I hate writing outlines.
Sometimes you write an outline of a finished book, part of the package you submit to potential publishers. But how do you boil a hundred thousand words down to three or four sides of A4 and do it justice? There’s a reason for the story needing a hundred thousand words. Of course, there are excellent reasons for providing this kind of outline, but it seems so harsh after you’ve spent a year or more working on your novel.
Sometimes you write an outline before you’ve even written the book, this time as part of the package you submit to a publisher you hope will commission the book. For me, this is even worse. The outline needs to be more substantial, effectively a compressed novel. Writing your story like this runs the risk of killing the story spark; alternatively, if you’re the kind of writer who likes to develop story as you write, this kind of outline is likely to be quite unlike what you finally deliver. Thankfully, most publishers understand this, and as long as you don’t stray too far they’re happy with it.
Not nearly so difficult to do, but still tough for me, is writing a blurb – the text you’d find on the finished book’s back cover. Usually the publisher writes this, but it’s quite common for the author to do it. The good thing is that a blurb doesn’t aim to encapsulate the entire book; it’s more about giving a few details and a flavour of the book. It’s all about hooking the reader in: the blurb should make them want to read the opening paragraph, which should make them want to read the rest of the opening page, the opening chapter… and then they’re hooked.
This morning my publishers asked for a blurb for the novel I’m writing. Natural enough for them to ask me to do it: it’s a work-in-progress, so nobody else could really write the blurb at this stage.
Here’s what I wrote:
Dodge Mercer deals in identities, which is fine until the day he deals the wrong identity and clan war breaks out. Hope Burren has no identity and no past, but she does have a multitude of voices filling her head.
In a world where nothing is as it seems, where humans are segregated and aliens can sing realities and tear worlds apart, Dodge and Hope lead a ragged band of survivors on a search for sanctuary in what may be the only hope for humankind.
What do you think? Does that make you want to open the book, read that first paragraph?