Wednesday, October 13, 2010


How many of us have read a Novel, Query, or Synopsis and thought 'It seems so simple, surely I could do that.'? So you sit down at your computer, put your fingers to the keys and start the journey to writing that perfect novel, query, and/or synopsis. Somewhere along the way your chest tightens, you feel like your head’s going to explode from the pressure and your shoulders are tense enough to crack granite. Every word you type turns into a landmine of crap that crumbles into a mass grave of broken letters.

What went wrong?

You put the weight of your world on those letters, turning your simple joy of writing into to a bomb detonation exercise.

“It has to be perfect.” “Every word has to count.”

“It has to be appealing.” “I have to hook my reader.”

Ever heard of the phrase KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID, or the less offensive, KEEP IT SHORT & SIMPLE.

Dial down the pressure a bit. I know how important it is to write perfectly and present your best work, but all the stress and pressure does is strain your ability to do so. Yes, you will rewrite your query 30+ times and your novel will see dozens of revisions. Chances are the sentence that sent you into a panic attack yesterday, will be completely re-written or deleted by the end of the month.

I know this is a lot easier said than done. I still get a migraine anytime I look at my query folder, but here’s a little something that’s been helping me depressurize my writing.

Queries: Janet Reid offered the most helpful tip which is so simple it makes me feel remedial WHAT’S YOUR STORY ABOUT? (IN 100 WORDS) I think it’s true that a good story sells itself, and that’s not to say if you can't answer this question in 100 words that your story isn’t. Taking out all those amazing events that warm your heart, piss you off, or make you cry, what is the story about? Start with a sentence.

Examples from one of my works in progress

Soul Stones - A fifteen year old cutter, who is forced to share her body with the soul of a deity.

Then expand on it. Who is the MC? What’s their original problem? (Keep in mind this isn’t your major problem that the story revolves around. It’s more like when you’re driving and your check engine light comes on. At that moment your problem is getting your car home or to a shop. Your major problem is what caused the light to come on.)

Fifteen-year-old Becca Moreno’s days of hiding her self-inflicted cuts are over when during a rave, Rachel, a powerful deity on the run, is forced to enter Becca’s body . Three days later Becca wakes to learn she isn’t the only missing teen, just the only one with a commanding voice in her head.

There’s two MC’s, we know their names, we know their individual problems, and how they came to be in this situation. And we’ve still got 46 words left.

Next is what’s the problems (notice the s on the end. Our MC’s always have multiple problems, one bomb dropping after another.)

Becca’s wants answers that Rachel refuses to give her, but first the two must work together to save a group of teens being targeted by the same deities Rachel's hiding from. Further complicating their unruly union, a misplaced soul leaves them attracted to two different guys.

And last the lead in. (Never give them ending away, but suggest something to com.)

Matters of the heart may be something they could work out, but the secret Rachel’s hiding could destroy them all.

Word total: 112 (Okay, so I went over a little bit, but I’ve included all the points I needed to make for query. It’s far from being agent ready, but it’s a foundation to build and reshape and the best part is it wasn’t painful.)

Whether it’s enticing or has enough of a hook is for a reader to decide, my only goal is to answer the question: What’s my story about?

Synopsis: (Caveat: I am not as experienced with synopsis. I am working on my first at the moment.) Chuck Sambuchino had a great article on the essential parts of a synopsis that I found to be helpful and I’ve included links to a few others:

What I know of Synopses for sure, is that it’s a summary of the events in your novel, boiling it down to a cliff notes version that still has to be as entertaining as the novel itself.

The point of it all is for editors/publishers to know that your story contains a plot, sub-plots, conflict, and resolution. It's another stress inducing part of writing, but a necessary one.

My plan for my synopsis is to write a sentence for each chapter and combine them all to create a summary and from there I’ll have a foundation to mold into a synopsis. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Novels: Without it, none of the preceding matters. So how do you get from the opening hook to the end?

By keeping it simple, by knowing that the rough draft is supposed to be crap, and by just getting the chronological events and dialogue out of your head and onto the page before your head explodes. By all means misspell, forget periods, use whatever font looks pretty to you. Why? because it’s your draft and your only goal is to get to the finish line. I work on my novels one chapter at a time. Focusing only on what I can do today. If you keep your head down and your hands on the keys, eventually you’ll reach the end and what a great day that will be. Crap and all, a finished novel is something to truly celebrate.

My last point is about Time. I’m guilty of setting unrealistic expectations for my writing. Every novel won’t be finished in three months. In fact, Donald Maass says a breakout novel can take years. How many sequels have we read to great novels that felt rushed and under developed? Don’t do this to your story for the sake of time. Write as often as you can, but also let your imagination unfold those unforgettable moments that are worth the time they take come to you.

Writing takes time, dedication, and a great deal of creativity. You’re going to get stressed, discouraged, and depressed, but try to remember to K.I.S.S.


  1. Queries are so hard. They do seem like they are so much harder than writing the manuscript, but I think you're right. It's the pressure you put on yourself when you write them.

    I just popped over from PK's spolight post. :)

  2. You are so right. We can pen out a 70,000 word manuscript but crumble when faced with a 250 word query. I have yet to find a writer who didn't struggle with their query and synopsis. I guess we can take comfort in the fact that we all have felt the same pressure.

  3. HATE synposis! The query is okay but what you know isn't the same, because you know EVERYTHING and you don't what is going to hook someone. AARRRGH!!!

  4. Bekah I couldn't agree with you more. Though I have to admit I'm finding the synopsis less stressful than the query. Queries are the bane of my existence. How about I just show up in New York Coffee houses and give a live pitch. lol.

  5. I think part of why a query is hard, is because you're so attached to the story. So I've just started this "experiment" where I write the query before the MS. Yes, I'll revise it. But I think at this stage I can be brutal and exacting with my query, because I'm not attached to anything.

    I'll let you know how that turns out when the MS is done :) Or WHEN I get signed :)


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