Blurb Writing Exercise

This is a writing exercise developed by my friend, John Dwight. He ran this exercise for the Hourlings Writing Group back in March.

INTRODUCTION

A plot can be described by the following high-level template:

When [situation], a [specific person] must do
[something] or else [stakes].

Strangely, this is mostly what a good blurb must get across to the reader.

TASK 1: IDEATION

Each victim, er, participant receives three index cards. Drawing on their knowledge of the SF field (including books, movies, and TV), they must write down three ideas that they find particularly interesting. Each idea must be written on a separate card and should include both the idea and the source that it was drawn from.

When everybody is done, each contestant, er, participant should:

  • Hand the first card to the person on their left.
  • Hand the second card to the second-most person on their left.
  • Hand the third card to the third-most person on their left

In this way, each participant should receive three cards from three different people.

TASK 2: BLURB WRITING

Each participant should take the ideas from the three cards they now possess, and synthesize these into a sentence or two that conveys the information from the basic plot template.

EXAMPLE

When I participated in the exercise, my three cards were:

A young boy has a mark on his palm that indicates he is the king everyone has been waiting for over many generations.

    — The Belgariad, David Eddings

There are guide books or rules within the built worlds for how things work (the actual sociology and physics).

    — The Dancing Gods Series, Jack Chalker

Alien Parasites with ability to assume control of a human host body. Some are peaceful companions. Some are…not.

    — Stargate SG-1

The first thing I tried to do was distill my cards into a discrete list:

  • Mark of a promised king.
  • Rules for how the world works.
  • Under assault by body-sharing beings.

And this is what I came up with for my blurb:

When a wizard accidentally releases demonic body snatchers into the world, only a young man who bears the mark of the old High Kings can save the world. To do so, he’ll have to rewrite the Laws of Magic, or humanity will never be free.

A fun exercise, and a useful one, I think, for anyone who’s ever had to create a blurb for a story. First, try to distill your story down to its essence, expressed as a set of bullet points. Second, try to express the overall plot in a compelling way.

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What Is Dave Working on Now?

Coming Soon

Well, I’ve been a little preoccupied lately. The New Day Job has been keeping me pretty busy, so I’m a little behind on both my blog updates and my publishing schedule. Nevertheless, I have a whole load of stuff going on. So, here goes…

  • I’m finishing up my edits for “Death Comes to Town,” a fantasy novella that will be published in an anthology called The Outsiders. It’s another mashup (crime, fantasy, and horror) set in my Thousand Kingdoms universe.

    (2019/11/19) Finished the story, and the anthology will be published in December 2019.

  • I’m finalizing the hardcover edition of Fantastic Defenders, a fantasy anthology that I co-edited with Donna Royston. That should be published sometime in the first quarter of 2020.

    (2020/02/16) The hardcover will be published in March 2020.

  • I was tapped to be the Workshop Coordinator for Capclave 2019. I’ve been reaching out to make sure we have a solid complement of workshops for this October convention.

    (2019/10/22) Successfully organized and ran the workshop track for the convention, as well as running one of my own workshops.

  • I’m working with Don Anderson, a friend and graphic artist, to finalize the cover for The Whispering Voice. The short story was published last year in the anthology Second Round: A Return to the Ur-Bar. This will be its first solo publication. With any luck, this will also be published in July.

    (2019/11/19) The book was just published in November 2019.

  • I’ve got a number of other stories ready for publication, once I find or purchase appropriate covers for them. Those stories are: Road Trip (urban fantasy and law enforcement), Clash by Night (relatively near future SF military heist), and Bitter Days (fantasy, crime and revenge). Covers are the bane of my existence.

    (2019/11/19) Found a cover for Clash by Night, from the incomparable Luca Oleastri. Scheduled for publication in March 2020.

  • I’m writing Finders Keepers, a cyberpunk-ish crime story. It’s targeted for an anthology with the theme of “black markets.”

    (2020/02/16) Finished the story. Scheduled to be published in Black Markets in May 2020.

  • I’ve dusted off Pivot Point, a novella that I’ve let percolate for the last year, since I finished the first draft. It’s a mashup of steampunk and military SF. Now that I’ve got some distance, I’m working on the second draft edits.

    (2020/02/16) It’s targeted for a military steampunk anthology that currently does not have an official publication date.

  • I’m actively looking for a new cover for my novelette, The Good Book. Frankly, it’s hard to figure out what sucked more…the title or the cover. I’ll re-launch this with a new title and a new cover sometime this year.

    (2019/11/19) The new title is going to be The Long Road to Tomorrow.

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