Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In The Zone with Zee: Of Blurbs & Nailing Your Story Down

Hey beautiful people!

26th of the month (and darn, time flies, innit?) and once again, Agony Zee is on board for the monthly writing/writer advice column here.

This month's query rings close to home because a few crit partners and myself were talking about this a little while ago, and this got me thinking that I could share this little tidbit of advice with you.

Without further ado, check this month's query, and read on for the answer:


Dear Agony Zee,

I have recently finished the first draft on my story and as the ms is making the crit rounds, I am gearing up to put together my submissions package.

But this is where it hurts - I can find tons of advice about query letter writing and synopsis advice, but what about the blurb? These little lines, story-in-a-nutshell kind of deal that's needed to hook at the very start of your query letter? Any tips as to how to wing that one without making a total muck up of the story (and getting the agent/editor to drop you like a hot potato after reading the first line of your query)?

Any advice would be appreciated.


Blurb Blank


Dear Blurb Blank,

Congratulations on finishing your first draft - you wouldn't believe the amount of people who call themselves writers but never finish a draft.

But, yes too - you thought the hardest part was behind you, innit? Finishing the WIP? Unfortunately, no - you're not out of the woods yet. And yes, dear girl, you need a tough hide to make it in this world called publishing.

Moving on to your query - blurb advice.

Basically, what is a blurb? It's your story in a nutshell. At the same time, the blurb needs to whet appetite all while stating what and who the story is about, without giving away too much. Tall order? It might seem like it... but it's not. *smile* Here's a little something to help you:

You know what GMC is all about, right? Goal, Motivation, Conflict. You're going to work with that, and from this, springboard from the 3-line format.

Who is she?
Who is he?
What is the conflict?

I assume you write romance - in which case, she is your heroine and main protagonist; he is the hero and other main protagonist, and the conflict is, well, why they can't be together.

Let me show you how I worked this for my current release, romantic suspense thriller Walking The Edge (Corpus Brides: Book One).

Who is she? My heroine is named Amelia and she has amnesia.
Goal: find out what's hidden inside her forgotten memory
Motivation: to get to the real truth, and not the one being forced on her
Conflict: she has no memory - so all she sees in her mind: repressed memories, or figments of her imagination?

Who is he? My hero is named Gerard and he is a French cop in Marseille
Goal: to find the truth, especially when this woman he doesn't know drops into his life
Motivation: he's a cop, and he also wants to know who she is because she makes him think of a woman from his past
Conflict: who does he trust, and how to go about the enquiry when she is amnesiac?

What is the story? An amnesiac woman is trying to find out what's hidden in her past. The story details her quest for truth and everything that will uncover, things she needs to know before she can move on with her life, or the man she falls in love with.

There you are - a story in a nutshell. But this is still a rough draft of your finished blurb. There is no compulsion to read the story the way it's presented so far. Now you need to hook and intrigue... and this you do by working with what you just outlined.

Start by answering each of these 3 questions - your first answer will give you a tag line for each of heroine, hero, and story.

Next, build a paragraph off the GMC you outlined for each.

Know the tone and mood of your story - if it's a light, fluffy contemporary, your blurb voice should be light and fluffy too.
Back to my example - I write dark suspense with rather dark and mysterious characters, so dark and mysterious is the tone I'll aim for in my blurb.

Let's see how this works out in practice - the blurb for Walking The Edge:

A woman without a past (Who is she?)
Left amnesiac after an accident, Amelia Jamison struggles as her instincts slowly rise from the depths of oblivion, leading her to question her life as the wife of a cold, manipulating and distant man. Wisps of a dream show her another man she may have known intimately, but is he a memory, or a figment of her imagination?

A man with too much information (Who is he?)
After many aliases, today Gerard Besson is simply a police commissaire in Marseille. When a mysterious woman starts to follow him, he is suspicious - and intrigued. But things aren't what they seem, and as he reluctantly gets closer to her, dregs of his painful, buried past emerge and make him question her identity.

Each seems to have led several different lives (What is the conflict?)
But neither is prepared for what awaits them when they cross the fine line between knowing your true self and that of your alter ego.
Danger is the name of the game, and as it catches up with them in the French Provence, both know they better be ready for the inevitable fall.

See how every paragraph works off the tag line and feeds the GMC in to support this tag line? That's what you should be aiming for.

Break it down to the 3 questions:

Who is she?
Who is he?
What is the conflict?

...and work to feed off the answer you get from each question. Wrap it all up in the same tone and mood as your story, and there you go - you should be set with a solid blurb.

Hope this helps.


Got a question for Agony Zee? Drop me a line at

And if you get a minute, drop by my blog and check out my book, available for the total steal deal of $1.99 at Noble Romance Publishing.


Brenda said...

Excellent advice as always, Zee!

Sheri Fredricks said...

This is PERFECT! I need to save this. Thank you so much Zee!!