Blurb Critique Thread

Discussion in 'Works in Progress' started by Paul Bellow, Aug 18, 2017.

  1. TravisBach

    TravisBach Level 15 (Guardian) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    There's a lot to work with here, that's for sure. This is gonna take a couple of passes to get right. Let's start with - the blurb is confusing.

    Do her friends not know she's trapped? Or are they abandoning her?
    How did she forget that she's trapped and might die, and that there's an AI out to get her, and that her pod is hijacked? (also, how many villains are there exactly?)
    Why would any sane person enter a deadly dungeon under these circumstances?
    What hopes do we have of her getting free? (ie... what's the path forward? What must she do to escape/survive?)

    (Also, this is not "One tiny problem" it looks like 3 so far.)

    There's a lot of seeming contradictions which enhance the confusion. No one is racing to save her (in the blurb) as her friends have logged out and her brother isn't with her. So who are her rescurers and what obstacles are in their way?

    (Also the brother's statement is itself a contradiction. He's logged in to stand by her side and the next sentence says he's not present to help.)



    I could talk about some other items like how much plot to include in a book 2's blurb vs how much focus on hooking new series readers with it, but I'm saving that for round 2. We should get the meat of the story cleared up first so we're working with the right parts.
     
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  2. Austin Andrews

    Austin Andrews Level 6 (Footpad) Citizen

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    Hi everyone. I've been finishing the book and I'm back to tweaking the blurb.
    What do you think of this? I cut a few sentences and information.

    Seventeen-year-old Jin enjoyed a peaceful life until his village was ravaged.
    All that lays ahead of him now is a path of demonic cultivation, family secrets, and a chance for revenge against those who destroyed his life.

    But battling his way through demonic beasts, a martial arts underworld, and a blood moon myth will take more than just will or pushing beyond his limits.
    Death has a toll on him. His soul shatters every time he uses his dark chi and there's an evil being lurking within him.

    If he fails his soul will be too corrupted for him to ever reincarnate.
    Will the necromancer really achieve the revenge he's looking for? Will success lead him to his true destiny?
     
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  3. Paul Bellow

    Paul Bellow Forum Game Master Staff Member Shop Owner LitRPG Author Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    Very early draft of Moon Wars blurb...

    Can an RTS Player Save the Universe?

    Alex, a sophomore in college at Ohio State, is failing his classes due to spending too much time playing Real Time Strategy (RTS) video games. His life is spiraling downward, when two intriguing people enter his world: Haley is a fellow gamer who gives him hope; while Que is a mysterious stranger who sends the two of them a new, not yet released real-time strategy game - Moon Wars - with a challenge to beat it.

    Despite an initial aversion to the RPG aspect to the challenge, Moon Wars begins to appeal to Alex like no other RTS game he has played before. The single-player campaign, of conquering sufficient bases on the Moon to withstand an invasion from Earth, seems impossible. Not one to give up easily, Alex uses all his experience to strategize his way to victory.

    Yet as he and Haley progress in the full, multi-player version, Alex begins to realize the stakes for losing Moon Wars are a lot bigger than he initially imagined.
     
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  4. TravisBach

    TravisBach Level 15 (Guardian) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    It makes me want to read the book. So that's a fantastic start.

    I feel like there's too much plot/telling for a book 1 blurb though. Specifically,

    -"when two intriguing people enter his world" (Telling)
    -"who gives him hope" (Telling)
    -"Moon Wars begins to appeal to Alex like no other RTS game he has played before" (Telling)
    -"Alex uses all his experience to strategize his way to victory." (Plot give away...but also a really strong hook. I'm torn on on this as it's probably the part that makes me want to read the most.)

    Last note: you could remove all mentions of Haley from the blurb and it wouldn't impact it at all (she serves no purpose [in the blurb]). So either change what's said to make Haley relevant to Alex or remove to make for a punchier blurb.
     
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  5. TravisBach

    TravisBach Level 15 (Guardian) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Unrelated to any of the blurbs-in-progress on this thread: If you're having trouble with your blurb try taking what you have and cramming it into 350 characters.

