Recently, I got a review for Nevermor on Amazon, and while the review for the book was glowing, (five stars and high praise) one comment the reviewer made was ‘While the summary isn’t the best, the book itself certainly is.’
That got me thinking: why isn’t my description very good? But the truth is that writing a description for a book is one of the most difficult things that I do. It’s the same problem I have with writing short stories – I just have a lot to say and I need a lot of words to do it! I’m insistent that my description flows like my book, that it doesn’t sound dumb or silly in any way because most of my works have a serious tone. So the fact that my description is also wordy and colorful is acceptable, right?
I’m not so sure.
Ever since I published Nevermor, I’ve been going over it again and again, trimming the fat and refining my writing, and one thing I’ve noticed myself doing is trying to keep things a lot simpler than I might have in years past. Readers today seem to like fast-paced tales, and I’ve been adapting to that even though I still like to wax poetic at times. But it’s not just to gain potential readers. I, too, don’t like things that drag on and on forever.
I decided to look for resources about description writing, and I found a post that I decided to take to heart. It said that book descriptions should be in 150 words. (The entire post is here if you want to read it.) That kind of freaked me out. Mine was at least 3 times that length!
Another thing that it also challenged me to do is use a lot of “power words” – such as passionate, terrifying, and so on – most of which seem like pitch words to me, and honestly I almost always SHUN words like this, because when I read them, I KNOW they are trying to sell me this book instead of actually tell me what it’s about. I don’t know how many times I’ve looked at a summary and then found that the book attached didn’t live up to my expectations.
Long story short, I decided to take this advice and edit my story description to see if it helps me out at all as far as drawing in more readers.
I went from this:
LONDON, 1873 – In the foggy city, polluted by coal smoke from the factories along the river, 15-year-old Wren is clinging to a small thread of hope: the shimmering silver dream of a better life.
Wren and her brothers, Henry and Max, are orphans. They wish to be adopted, but no one wants to take in all three of them. Wren won’t be separated from her family, but no matter how hard she fights to keep them together, she fears she will lose them nonetheless.
She wants more for both of them – for herself. She wants an escape.
Prompted by a world she sees in a dream, Wren begins to tell her brothers stories of a place where they can be carefree forever – a place called Nevermor. It is an island at the edge of the universe, where all dreams go. There is a boy who guards it, and he is known only as the Rifter. Wren believes that this place truly exists and desires her own life there, where she can keep her family together without anyone tearing them apart.
Wren gets more than she bargained for when she is kidnapped by the arrogant and volatile Rifter and taken to Nevermor against her will. It is not completely unwelcome, however. The land is beautiful and there is freedom. The Rifter and his pack of wild boys accept her, and she feels that her brothers will be happy in this place too.
Wren falls in love with Nevermor – and with the Rifter – and yet the more she learns of the conflict between the Rifter and a wicked man called the Scourge, the more she comes to realize that Nevermor is not a place for children.
Epic, mind-bending, and as sweet as it is vicious, Lani Lenore’s Nevermor is a dark fantasy based on the legend of Peter Pan, geared toward a more mature audience.
Reading Level 16+ – In 1873, 15-year-old Wren longs to escape her life in a London orphanage. Prompted by a world she sees in a dream, Wren begins to believe in a world called Nevermor, an island at the edge of the universe, where all dreams go. She discovers the Rifter, a wild and volatile but handsome boy, who guards the realm of dreams from terrifying nightmare creatures. Wren begins to desire her own life there – to escape with her brothers without fearing that anyone will separate them.
Wren falls in love with Nevermor – and with the Rifter – and yet the more she learns of a conflict between the Rifter and a wicked, black-hearted man called the Scourge, the more she comes to realize that Nevermor is not a place for children.
The new one is much shorter and to the point, at first pointing out what the main draw of my book is – of course that’s it’s based on Peter Pan. Then after that, there’s a extremely short summary of the plotline of the book, which winks at the romantic aspect (which is all too important nowadays). It does not NEAR cover everything that the book is really about, but it might be just enough to make someone curious enough to find out more.
What do you think? Any words of advice as you’ve worked on your own descriptions? Which one of these works better for you?