potential reader sees when shopping online for books.
At its most basic, the blurb is supposed to be a teaser, a 50 to 100 word lure to get readers interested in reading the other 60,000 to 70,000 words in the novel. And that’s precisely where it breaks down for me. In the math. I simply struggle to distill 60,000 carefully chosen words and phrases that I’ve poured into a novel into what amounts to a sound bite. When I sit down to write blurbs, they a) come out superficial, b) give away too much of the story, or c) both. Here’s why.
My stories aim to get readers engaged with the characters. That’s hard to capture in a blurb. How does one get a reader emotionally invested in 100 words? I see where the blurb works in an action story: U.S. and Soviet intelligence agents race to locate a Soviet submarine as it attempts to defect to the west and bring with it a trove of military intelligence. Or maybe: Man-eating shark stalks idyllic
New England town and scares the bejesus out of its residents. But in a character driven story? Not so easy.
I also hate giving away any of the story. There’s no double standard here. I feel the same way when I’m reading. I don’t want to know before beginning the Hunger Games that Katniss will be forced to represent District 12 in a brutal game created for the amusement of the Capitol. I don’t want to know that the guests invited to the island mansion in And Then There Were None are going to get killed one by one. That doesn’t leave much uncertainty about what’s going to happen next until pretty darn close to the end of the book. Unless something is going to happen on page one, I just don't want to
know about it before I start reading.
As a writer, I feel like I've made every scene in the story important, every word, every utterance. Okay, so maybe that’s a bit overstated. But still, I'm supposed to filter this thing down to 100 words?
I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I’ve spent hours and hours working and reworking my blurbs.
At times, it feels more difficult than writing the book itself.
So with this background, I am presenting to you the two blurbs for The Book of Sylvia that I finally decided were good enough to see the light of day. The first is the original, and the second is the new and improved version. Or is it the other way around?
Under suspicion of abetting a robbery, London streetwalker Sylvia Smith doesn’t know where to turn. Frightened and alone, she arrives on the steps of St. Alban’s church, where she meets Father
Christopher Fosberry, a priest consumed with self-doubt as he struggles to resurrect his dying church. Together they set out to recover the stolen money, following a cryptic clue whispered to Sylvia by her client as he was taken into custody. They quickly find themselves drawn toward one another by a mutual sense of despair and a desire to help the other. But Sylvia soon discovers that the more she guides the priest, the deeper she drives a wedge between the man and the church.
Unwittingly pulled into a high profile crime by her client, London call girl Sylvia Smith doesn’t know where to turn. Frightened and alone, she seeks solace at a rural church, where she meets Father Christopher, a priest consumed with his own set of struggles. Father Christopher takes her in,
reluctantly, but is soon drawn into Sylvia’s obsession with the cryptic message that the client left behind. In this journey of self-discovery cloaked in a mystery, Sylvia and the priest grapple with the police, their demons, and temptation.
Let me know what you think!