Although I like to consider myself a rather good author, there’s a few things about the writing process that I’m just not very good at…one is giving titles to things. If I actually sit down and try to come up with a title, I find myself trying to fit way too much of an idea into a few simple words and the whole thing becomes rather bulky. I typically find myself giving up altogether and going with one of the first random things that popped into my head, usually something that I had for the title while writing the thing.
However, the other item, the one that tends to cause me the most trouble, is the blurb. First, I really don’t have a word or phrase I like to use for it. Blurb, although probably the most accurate, just seems like a non-word…similar to blog or burble or a number of other words that I just have a hard time taking seriously…but that’s getting off point.
In order to have a book, you have to have a blurb. In fact, some might say that between a blurb and a cover, there’s actually very little else that needs to be of any concern with a book…those two items alone, if done well, should bring sales.
So…you can imagine the anxiety I feel as I attempt to sum up my work into a few short paragraphs that make the thing appear interesting, without giving away any of its secrets, whilst also trying to show off how brilliant I am without appearing haughty…
Now, I don’t want you to think I’m complaining here. Sure, it’s probably my least favorite part of putting a book together, but that’s merely because I just haven’t mastered the art yet…I’m hoping it comes along some day. I had always hoped to find some big publisher that would hire someone talented in the art to put the thing together for me (I don’t even know if that’s an actual thing…just was my dream).
So…since I’m working on wrapping up all the final pieces of my zombie novella, Daddy of the Dead, I figured I’d take you all through my process of writing a blurb. I want to note that I still haven’t actually completed the process, as I’ve just started before doing this article. I’ll give you a few glimpses into my process, but, of course, I don’t have the final product yet.
Anyways…to start, I really don’t have any real method to my madness. In fact, looking around the internets for hints on how to put one of these together offers very little advice. The general idea I see passed around (for full-length novels) is to tell the basic story of your book as occurs in the first 50 pages. This would account for most of the first act and should have the first real moment in which you see the point of the book. This is a big difficult with a novella that was supposed to be a short story…as it doesn’t really follow a very traditional 3 act structure (some may say that none of my books do).
Keeping this idea in mind, I open up a simple notepad page and start writing to get the basic premise of the book together.
Here’s my first attempt for Daddy of the Dead:
Bert Hamberg thought it was bad being held over in Chicago due to an upcoming blizzard. Waking up to apocalypse was worse. Way worse. With his daughter over 6 hours away and no way of contacting her, Bert must face all of his fears to reach her and ensure she’s safe.the zombie.
Pretty simple to see that this is not only boring, but reads much more like some sort of Chris Columbus movie…you know, maybe Home Alone from the parents side of things? Actually…come to think of it…I could modify one of the characters in the book slightly to be played by Joe Pesci…or that other one who would be perfect for John Candy’s ghost…
Yeah, anyways…it’s not good. Doesn’t give off the feel of the story at all, and really just holds basic facts about the book.
So, I tried again.
As a father, one of the worst things about the start of the zombie apocalypse could be being separated from your child. Bert must drive 6 hours through the raging snow to get to his with only a drunk as his companion. Can he get to her before the undead or will he be forced to watch as his new friend ends her suffering?
Still a whole lotta blech here. Since I don’t have a good method, the only method I really have is basically brainstorming. Taking a different approach to telling the same story over and over again until something seems to fit. This version, of course, has that great focus on the anxiety that should be felt within the covers of the book, but it’s still incredibly boring. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to read this blurb and say…”Hey, I wonder how that works out for him?”
It’s always at this point that I decide I should probably get some ideas from other blurbs, and take to the internet. Then, of course, I come right back to my notepad feeling absolutely no where near better for my efforts. And I try again…
At the dawn of the Zombie Apocalypse, Bert Hamberg has only one thought on his mind. Find his daughter. Separated from his little girl by three hundred fifty miles of zombie infected terrain during a terrible blizzard won’t stop Bert from reaching his goal. Nothing will.
And boom, suddenly things start taking a turn for the better. This definitely isn’t a finished product, but you begin to see something form. From these simple four sentences, the ideas of anxiety, dedication, and danger are all in place…the only thing left is to build them into a short little tale that actually gets someone excited for the whole thing.
And that, of course, is what I have to get back to.
Have fun out there!