    I've been transitioning titles to IngramSpark lately and it requires a 350 character short-description version of the full blurb. Having leaped through this hoop several times now, I love it as an exercise as it's taken some blurbs that I thought were already strong and distilled them down to this punchy essence. It's truly amazing how much of what we think are essential bits of information which can turn out to be just bonus data.

    I wouldn't recommend using this to make your actual blurb though as the 2-3 paragraph length is pretty well time-, market-, and data-tested. But if you're struggling, or lurking and haven't asked for help, give this a try. Hopfully it will help you figure out the most critical parts on which you can hang the rest of the fun. ^_^

    Just for example (and a shameless plug, haha) - Forever Fantasy Online's blurb versions.

    Original Blurb,

    Could you survive?

    In the real world, twenty-one-year-old library sciences student Tina Anderson is invisible and under-appreciated, but in the VR-game Forever Fantasy Online she's Roxxy—the respected leader and main tank of a top-tier raiding guild. In the real world, her brother James Anderson is a college drop-out struggling under debt, but in FFO he's famous—an explorer who’s gotten every achievement, done every quest, and collected all the rarest items.

    Both Tina and James need the game more than they'd like to admit, but their favorite escape turns into a trap when FFO becomes a living world. Wounds are no longer virtual, stupid monsters become cunning, NPCs start acting like actual people, and death might be forever.

    In the real world, everyone said being good at video games was a waste of time. Now, stranded and separated across thousands of miles of new, deadly terrain, Tina and James’s skill at FFO is the only thing keeping them alive. It’s going to take every bit of their expertise—and hoarded loot—to find each other and get back home, but as the stakes get higher and the damage adds up, being the best in the game may no longer be enough.

    For fans of World of Warcraft and Sword Art Online.​

    Short version for the Ingrams catalog,

    Tina and James, estranged siblings, are caught online when their favorite MMO suddenly becomes a real world. Separated across a larger and more deadly world, their skill at FFO is the only thing keeping them alive. For fans of World of Warcraft and Sword Art Online. ​
     
  6. Paul Bellow

    Paul Bellow Forum Game Master Staff Member Shop Owner LitRPG Author Citizen Aspiring Writer

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    That 350 character exercise is a good one, I think. Would be useful to have that smaller blurb for marketing. I can't remember how many characters AMS gives us...
     
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  7. TravisBach

    TravisBach Level 15 (Guardian) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Thanks.

    AMS is not many, I think it's 250 characters.
     
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  8. Austin Andrews

    Austin Andrews Level 6 (Footpad) Citizen

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    That's an amazing exercise. I might have to try it sometime.
    What did you think of my last blurb? I'm still unsure. Thank you :)
     
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  9. TravisBach

    TravisBach Level 15 (Guardian) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Thanks.

    Sorry for the silence, I've been pondering what to say about the latest version.

    So, like, I think this is pretty good now. IMO it's probably good enough if you want to stop chewing on it.



    I hem and haw because it feels really clunky to me when I read it but I've been hesitant to say so because that's vague--perhaps unhelpful--criticism. I suppose that if you want to keep working on your blurb, then the next level is going to be prose improvements. The blurb will read better and feel more professional/exciting/authentic/enticing if it has better flow, is more poetic, has better rhythm and so on.

    For example
    , the 2nd and 3rd lines both have 26 words and involve lists. This makes them sound heavy and repetitive when placed back-to-back like they are.

    For a second example: the word "and" often serves as a soft/substitute for a period in prose. I know, cause I abuse that fact a ton in lieu of more sophisticated paragraph structuring. It's a bad habit, I know.
    Allow me to illustrate this,

    "Death has a toll on him. His soul shatters every time he uses his dark chi and there's an evil being lurking within him."
    vs
    "Death has a toll on him. His soul shatters every time he uses his dark chi. There's an evil being lurking within him."​

    Each side of the conjunction is, in this example, it's own statement so I can replace the "and" with a period and the whole line still works grammatically. However, removing the"and" reveals how this line of your blurb was--rhythmically--a series of 3 short statements in a row and therefore repetitive sounding in the mind. The solution is finding a more elegant or interesting way to say all this without using the conjunction crutch of for, nor, but, yet, so, and, or, or sneaky periods-that-masquerade-as-commas.

