I wrote a blurb for This World Bites. Actually, as it was pointed out to me, I wrote a list of events, not a blurb. In other words, it sucked. But the girls in my facebook writing group set me straight and gave me some very helpful feedback, such as definitions.
I’d always thought a query was a synopsis, a synopsis was a jacket cover copy, and a blurb was… well okay, so that doesn’t have a good definition. I thought I’d never have to write a query, what with my grand scheme of self-publishing. But my facebook cohort said: “A query entices the agent/editor to read the book and a well-written one could actually become the blurb of the book once it’s published.”
Huh. Well, drats.
As a result, she pointed me to Query Shark and I’ve done some analysis, comparing what I thought was a decently good “blurb” for Thanmir War to all the blunt, honest feedback found on the site.
Here’s the common topics I’ve noticed:
- Don’t generalize.
- Don’t say “I look forward to hearing from you soon”. Say “Thank you for your time and consideration”.
- Don’t be descriptive.
- Don’t use metaphors.
- Don’t brag about your accomplishments unless it’s relevant. Don’t mention contests.
- Your credentials don’t matter.
- Stating why you wrote the book is unnecessary (unless it’s a memoir).
- A series of events is not a plot.
- Give an idea of plot, sense of characters, and the stakes.
- Less is more.
- Make sure your query is logical.
- The query doesn’t have to start at the beginning of the story.
- Use plain, simple, elegant writing. Subject, verb, clause.
- Voice matters!
- Writing a query in character is gimmicky.
- Research who you are addressing.
- Avoid character and location soup.
- Don’t send blocks of text.
- It’d better be complete, so saying it’s complete is unnecessary.
- *cough* High word counts result in rejection.
After reading all (yes, all) of the feedback listed on the blog, I looked again at my Thanmir War blurb.
Derek thinks his chronic headaches are the worst of his problems. He’s wrong.
He wakes up on an unknown world, surrounded by dead men he has no memory of killing. Now his only way home is a missing amnesic woman who isn’t fully human. Misconceptions about her disappearance spawn further complications as two armies converge in a war between provinces, fueled by the manipulations of a vindictive full-blood elemental who wants her power back.
Derek finds himself mixed up with mercenaries and guardians and a murderous alter ego possessing his body. He wants nothing more than to return to the life and family he loves. But will he change his mind when the woman who has haunted his dreams appears in the flesh?
Ouch. Generalizations. Nothing about plot.
I’ve modified it to this:
Derek is cursed. He’s been plagued with chronic headaches since childhood and every time he starts getting intimate with a woman, accidents happen. But a life of forced abstinence isn’t the worst of his problems.
He wakes up on an unknown world, surrounded by dead men he has no memory of killing. His only way back to his semi-normal life and family is MaTisha, an amnesic woman who isn’t fully human.
But going home isn’t as easy as he had hoped, not when MaTisha is sought by two opposing armies who are waging a war. To top that, Derek discovers he has a murderous alter ego with a personal mission to keep her safe.
And the alter ego has no plans on leaving her side.
In my opinion, it’s better, but of course I wrote it. But it leaves a whole lot of the story out and certainly doesn’t read like it warrants 173K. It doesn’t cover any of the subplots. And Query Shark will “reject” it based solely on word count anyways.
To indicate there are subplots, I thought I might add:
Thanmir War, 173,000 words, is a fantasy told from the point-of-views of Derek, MaTisha, a ruler’s twin brother, and a unit commander of the opposing army.
It sounds clunky, but at least it’d indicate that there’s more to the story than just Derek and his alter ego.