buy. It usually does this in around 250 words. 


How do you condense tens of thousands of words into a couple of fascinating paragraphs?


Look at other blurbs. (Amazon is a great resource for this.) How have other writers, or their publishers, created a blurb? Can you reduce blurbs to a formula? What features do they have in common? Are there any words or types of words you think work well? Record them for future reference.


A study of four blurbs from my current reading list reveals that all are written in the present tense, and start with the main character’s name. There is:

  • “Job is a farmer who sees colour in sound.”(A Rhinestone Button by Gail Anderson-Dargatz)
  • “Pup Morgan is a radical surfer.”(Board Shorts by Margaret Clark.)
  • “Elena Michaels is a wanted woman.”(Stolen by Kelley Armstrong)
  • Carlton is an android…” (The Road to Mars by Eric Idle)


The blurb of a memoir on my list is different. It starts with a description: “The extraordinary and moving true story of a modern girl trapped in a gentler age…” (Too Close to the Falls, a Memoir by Catherine Gildiner)


Some blurbs include quotes from reviews. Some list awards. The most intriguing ones seem to give just enough about the main character and her/his place in the plot, before asking a question about a crucial plot moment. Can Isobelle defeat the evil Dr Death and find true love with Hamish McBlurt? Can Ichabod find his way through the maze at Castle Haunt and rescue Granny Greywhiskers? Others use an ellipsis to indicate the reader must find out by reading the book. Dr Death doesn’t know about Isobelle’s black belt in shopping and that’s a very big mistake… Finding Granny Greywhiskers is just the first of Ichabod’s challenges...


What market are you writing for? There are subtle differences between genres in blurbs, so make sure you check out the ones in your own genre.


The language and the voice you use for the blurb must reflect the one you used in the book. Not only do blurbs give information about the characters and their conflict, they also give a hint as to the flavour of your book.


There are no wasted words in any of the blurbs I’ve seen. The fluff’s been edited out. I found few adjectives and fewer adverbs. What was left was the essence of the story, the sorts of things you would tell a friend if you wanted them to read the book, but didn’t want to give away too much.


Some writers believe you should write the blurb before your novel or story. Randy Ingermanson advocates just that in his Snowflake method.     

( )

It’s a great way to clarify your thinking about your writing and to ensure you have crucial plot elements in place.


Whenever you write your blurb, don’t forget it will pay dividends to you as a writer. Use that enticing beginning when you’re interviewed on Oprah. Condense your blurb even further and practise it for when you meet all those agents in elevators who ask what your book is about. And, of course, enter it into the Musings contest, due May 25. Find out all the details here.




Quote of the Month


“We read to know we are not alone.” From the movie “Shadowlands”, based on the life of C.S.Lewis.




Have you been to these sites?


2008-9 Commonwealth Short Story Competition

1st Prize: 2,000

Entries are now invited for the 2008-9 Commonwealth Short Story Competition. There is no entry fee or form.

Deadline : 1 May, 2008.




On the Premises Contest



One or more characters *unexpectedly* find one or
more physical objects somewhere. Something about the object(s) raises questions that the characters want answered.

Your challenge: In at least 1,000 but no more than 5,000 words, write a creative, compelling, and well-crafted story that clearly uses the premise. If you aren’t sure whether your idea fits our premise, you can ask us at

11:59 PM Eastern Time, Saturday, May 31, 2008.


One Great Joke Contest

Prizes: 1st prize $100, 2nd Prize $50, 3rd Prize $25,

Entry Fee: None

Deadline: June 15, 2008


Chicken Soup


Stories about getting into college
amazing statistic is that there are over three million high school seniors who graduate each year and more than half of them apply to college. There are many books published that tell you how to get into college but this book will be different. This book will be the one that provides emotional support to both students and their parents. The deadline date for story submissions is June 30, 2008.

Stories about high school
The high school years are some of the most difficult but, at the same time, some of the best. You will be able to relate to and learn from the stories in this book. They will make you laugh, make you cry and let you know that others are having the same experiences in high school that you are. You are not alone. The deadline for story submissions is
June 30, 2008.

Stories about middle school
The years in middle school can be tough and wonderful - all at the same time. There are so many changes going on and so many things to deal with. The stories in this book will be about the issues going on in your life - the things that you deal with everyday - and they will inspire you. The deadline for story submissions is
June 30, 2008.

Until next month, write on!