Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Top Blurb No-Nos

Struggling with your blurb? Who isn't! Sometimes all you need is to go through and prune out the "blurb no-no's." Here are some of mine, in no particular order.

Fintoozler Syndrome*
Fantasy writers especially have trouble with Fintoozler Syndrome; it's when you have so many weird words in your blurb that no one has any idea what you're talking about. Made-up example:

When the Wizards of Z'mesdhal find the Slati'shfiker of Gromaldi, young Fergalush Hornshub is thrust into a desperate race to save the land of Dhariq'ween.

(Oh yeah, extra points for lots of apostrophes.) Here's a cleaned-up version of the above that tells the reader all s/he needs to know--and no more:

When a group of evil wizards finds a powerful stone, young Fergalush Hornshub must race against time to save his people.

Yeah, I know, it's not a great story, but I'm not writing a book here, I'm writing a blurb. ;)

Non-fantasy writers can also fall into this trap by throwing too many names and/or places at the reader all at once. Keep it simple. If we need to know a character's American, for example, we don't need to know what city s/he's from unless that's absolutely critical for understanding what the story's about.

*"Fintoozler" is a word the guys at Mystery Science Theater 3000 used to use whenever they were throwing in a Dr Seuss reference. The More You Know.

Show Stoppers
These are words that will stop your blurb stone dead in its tracks. "However" and "unfortunately" are the big offenders. Never use them. "But" usually suffices. Read your blurb out loud; the Show Stoppers will pop out at you like whoa. No, I mean literally. Whoa.

Dependent Clauses
These almost fall under Show Stoppers. They stop your blurb dead in its tracks, all right, but they're a special kind of evil all their own. Don't get me wrong. I like a dependent clause as much as the next writer--sparingly and in its place. Blurbs are rarely that place. Made-up example:

Fergalush Hornshub, who works as a carpenter in the land of Dhariq'ween, which is under attack, is scared.

Nope. Try:

Carpenter Fergalush Hornshub is scared. His homeland is under attack.

Big Man Movie Voice
Any phrase the Big Man Movie Voice would say does not belong in your blurb. Examples:

In a world where wizards are evil...

Little did did Fergalush know...!

Fergalush's whole world is about to change!

Don't do that.

...which is my cute way of saying, don't use exclamation points in your blurb. Ever.

Speling Airs
Misspelled words in your blurb strangle your book sale in its cradle, and spell check is not enough. If the word is supposed to be "plane" and you write "plain," spell check will not pick it up. At the least have a good-spelling friend take a look for typos and misspellings.

Shorter is better, but don't go too short. Tell the reader what s/he needs to know, but don't get into back story or too much detail.

Tour Guide Voice
Don't list out your book's attributes like you're holding a mic in your hand, pointing to celebrity homes from an open air bus. The reader wants to make up his own mind about your book. Examples:

You'll meet plucky Fergalush Hornshub, the mysterious archer Alberor But'tquetok and the beautiful but angry thief Krathanoalogya Smith.

Come be enchanted by the fantastical land of Dhariq'ween!

It's a non-stop laugh riot!

Put down the mic, get off the bus.

In a world where these are some of the worst offenders... 
I reserve the right to add to this list later! :)

What are the big no-no's you've noticed?


  1. Great list of no-no's! Very good advice. :)

  2. All good points. I think another no-no is starting with unimportant detail and working up to the meaty stuff. Half the time people will think the book is as boring as the blurb, and you've just lost them.

  3. Simon: Absolutely, and I had to read back to see that I hadn't put that in! Too much backstory is almost worse than too little.

  4. These are brilliant! Once I stop laughing, I'm going to go over all my blurbs again. :-)