Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Same, Only Different

My best writing buddy spent this past week writing blurb copy, that all-important couple of paragraphs that you can read on Amazon about what to expect from the book. There are posts all over the internet on what needs to be included and in what order, and writing blurb copy has evolved into a very fine art form which can make or break a book. If you're published via the traditional route, you submit a version of your blurb and then the publisher changes it to make it better. If you're self-published, you're pretty much on your own.

My buddy asked for my help with writing her blurb. Rather than massage her work, I wrote another version of it, since I've read the book already. She sent both versions to her editor and didn't tell the woman which was hers and which was mine. This editor has proofed every book written by my buddy and had no problem deducing which version was hers. We had written essentially the same thing, only different. Each version had strengths and drawbacks, so the final version will probably be a mash-up of the two, but it brought home some points about writing that are usually lurking in the background.

One: You can give a room full of writers the same characters, the same plot points, the same set of circumstances, and you'll get as many different versions as there are people in the room. They're all writing the same thing, but the difference comes in the style, the voice, the backgrounds of the authors.

Two: Beginning authors often don't know what it means when an agent or editor says they like their voice. (Or don't like it, heaven forbid!) Debut authors who hit the big time right out of the gate know intrinsically what their voice is. The rest of us have to work at it. It's the way we write, if we have more dialogue than we do description, if we have a distinct pace, if a sense of humor is evident, if we've taken a usual situation and turned it on its ear. If we've written the same thing, only somehow made it different.

Three: There are only so many tropes in writing romance: friends to lovers, second chances, beauty and the beast, secret baby, etc. The difference between a mediocre work and one that truly shines is to take a trope and make it different.

While I'm waiting to see the final version of the blurb, I'm also working on my next manuscript–a mail-order brides book. There's a trope that's been done to death, but readers seem to love reading about them, so I thought I'd give it a go, since I like to write about American history and I have a ton of books about Covered Wagon Women. Now, my trick is to take a well-loved trope and write something that's the same, only different. Maybe I'll add a dog.

17 comments:

  1. I actually love writing blurbs, although I will say it's easier to write them for other people--maybe the distance helps?

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    1. I'm going to remember your name next time I'm asked for a blurb, then, Jennifer!

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  2. I enjoyed reading your Blog. Blurbs are certainly a challenge to write. Thanks for your insight.

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    1. Most of the time, I find blurbs harder to write than the book itself. Thanks for dropping by.

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  3. Had to drop by when I saw the subject of your blog post on the loop...writing blurbs is one of my bugaboos and I'm always happy to complain about it. Some come so darned easy and some (ok, I'll be honest, most) make me want to tear my hair out. My publisher has a word limit for blurbs--150 words. To encapsulate an entire story, demonstrate the voice and make it appealing! AARRGGHH! Great post!

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    1. Thanks, Laura. If writing blurbs were only as easy as writing about them...

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  4. I took a blurb writing workshop just when I needed to write the blurb for my about to be published first book. Kathryn Jane, the presenter, helped polish the blurb. Most important thing I learned was to describe the main character's conflict, and then end with a question that asks if the conflict can be resolved.

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    1. Thanks, Ana, for your input and congrats on becoming a published author. I look forward to reading it.

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  5. Great post! Thanks. Claire Marti

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Claire. Blog posts are so much easier to write than blurbs are.

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  6. You hit the nail on the head Becky re: give the same set of circumstances to two different people and see how different the blurb can be. I have heard people say that one should write the blurb before the book I think there's a lot of truth in that. Especially because it's so hard to condense a story after writing 80000 words.

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    1. I agree, Charlotte. I usually write a synopsis, then condense that down to a blurb, and then to an elevator pitch. I just keep condensing and sooner or later I get it.

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  7. I enjoyed this post! I kind of like writing blurbs too. :)

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    1. Glad you enjoyed my ramblings, Jean. There are so many moving parts to this business, it's a never-ending source of ideas for blog posts.

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  8. Interesting post Becky, I read a book by Lori Wilde called GOT HIGH CONCEPT and it actually helped me write blurbs. I still have love/hate relationship with them so I can relate to that too. Best to you!

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    1. I love Lori Wilde's advice. Took a mentorship program with her not long ago. I'm glad her book helped you with the blurb writing, not that it will eve be easy...

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  9. There's a chance you are eligible to get a $1,000 Amazon Gift Card.

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