    (Edit: Btw, if you have trouble with this, try playing with subordinating conjunctions instead of the coordinating ones listed above.)

    Anyway, I know how many careful decisions went into every sentence and word choice so far, so to start messing with the structure again... It's up to you and how many extra miles you're willing to go. We're here to help but prose work is largely a function of your time, experimentation, and thinking about the sentence.
     
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  10. Austin Andrews

    Austin Andrews Level 6 (Footpad) Citizen

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    Thank you! I changed "ahead of him now" to "ahead is now", and what if I changed the 2nd and 3rd to something like this...

    Seventeen-year-old Jin enjoyed a peaceful life until his village was ravaged.
    All that lays ahead is now is a path of demonic cultivation, family secrets, and a chance for revenge against those who destroyed his life.

    Every death has a toll on him and battling his way through demonic beasts, a martial arts underworld, and a blood moon myth will take more than just will or pushing beyond his limits.

    If he fails his soul will be too corrupted for him to ever reincarnate.
    Will the necromancer really achieve the revenge he's looking for? Will success lead him to his true destiny?
     
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  11. TravisBach

    TravisBach Level 15 (Guardian) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Yeah, you got the idea. ^_^ I think this reads much more smoothly than the previous version.

    This part is still a little awkward, "Every death has a toll on him" mainly because one "takes a toll" rather than has. I took the liberty to play with the structure just a bit more. Here's my suggestion,

    Seventeen-year-old Jin enjoyed a peaceful life until his village was ravaged. Now, all that lays ahead is a path of demonic cultivation, family secrets, and a chance for revenge against those who destroyed his life.

    It will take more than just will or pushing beyond his limits as he battles his way through demonic beasts, a martial arts underworld, and a blood moon myth for every death takes its toll. If he fails, his soul will be too corrupted for him to ever reincarnate.

    Will the necromancer really achieve the revenge he's looking for? Will success lead him to his true destiny? Or will the darkness lurking within his chi consume him?​

    I'm trying to connect the concepts to each other in a way that is clearer. Looking at the previous version-- do you see how the death-soul-reincarnation concepts are scattered? That interruption makes them weaker than they should be. Moving things around this way makes them sequentially close (even if they bridge a period) and much stronger.

    I also brought back an intentionally vague mention to the evil within since those final questions are kinda gimmes. They establish more stakes (good) but they are also the kinds of questions to which most readers would assume the answer is "yes". So I felt like the blurb needed to end on some dread. It kinda dooms up the whole question of his soul's status yet without introducing a new concept at the end of the blurb (which would be bad.)

    That said, I'm really not sure if the "...blood moon myth for every death takes its toll. If he fails, his soul will be too..." part is grammatically correct. I played around with other constructions but I'm really head-scratching on it. Maybe someone with stronger grammar skills than I can help out here.

    Anyway, I feel like your blurb is really shaping up here. It sounds dramatic and hooky to me while painting just enough story. What do you think?
     
  12. Austin Andrews

    Austin Andrews Level 6 (Footpad) Citizen

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    Thank you!
    We're getting somewhere, definitely haha.

    I thought about "as every death" but the "as" is already used in that sentence.
    "for" might work? I'm not sure
     
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  13. TravisBach

    TravisBach Level 15 (Guardian) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Yay!

    Hmm, alternate structures here.

    It will take more than just will or pushing beyond his limits as he battles his way through demonic beasts, a martial arts underworld, and a blood moon myth. For every death takes its toll and, if he fails, his soul will be too corrupted for him to ever reincarnate.

