Winter Sunlight

Origfic writing natter (instead of actually writing)

I was thinking about writing today, my own original-novel writing process to be specific, and it occurred to me there's something I do that I've never heard of anyone else doing, which may be unusual enough to talk about: I write the blurb first.

I'm not really an outliner, as such; what passes for an outline is basically just some scribbled notes on upcoming scenes and basically where I want the book to go. Effectively the blurb is my outline. I've been doing it since I sold a couple of books to Dreamspinner, at which point I discovered that they ask you to write your own blurb. I wasn't that great at it, but it soon occurred to me that if I wrote the blurb and then used that as, effectively, my outline, it might work really well. And it does.

This isn't necessarily going to be the final version of the blurb or even the one that's used (especially not if you trad publish). But the thing about a book blurb is that, in 2-4 paragraphs, it nails down all the major aspects of the book: who the main character(s) are, what the main conflict is, where it's set and what's interesting about it. And it does it in the most compelling, "hook-ish" possible way. It doesn't describe all the twists and turns along the way, or the ending, but the thing about writing the blurb first is that it gives me a "best parts" version of the characters and plot to focus on. And if the blurb doesn't sound compelling -- if it's hard to put my finger on the conflict, if I struggle to describe one or both characters using a few snappy adjectives, if I'm not sure if I would read the book I'm describing ... then it's back to the drawing board 'til I get a version I'm happy with.

Basically I want a blurb that would make ME want to read the book. Looking at a few dozen blurbs on Amazon in the genre I'm writing in can often be helpful at figuring out what kinds of blurbs draw me in -- which ones describe the plot setup in ways I find compelling, what kind of character dynamics are a draw for me if reduced to their component elements, etc.

I don't always do it at the exact beginning, but if I don't, I usually wish I had. Actually, one of the books I'm working on right now -- Metal Dragon -- is up to about 20K with only a few random fragments of blurb, and I've gotten lost in mid-book flounder. Writing a blurb for it is going to be one of my getting-back-on-track activities, because I think it might help me pinpoint any basic trouble spots in my plot and character setup.

I suspect it might work a lot less well for something that's less formulaic than the romances I'm currently writing. That being said, though, a lot of writing books advise that you should be able to write a one-sentence "pitch" of your plot, and I think of this as kind of the same thing.

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I've never done it for fiction, but I had to write a one-page proposal for my academic book well before it was finished. I changed it several times as the plan changed. That's longer than the blurb, but the first paragraph had to make the reader want to read the rest of the page, so I thought of it as sort of a blurb.

Is that at all similar, do you think?
I think so! It sounds similar to me. Did you find it a good exercise for keeping the book on track?
I do, and periodically revising it as I adjusted my plan for the book was useful even if I didn't share the proposal with anyone at some of those stages.
That sounds like a good way to stay on track, especially if it helps to sort out the shape of the plot for you too.

If I ever go back to writing fanfic (or even try original fic) this might be a good way for me to avoid those 'what do I do now/how do I get them out of this/which plot option is best' moments that can happen when the plot isn't tied down and develops as I write - which is often how I rolled in the past! Thank goodness for Jayne and her 'how to get out of this' plot ideas! :)
Sometimes those little plot excursions are fun, though. :D I think for me, having the plot nailed down in TOO much detail makes the writing less spontaneous and fun as I'm working on it.
It sounds akin to what I do: outline the entire thing on one single piece of paper. Even if it's a 700 page book.

I suspect all these thumbnail methods aer ways to get the shape of the book into one's head.
"The shape of the book" - yeah, exactly! I work much better with a sort of a holistic approach to a book, where I have a general idea where it's going and what it's "about" in general terms, but haven't outlined the entire thing in a huge amount of detail. "Shape of the book" is exactly it, though. I think about it as putting up the basic frame of a house so the entire thing ends up house-shaped, but then working on different parts of it individually. Or drawing a rough sketch to build a detailed drawing on, and then working out the details one piece at a time.