Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Whether you're finished writing a book or in the middle, it's always a good thing to develop a blurb. (Or a hook, if you will.) Something that encapsulates the entirety of your manuscript, or manuscript idea, so potential readers or agents or publishers can take one look and know if it's a book they'd be interested in reading.

It's usually a paragraph - the more concise the better. It touches on the MC, the antag, and the major conflict. And there are plenty of sites out there to help you with the mechanics on tweaking it to its best angle so it will net you your goal.

Now if you've followed along, I haven't sold anything, so I may not be the best person to provide advice on blurbing (or hooking, if you prefer). I'll leave that to the professionals. (With a gentle reminder, once again, to take care about who you're getting advice from.) There are even places where you can post your blurb and have other people critique it - like AWs Share Your Work forum.

What I'm going to do today is show you the progression of the blurb for Spectacle. Because I save everything, I have each blurb and you can see how it moved from crappy to pretty good - if I do say do myself.

My initial attempt at a blurb was for my foray into query letters. So this first was from September of 2004:

When the human race is told it has just four months to live, only Dr. Michael Montgomery has the knowledge that will save mankind—not from impending doom but from itself. A comet is hurdling towards Earth and the scientific community has issued a death sentence to the world. Dr. Montgomery, however, knows the truth about comets and he knows that the scientific community is wrong, but when he tries to make that truth known he is thwarted at every turn. It seems that Dr. Kingsley Hall has other ideas. If the truth were known, Dr. Hall would lose his chance for prestige, his chance for notoriety, and ultimately, his chance for control. While Dr. Montgomery and his allies work to make the truth public, Dr. Hall and his lackeys work to hide it from the world—as civilization slowly decays around them all.

Pretty stinky, so I can understand why the agent didn't even bother to reject me. He just ignored me entirely. Who can blame him?

Now, this was after I'd thought I'd read damn near everything on the subject of writing query letters, and it was still stinkersville. So after numerous rejections, and a few like that first one who didn't even bother, I decided to rework the letter and this is my second attempt at a blurb - from February 2005.

What if mankind were given only four months to live? What if that death sentence were a lie? My first novel, entitled ‘Spectacle’, looks at a world gone mad with the knowledge of its own end as it follows a handful of men in a battle for the truth and for their own lives.
'Spectacle' (approximately 126,000 words), can best be described as a literary thriller. Superficially, the book’s premise is akin to the movie 'Armageddon'—chiefly, a comet on a collision course with Earth. However, the similarity ends there. Dr. Michael Montgomery has proof that the comet is harmless, but unable to make that proof public, he becomes embroiled in a fight against men who want mankind kept ignorant and fearful—and thus controllable.

New tack. Still just as putrid. I still didn't know what I was doing. Finally, discouraged and downhearted, I sent the following blurb off in a query to a small publisher (December 2005):

The basic premise is that a comet is headed for earth, and one scientist has information that the comet itself will do no harm, but while this man tries to bring the truth to light, others are working to keep mankind in the dark. As the date of impending doom draws near, the world is thrown into chaos, blinded by their helpless ignorance of the facts.

Shoot me now. Looking back, I can't believe I sent that off the anyone. Why not just hang a big sign around my neck: "PATHETIC". And so, in the deep hole of patheticness, I gave up.

But being who I am, I can never just let things lie. So, back around the time of the last Crapometer, I tried one more time. I read about hooks and blurbs - from some serious people in the industry this time. I joined a writing forum - Absolute Write. I partipated in a thread where we all got together and tweaked our hooks while providing insight and assistance to others who were doing the same. And I came up with this:

After news breaks of a comet’s collision course with Earth, Dr. Michael Montgomery has proof the comet is harmless, but when his data threatens to interfere with Dr. Kingsley Hall’s plans to manipulate a nation drowning in fear, Michael’s attempts to divulge the truth are blocked. Discredited by his peers and disgraced by the media, his last chance is Alexandra McKenzie, a reporter with the integrity to risk her job and the courage to risk her life. In a fight for the truth, Michael and Alex find themselves battling men who would rather see civilization destroyed than lose their control over it. In a Spectacle of this magnitude, the real danger lies not in a comet’s path but in mankind’s ignorance of the facts.

Not bad. It netted me a partial request from a publisher. The jury's still out otherwise. But the publisher wanted something even more concise... A logline. One sentence. The final draft of which is:

When a renowned scientist’s deceit ignites a worldwide panic, a substitute anchorwoman and an obscure astrophysicist risk everything to fight for the truth and to save mankind—not from a devastating comet but from itself.

We'll see how this grabs them. If it's still not quite the thing, I may be back to the drawing board.


Janimé said...

I read them (in my head, of course) using the voice of that guy that does all the movie trailers.

That last one sounds really good!

B.E. Sanderson said...

Oooo. I haven't tried doing that. It sounds like fun.

Thanks, Jan. It's important hearing that from someone who's actually read the book. I hope it makes publisher want to read more pages.

:crosses fingers: Okay, so crossing fingers doesn't really do anything, but it gives me the illusion I'm helping the decision along. =o)