How to Write a Strong Story Concept (Reverse Book Blurb Exercise)

Diane Callahan
13 min readJun 16, 2021

It’s a surreal experience to witness a story grow from the seed of an idea into a fully bloomed novel. And it all starts with landing on an interesting concept — the unique selling point, the elevator pitch that makes readers go, “Oooh, I want to read that!”

The blurb for THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins

One way to develop your story concept is to write a book blurb — an attention-grabbing summary that’s between one hundred and three hundred words. This is the text you’d find on the inside flap or back cover of a book. It’s the teaser that makes readers want to know more.

The inside flap of hardbacks often feature blurbs, like with my edition of CLIMBING THE STAIRS by Padma Venkatraman

“Blurbs” can also be quotes from reviewers and other authors endorsing the book. But for the purpose of this exercise, I’m referring to the promotional text an author or publisher would use to entice readers.

Andy Weir’s PROJECT HAIL MARY was endorsed by famous authors like Brandon Sanderson and George R. R. Martin, among others, and these quotes are also called “blurbs”

Why Write a Reverse Book Blurb?

Usually, you’d write a book blurb after you write the novel. But writing this summary before you even begin drafting the manuscript can help you refine your story concept and get feedback on the overall idea. It’s what I like to call a “reverse book blurb.” It’s a way to see if the concept has legs and can stand on its own in the wild, overpopulated world of stories.

Even if you don’t tend to plot out your novels, writing a blurb ahead of time can provide a clear focal point — and prevent the story from meandering or spiraling out of control. It gives you that true north to follow as you write.

The blurb for Brit Bennett’s best-selling novel THE VANISHING HALF

Here, I’ll show you how I develop a story concept using multiple drafts of a blurb. I’ll use the evolution of my concept for Wish Hunter as an example…

Diane Callahan

Fiction writer and editor, a.k.a. YouTuber Quotidian Writer.