Create a tight, powerful blurb

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While you’re trying to get your revision cleaner, a half-hour’s work on your book blurb can help you focus. This can be easier when you’re explaining the book to a friend or ally in an email. I told a new colleague that my novel Sins of Liberty posed this premise.

What does the secret wife of a priest do when he must return to the priesthood — because he’s failed at being a layman? Love only goes so far. His paydays and promises needed to go further to support the family and their child. In the early twentieth century, Anna must rescue herself by elevating her education and tapping a passion she didn’t know she had for leading women to liberty. Her struggle must also right some long-ago wrongs she suffered as a new immigrant, as well as pain from her family’s history. Anna must grow in order to raise a son.

Nonfiction wants these kinds of blurbs, too. I believe it’s never too soon to start writing them. Authors who start with me get an early assignment of a blurb. We polish and hone, using the basics that make any book blurb better.

• The problem: The mission for the novel, the lesson to be learned in nonfiction.
• The goal: What success looks like in a story, or how wisdom will be absorbed in nonfiction
• What’s standing in the way? The troubles that make the mission difficult. How things will fail without nonfiction’s lessons.
• The stakes: What the hero might lose. How new knowledge can save us. Give us the worst case, plainly, then show the lesson that rescues a person, or an idea.

In fiction, the steps are classic ones you hear echoed in every good film and show. Introduce the hero with a profession or role that drives their personality. Reveal the setting and sum up the situation. Then always, start splashing on the trouble. Desires versus opponents. The premise that upends the hero’s life means there’s no turning back.

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