Life In The Blurbs

Can You Sum Up Your Story On A Pebble?

Blurbs, those wee plot synopses on the back of books, are a great writers’ tool. Firstly, writing a blurb for your yet-to-be-written novel helps you get to the kernel of what it is all about. Secondly, penning such a blurb will prompt you to imagine your novel as a reality and motivate you to keep going and finish what you’ve started.

Also, reading the blurb of a novel that closely resembles your own will help you get to the bones of your own story, structure and theme. Look at how these other works are summed up. Do they concentrate on plot or theme or character? What is the hook? And what is yours?

Remember, a blurb is not a synopsis. Blurbs are short, the shorter the better, maybe a line or two long. Some are even just a few words. You don’t have to condense your story to “Jaws in Space” but do boil it down as much you can. If you had to sell your story on the back of a postage stamp or a pebble, what would you write?

When you’ve crafted your blurb, place it close to your writing place. It will keep you focused on what your book is about – and make sure that point is then evident in the very DNA of every moment of your book.

Finally, when it comes to approaching agents, having a well-written blurb you can include in a cover letter will prove very useful. Your blurb is your elevator pitch. Spend time on it and perfect it.



About suehealy

Literary Manager at the Finborough Theatre and associate lecturer in playwriting at the universities of Lincoln and Portsmouth, Irish playwright Sue Healy has a PhD in modern theatre history. Her most recent stage play Imaginationship (2018) recently enjoyed a sell-out, extended run at the Finborough Theatre and is headed to the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough in August. Cow (2017) was staged at the Etcetera Theatre and Brazen (2016) ran at the King’s Head, funded by Arts Council England. Her work has been performed at the Criterion, Hackney Attic, Claremorris Festival (New Writing Award winner), Brighton Festival (the Sussex Playwrights’ Award Winner) and Sterts Theatre and has been developed by the Abbey Theatre, Dublin and support by the Peggy Ramsay Award. Her nine radio-plays have broadcast on BBC Radio 4 (Opening Lines winner), WLRfm and KCLR96fm. She has won prizes for her prose including the Molly Keane and HISSAC Awards and the Escalator Prize. A UEA Creative Writing MA alumna, Sue spent eleven years in Budapest editing Hungary A.M. Sue also tutors Creative Writing at CityLit. View all posts by suehealy

8 responses to “Life In The Blurbs

  • Freedom, by the way

    I started my writing career as a copywriter for TV Gude Magazine. (I hear groans–I know most do not consider advertising or marketing real writing but it has paid the bills and leaves me time to dabble in “real” writing). One of my tasks was to write the 1-2 sentence blurbs for feature articles for Next Week in TV Guide. It was wonderful training for get-to-the-point sparseness. Love the title of this post!

  • suehealy

    I think that was perfect training and you’re lucky to have had it. It is far more difficult to condense than to wax lyrical. Also, your focus would have been on plot-lines. I envy your apprenticeship there. Thanks for the comment.

  • elainecougler

    Sue, your site intrigues me as you discuss down-to-earth writing problems. I am glad I found you!

  • Madison Woods

    I’ve been working on doing this very thing and it is so hard!

    • suehealy

      Hi Madison, isn’t it just? And I’m also working on revising my novel and I want to start out with a good blurb so I know what I’m doing…. It’s difficult to boil down, however.

  • Carol Lovekin

    Good advice. I’m a great believer in less is more. Having my own small blurb as a reminder is like a mantra. As I revise & edit, it brings me back to the essence of the story.

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