The Guilty Party

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

You Think Writing a Novel is Tough

Try writing a blurb.

I belong to a couple of online writing sites on which Not Yet Discovered Talent (like me) put their work on display in the hopes of Attracting Attention, Inspiring Praise, and Getting Published. Both sites have their individual positives, but they share one inescapable flaw: the competitors are the voters. It is rather like having the wanna-be popstars on American Idol voting for who gets the recording contract. You're not dealing with a disinterested crowd.

Anyway, today we aren't going to go into that part of The Struggle to be Published. Today I would like to highlight a very few of the blurbs, the hooks that all of these fledgling writers are obliged to create in an effort to make the largest possible number of eyes (and even better, the most influential eyes) land on their manuscript. It is a fact of modern life that if you want to get someone's attention, you need to do it with skill, style and speed. Short, sweet and irresistible are the order of the day. As any skilled practitioner in the world of advertising will tell you, it ain't as easy as it may seem.

Here are just some of the blurbs from the "Newest Books" section of one of those sites.

Through an England full of wolves and jallocks goes Lino Franter with three friends, hunting the diabolical Farris Cable.

What is a jallock? And more importantly, how diabolical can somebody with the name Farris Cable really be?

Thriller-like fictionalization of the abandoned English colony of Roanoke, employing heart-pumping action, painterly descriptions and period-flavored dialogue, to enthrall –in the style of James Clavell.

First off, is it a thriller or isn't it? Second off, is the sentence construction this innovative throughout the book? Sure to enthrall. Or baffle.

A piffle of a book, somewhere between strawberry shortcake and linzertorte. Who reads this stuff anyway?

Good question.

A hectic year in the life of two newly qualified English teachers is not without its darker side. Who does Tania finally incite to violence?

I dunno. The school janitor?

Sylvia Trax has the key to the shadow's map and they want it back.

Who is they? And if the key doesn't belong to Sylvia Trax, then she jolly well ought to give it back.

This is a story in a story with a deeper meaning. An adventure, written for children and secretly for adults too.

Not much of a secret, is it?

- will light your fire and your mind.

I would just as soon it didn't, thank you very much.

A comic tale of morality, duty and the age-old question of what to do if you think your boss is a multi-million-pound-fraudster-cum-evil-hearted-serial-killer.

In what universe is that an age-old question?

A young German living in Paris discovers that his problems with three women arise from his struggle with his internal image of the eternal female.

No, his problems arise from trying to juggle three women at once. What a dummkopf.

An exploding garden triggers a story involving a struggle for power, multiple homicides, a sociopathic cop, and fragments of a postman.

You had me with “exploding garden”.

One of the rare works of crime fiction that includes generous helpings of mystery, betrayal, and Joseph Stalin playing tournement Scrabble.

Some things deserve to be rare. Correct spelling is not one of them.

Grab a sword and come with me on an adventure to a tropical planet beste with dinosaurs. 300 meets Jurrassic Park!

I had to pawn my sword some time ago whilst reading "Ivanhoe". The interest is incredible; as of last Tuesday that blasted Jew wanted eighty-five thousand gold pieces to release it. And what kind of tropical planet is considered to be beste (why is this the only example of Olde Worlde spelling in this blurb?) with dinosaurs? Dachshunds would be more of an improvement in my mind.

An unlikely love story flourishes in unbelievable times. The bird flu brought Nathan and Anna together, but the Y plague will tear them apart.

Yep, you’re right, unlikely and unbelievable. But it has given me a the beginnings of a bad rash.

Beware Harry - outlandish, obsessive and deadly. And he likes games. With Mel in his sights he decides to play his ghastly sport with her.

I've just got to find out what Harry's ghastly sport is. I'm thinking it's croquet. It always brings out the worst in people.

This chick lit story is about three young women, and all of the calamities, and life in general during in the Summer of 1996.

There’s nothing like a promise of “life in general” to make me want to lose myself in a novel. And, of course, there is once again the underlying promise of unconventional sentence construction.

…a brilliant, insightful novel that will become a Classic, alongside all-time greats such as Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice".

I’m sure it will. Goodness, would you look at the time! You have a nice day now, you hear?

...set in a Wild West full of magic and mayhem. You'll laugh until you spit up those re-fried beans...

That hasn't been an enticement since my college days. And even then you had to catch me at the right moment.

Michaela's counsellor told her to 'find herself'. You won't predict what happens next. No sex, no violence and a happy ending.

Is it just me, or should there be a spoiler alert in this one?

This happened. I was there:

And taking notes, no doubt.

Boy meets girl. Girl vanishes. Twenty years later, man disappears, seeks woman in parallel world at war.

Just a sec. If the girl vanished and the man disappeared, don’t we have an empty stage?

The Creative Writing course did not satisfy Ian. What had happened to the literature of the ancients who devised it to explain their universe?

Ooh! Ooh! I know this! No, really! The ancients never got an agent and their literature ended up in the back of the sock drawer!

A bullied girl discovers another world where all of your dreams become true… or not!

Let us know when you make up your mind.

A well crafted high velocity tale of intrigue, sex and betrayal. Dialogue driven and told in flashback, it spans fifty years of one mans life.

I like my intrigue, sex and betrayal at a slow, leisurely pace. Otherwise it seems that commas and apostrophes often get lost in the rush.

A boy, a Nazi and a dead body in the dining room.

Now that has entertainment written all over it!

Wrongly arrested online dominatrix Mistress Blackheart learns the true meaning of commitment the hard way when her booking officer lays down the law!

The life of an online dominatrix has never been an easy one, but it's nice to know at least one has a booking officer who cares.

Conan the Destroyer meets Gladiator meets Ben Hur

Wouldn’t you love to be a fourth at that dinner party?

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and in the end, you just may veiw some of the issues of our day in a different light.

I'll say this, "veiw" did indeed almost make me cry.

Sometimes funny. Sometimes moving. Always turbulent. Matty Whistler is the curmudgeon's curmudgeon - a passionately unkempt reminder of the brevity of human life.

I think I'd rather it was always funny, occasionally moving and infrequently turbulent. Sensitive stomach, you know.

This started out as a short story…

Let me guess, nobody was there in time to stop you.

There you have it. Which one (or ones) are calling out to you?

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.


Timberati said...

They all need to go back and try again. Yeesh.

Lexi said...

Oh Alan, this did make me laugh.

plumboz said...


Well, I think maybe they need to just put more work into their books first. I've looked at the first few paragraphs (at least) of almost all of these and the blurbs in most cases are worthy of the work.


You think that's funny?

Well, I suppose you have something there.


Jenn Nixon said...

wow...just wow...

a couple of them seem like blurbs, but not really...

postcardsfromk said...

you are cruel. And funny.

I liked the one with the dead body on the dining table though.


plumboz said...

Hi Jenn and Katherine,

Thanks for stopping by. I'm not trying to cruel, really. The fact is comedy is based largely on human delusions, foibles and even pain. Has been since the first caveman stubbed his toe on the sabertooth rug and his wife spit up the woolly mammoth cutlet she was chewing on because she was laughing so hard. If I recall, the partially masticated projectile hit the caveman in the eye, which did nothing to curb his dearest's hilarity.

Lexi said...

Dear me, Alan, I've just read this again and have been making unladylike roars and hoots. I must remember to come here when next feeling low.

A Bit About Me

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I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.