    (Softening the period into an and)

    or

    It will take more than just will or pushing beyond his limits to battle through demonic beasts, a martial arts underworld, and a blood moon myth as every death takes its toll. If he fails, his soul will be too corrupted for him to ever reincarnate.
    I am not sure if either of those is an improvement TBH. Just playing with things to find something that sounds better. YMMV but this is the exercise to do.
     
  14. Austin Andrews

    Austin Andrews Level 6 (Footpad) Citizen

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    Thank you so much for your help.
    I'll be using the first one. The "for every death takes its toll and, if he fails, (...)"

    I'll be publishing the book in a week.
     
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  15. TravisBach

    TravisBach Level 15 (Guardian) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Good luck with your launch. ^_^
     
  16. Austin Andrews

    Austin Andrews Level 6 (Footpad) Citizen

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    Thnak you!
    I hope it goes well
     
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  17. Austin Andrews

    Austin Andrews Level 6 (Footpad) Citizen

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    I'm writing a new book and this is the blurb;

    James' day has finally come: to slay the Reapers' beasts, climb up the ranks and clean his father's name.

    After three years in the Hunters' Academy, he's finally ready to join his brothers in arms and prove that his father's suspicions about corruption within the organization were wrong, once and for all.

    On his very first day, he ends up being forced to go on a hunt with two people he had never met before. The shy, Fire-Controller, Tommy, and the dark, metal-whip-cracking Goth, Kendra.

    But when they confront the Reapers' creature, they make a shocking discovery; one that can jeopardize the whole world and undermine their loyalty to the Hunters. There are beasts out of the ordinary and their organization - The Hunters - might be involved.

    It's a race against the clock to beat the bloodthirsty beasts, and all the while the relationship between the three of them is getting more and more complicated. A clash of personalities is imminent as new members join the group and colleagues might become enemies, but James can't lose focus on the fate of the world.

    With everything hanging in the balance, can James and his companions slay the beasts and stay one step ahead of both the Reapers and the Hunters?
     
  18. TravisBach

    TravisBach Level 15 (Guardian) LitRPG Author Citizen

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    Cool, welcome to the land of book 2 blurb writing ^_^. (I'm assuming this is book 2 anyway.) I feel like the beats here are pretty good, but the blurb as a whole needs tightening up.

    Specifically,

    James' day has finally come: to slay the Reapers' beasts, climb up the ranks and clean his father's name.
    After three years in the Hunters' Academy, he's finally ready to join his brothers in arms and prove that his father's suspicions about corruption within the organization were wrong, once and for all.

    The second line here is almost entirely repetition of the first and it's too clear. You're undermining curiosity by saying too much. IDK if you even need the second line at all TBH

    Next is,

    But when they confront the Reapers' creature, they make a shocking discovery; one that can jeopardize the whole world and undermine their loyalty to the Hunters. There are beasts out of the ordinary and their organization - The Hunters - might be involved.
    Here you are saying the same thing twice (there's something wrong with these beasts.) You also should pick one "undermine their loyalty to the Hunters" or "The Hunters - might be involved" since both cast doubt on the organization but you don't need to say it twice. Tip: try reducing this line to half as many words.

    Next,

    all the while the relationship between the three of them is getting more and more complicated. A clash of personalities is imminent as new members join the group and colleagues might become enemies,​

    This is good to add, cause people are here for the drama, but you probably need to be more specific. Not completely, just more. See if you can do a miniature intro-setup-twist all in one sentence about the group dynamic problem. Also, since we don't have a hint about the faulty group dynamic, we don't have enough to make guess about why new members will cause the problem to worsen. You don't have to fully explain everything but if you can add 1-2 more concrete bits we should be able to infer what's going wrong and how it might get worse when newbies join. (Which is the level of understanding you want to achieve in a blurb, usually.)

    The last comment - you mention the fate of the world but IMO it's too vague as we don't have any hints as to why these new beasts are a threat and what will happen if the hero fails to slay them.

    Overall, try to cut your blurb down in size. I think striving for increased brevity will help you make it have more punch and less flab. If you need a number, I'd suggest chopping off 30-50 words from the count. But that is just a hipshot so please don't take it as a rule or something. ^_^
     




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