Ever look back and read work you’ve done in the past to realize it sucks so bad you almost feel physically ill?
Yep, that happened to me in a big way Sunday. The previous week my son started school on Wednesday, so I started working on my new novel with gusto (I’d been waiting all summer to start!), but realized I had some background information and research that needed to be done first. Then I got the bright idea to read the half completed first draft of my second novel (Dark Territories) over the weekend. God, what a horrible, awful, terrible disappointment that turned out to be.
I couldn’t even get all the way through two chapters before I decided I’d had enough, because I was real close to vomiting. Yeah, it was that bad. And I can’t even pinpoint one specific thing that was terrible. There was a well balanced amount of terribleness from stiff and completely out of character dialogue to plot leaps that would make a mountain goat proud. There were tie-ins from one story arc to another that left me wondering exactly how much I had to drink that day. And please don’t even get me started on my long windedness. I could probably make a schooner set sail with all that blustering air moving about in each scene.
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)…
What a great question, and one may writers struggle to answer in their writing journey. The best part about this question is there is no wrong answer. And yet, a writer often feels like the whole world hinges on that one important question… Should I write a novel or a short story?
The simple answer is… it depends.
It depends on the subject matter, how long you really think it will tell the best story, and how much staying power you have. Let’s face it, writing a novel is not easy. Many people have tried and failed. And many people have succeeded and wished they’d just wrote a freaking short story.
The end. The most two satisfying words a writer can ever write. The end. Two words standing alone that means more than all other words put together. And as those two words are written and then stared at in shocked disbelief, a rush of emotions hit in one great punch. Ecstatic happy dancing commences… Swirling ribbons of sadness twist in the stomach at the realization that a great journey is finally over… But mostly a profound relief settles and solidifies as the truth finally hits home… after countless days of hard work, overcoming large bouts of self-doubt and writer’s block, constant rewrites and edits, and grueling self imposed hours The End finally came.
Yeah, that was me three weeks ago as I finished my novel Blood Feud.
Granted, I’m not completely done. I sent the last draft out to pre-readers to get some feedback. Once I hear back, I may make a few changes here or there, but for the most part it’s done. And even though I say that and have had three weeks to bask in my novels completion, I’m still somewhat in disbelief. I’ll be honest there were many days, weeks, and months when I never thought the novel would ever be completed despite my always optomistic behavior of “I will get to the end no matter what!”
Wow! I just checked the date on my last post. March 30th. I knew it had been awhile, but I didn’t know it’d been that long. So sorry to you and myself. I really had not intended to stay away from my blog that long. What can I say? Life got in the way.
Two major things really.
One, in the last few months, I have been going through some incredible changes in my personal life (and in extension in my overall health as well). Some of it’s been easy (no not really), some of it’s been hard like really freaking awful hard, but all of it has been very much needed and long over due. In doing all that soul searching and reflection, it’s left little time to do well… a lot (and not just blogging either).
In all my reflection, it’s also put things in perspective for me and made me see what was really important. And while I do like to work on my blog, in the grand scheme of things, blogging is down near the bottom of stuff I really should be doing (so sorry, the truth hurts I know).
That being said, I do want to start working on my blog more regularly. And since I will be taking a break from major writing over the summer, I just might have the time to get back into the swing of things.
This one is a doozy for me, especially since my novel has five different point of views (POVs) that I am telling the story from. There have been many, many times where I question my decision as to whether I really need to be inside five different heads. Can’t I just manage with my main character? Because it sure would be a lot easier and my novel would be done long by now. But I keep coming back to the answer of… yes.
My story is such that it’s bigger than the main character. It’s more than just about the people. It’s about the world they live in and the choices each person makes and how those choices affect the bigger picture. And because of that, the reader really needs to get a front row seat with each of these five major players.