It has been a long road since I started writing my novel Blood Feud. The journey began in April of 2012. I remember it well — a month of straight writing where the ideas just flowed like water. They pooled onto the page with little effort as months of thinking about my story and characters finally found a permanent place on the page. My story flourished but my poor family suffered from neglect. So at the end of the month and about 50,000 words later, I took a break. A few weeks later I came back to my marvelous work of art to realize everything I had written was total crap. And that pretty much sums up the next four years. Awesome spurts of writing where words flowed and family suffered just to end up with… yep you guessed it, more crap.
That my friends is the way of the writer as I am sure some of you are quite familiar with.
But something happened in my fifth year of writing. During my sixtieth (and really that’s not much of an exaggeration) rewrite of Blood Feud, the crap fell away and a good story finally started to form. At least to the point where I felt confident enough to send my work to a professional author, editor, and friend (Michael Knost) so he could tell me it was crap too. And to my surprise, he said it was a pretty awesome story.
We’ve already talked about the query package and writing an effective cover letter, let’s get to the really hard part… the synopsis. First I want to say that I’ve found it’s impossible to write just one synopsis. To get a great synopsis, it’s better to do a few, because let’s face it your publisher is going to want more than the one to three page synopsis you submitted if they do accept your novel. They’ll most likely want a shorter blurb for the back cover. Also some publishers want more than a one to page synopsis when submitting to them, so why not just get them all done at once and be done with it.
For me it was easier to do the really long synopsis first. The chapter by chapter sum up of the entire novel, which reached a huge twenty pages. I doubt any publisher will want all of that, but it was good for me because I did not previously have what others might call an outline. Many of you may already have this chapter by chapter summary or outline completed. But I don’t do written outlines as I’m writing because I’m a pantser. I feel outlines distract from letting the story flow where it needs to go. So if you like to be organized and have a nice neat outline down before you even write the first word of your novel, then you can totally skip this step.
We talked about Novel Submission: The Query Package, but now let’s get more specific and discuss how to actually write a cover letter (and FYI, writing a novel cover letter is different than a short story cover letter, in fact there are some publications that don’t even require a cover letter for short story submissions).
The following post is an accumulation of what I learned from Gary A Braunbeck’s worksop on cover letters and synopses, research I’ve done, and my own observations as I wrote the cover letter for my novel.
Here are some important things to keep in mind as you begin to write the cover letter (or what some call a query letter)…
After many years, my novel is finally done, now comes the hardest part yet… it’s time to submit it. I have to admit, I’d rather write another entire novel from scratch then do what comes next, but paraphrasing Theodore Roosevelt, “anything worthwhile never comes easy.”
This summer I’ve been taking the first steps in getting my novel ready for submission by writing a kicks cover letter (or sometimes called a query letter) and a handful of synopses (because it’s not good enough to have just one synopsis, but that’s another post!).
The first step I took in writing the cover letter and synopsis was to do research and see how the professionals were doing it. And I was also lucky enough to take a workshop about cover letters and synopses from science fiction author Gray A. Braunbeck last September. After a frustrating search, I finally managed to find my notes from his workshop. Yay!
I recently updated the Writing Resources page to add the following information. Enjoy!
Writing Motivation Dr. Wicked Write or Die This website supplies an easy to use program that forces you to write without the inner editor. It forces you to keep typing, because if you stop it erases your words! A great way to learn to free write.
Free Listing For Book Publishers (information from Jane Friedman) Be aware that most New York publishers do not accept unagented submissions, so sometimes “searching for a publisher” really means “finding an agent” (see next list).
Duotrope.com. For fiction and poetry only. About 3,500 listings total, which includes many types of publications.