Counting My Chickens Before They’re Eggs   Leave a comment

Let’s talk about book descriptions. Do you write yours before or after you write the story?

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When Do I Write My Book Descriptions? Before or After?

How about during?

As with a lot of book-writing, I don’t really follow industry dogmas. I know “plotter” authors who write a detailed outline before they write the first page of their books and often that includes writing the book description. I know “pantser” writers who write the book description right before they publish the book. Both have passionate arguments for their method. I’ve listened to both sides, I see value in each, and I don’t subscribe to either.

I think I subscribe to my mother’s Midwestern wisdom that said “Don’t count your chickens before they’re eggs.” (Yes, a little twist on the usual saying. She had a lot of those).


I definitely never write a book description until I’m well into the first rough draft. Even when working through a series in which I have a basic idea of the high points of the plot, I can’t tell you what will be special in any given book until I’ve written most of it. I need the eggs before I can count them.

But that’s not completely true either. During the draft, sometimes I will write something and I know it will be pivotal. I have a slush file where I write the book description and at that stage I write notes about what might be in the book description. By the time I’ve finished the second draft, there could be several hundred words in the file. Not all of them will survive writing the book description, but that’s where I store my basic ingredients. I take a pinch here, a bit there, and viola, the book description emerges. Sometimes the book description is finished early in the editing process and sometimes it’s written as I’m finishing the formatting. And that sort of flexibility works for me.

What Works for Me and You

What works for me may not work for anyone else and what works for all those writing gurus may not work for us. While it is advisable to keep your methods flexible and hopefully learn new and better ways of doing things, we should all use the writing processes that work for us individually. If you’re a super-organized person who knows exactly how your book will turn out before you’ve ever started the first scene — lovely. But discovery writers like me aren’t going to get much done if we must complete the outline and have the book description written before we start, so we’re going to do it our own way and we’ll both have a book description before we publish. Anytime before that SUBMIT button is pushed is a great time to write a book description.

And now I really have to go fix the back cover of Gathering In because I see it’s not quite right. Oh, my!

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