Advice from the Fandom—Creating that interesting, attention-getting summary


Ugh, I’m horrible at summaries. I don’t know, I need help on this actually. I try to give a little tease in the summaries, maybe an interesting word or phrase that will catch a reader’s eye.


I can tell you what not to do. PLEASE don’t write “I suck at summaries”. Also, tell us if it isn’t a Bella/Edward story.


Stay away from overdone, Harlequin type questions, i.e. “Will their love survive? Will they be able to find true happiness with each other?” The summary is to let your readers know what to expect. Is it a love story? A mystery? Humor? What characters? Hey, summaries are hard, but for the love of all that is holy, SPELL CHECK YOUR SUMMARY. More readers will turn away from a story if the summary is rife with errors, or the death knell, ‘I suck at summaries, it’s better inside.” That and “my first fanfic, pls rd and rv”.


A) Stop asking questions! I am so sick of reading summaries with questions in them, it almost immediately turns me off to the story (which is unfair, I will grant you, but I am being honest here). At the very least, those questions make me roll my eyes. Instead of “What will happen when Bella finds herself trapped in an elevator with his best friend Jasper?” Try “When Bella finds herself trapped in an elevator with his best friend, Jasper, they have eleven hours to find the truth.” Something like that.

B) Pick out the most pertinent point(s) of your story without giving everything away. What is it you most want people to know before they start reading? What do you think will pull them in? Sell it.


Get your beta to do it, lol.


Do the opposite of my summaries. I am horrible at it. Along the same vein, don’t put “I suck at summaries” in your summary. It’s like the kiss of death.

Obsessing Over Edward

If you are having problems with a summary, go read the back of novels until you get the feel for how they draw a reader in. Usually an unanswered question nags at a potential reader and they open it up to find the answer. You can always put more of an excerpt from your summary on the first chapter. However, don’t put things in the summary like, more info inside or I suck at summaries because that doesn’t necessarily compel the reader to click. Even in the summary, you want to avoid author intrusion, when a reader sees a summary that’s not well thought out, they figure the story isn’t either. That first impression is VERY important so don’t take it lightly.


Summaries are just flat-out hard. There are a slew of things you can do that will immediately turn off your readers, and not very many things you can do to turn them on. If your summary is too generic and cryptic, your story won’t stand out. But you definitely don’t want to give too much of the plot away, either.
In the examples below, Rosybud and ss10 are stating how their stories are unique (a Bella that only has a year to live and Edward as a quadriplegic, respectively), and miaokuancha is showing off her visually vivid writing style (with the phrase “diamond dust”) as a promise of what’s to come.

Effective story summaries:

Ladder to the sun by Rosybud
How can you die when you’ve never really lived? That’s the problem Bella Swan faces when she’s told she only has a year to live. Can she make up for a lonely, unhappy life in the short time she has left… and maybe find love too? All-human, EXB

C 5 6 by ss10
“People just assume that you’re my nurse.” Edward is a quadriplegic. 10 years after his accident, he meets Bella—a socially inept wanderer. Together they come to an understanding, one that challenges all palpable perceptions.

A Garment of Brightness by miaokuancha
Showing is stronger than telling. I felt the short little hairs on the back of my neck stand straight on end. “It’s not fair,” I say aloud. The night wind swirls, lifting the fine surface powder from the tops of the snowdrifts, coating us in diamond dust.

scarlett letters

Don’t give too much away. People, for the most part, like mysteries, so draw them in, but don’t tell the whole story in the summary. Leave them a reason to want to click the link.


Summaries are hard, because you want to give away a little but not everything. I would say, following the tone of your story, be very honest about what the situation is, say why this is important or different, and then shut up. Don’t try and be mysterious if your story isn’t mysterious. Don’t use ellipses (now I’m worried because I probably used those in my summaries . . .) unless you really know what you’re doing. It’s fine if your story is a slice of life boring-ass story, but you’ve got to give us even just one little thing that’s different or special.


Ugh, they’re so hard, especially when you’re dealing with the fanfiction length restrictions. I always like the ones that start with a strong punchy declarative sentence. Lots of questions in descriptions is really overdone. It should state just enough information to intrigue, but not enough to tell you what’s going to happen next. Set the scene, but don’t tell the story.


Keep the summary as brief as possible, don’t give away your whole plot. Leave the reader curious as to what your story is about.


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