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Showing posts from October, 2006

Proposals—your bio

If you don't have many writing credits, don't point it out. If you have a lot, point only to the relevant ones. If you wrote an article on abuse in Woman's World and an article on stretching in Runner's World, include the Woman's World but not the Runner's World.

If you belong to a national writers organization like RWA, ACFW, SFWA, MWA, then include it. Also include if you’ve ever worked in a publishing house or for a magazine.

Don't ramble on for paragraphs and pages about your family and experiences—keep it to only those things that are pertinent for your story. If the main plot of your story is about hang-gliding and you've done that several times, then include it. But if your story is about the stock market, then don't include the hang-gliding experience.

Your social connections can also have pertinence. If your story is set in medieval Scotland and you belong to a local Scottish Heritage group, then mention that. However, if the main plot or char…

Writer Beware website and blog

This is a great website uncovering various agent scams and unscrupulous practices among agents.

http://www.sfwa.org/beware/

There's also a highly informative blog.

http://www.accrispin.blogspot.com/

Proposals—synopsis

Proposals—story blurbs

This is basically the same as the story blurb you included in your query letter.

Your story blurb will either hook the editor or not. Here are some pointers.

1) Try to write it in the tone or voice of the novel. If your manuscript is a romantic comedy, make the blurb sound fun and flirty. If your novel is a dark thriller, make the blurb sound sinister and exciting.

2) It should name the main protagonists. The villain can also be named if he/she is a major protagonist.

3) The main protagonists' external goals should be clear.

4) There should be some hint of the major obstacle(s) in the protagonists' way.

5) A nice touch is to add a little info on the main protagonists' internal or spiritual conflicts.

6) Unlike a synopsis, you do not need to give away the ending, but you may if you prefer.

Example:

Risa Takayama would rather eat rotten tofu than listen to her aunts’ tweaking her about her weight and lack of a Significant Other. She’s the Elephant Man next to her Barbie-doll cousins,…

Proposals—basic structure

Not all proposals are set up the same way, but here’s a bare-bones structure of a typical one.

--(optional) Story blurb. Just a paragraph—two to four sentences—about the story. Similar to back cover copy.

--Synopsis. Should be about one to two pages long. DO reveal the ending. This is the entire story laid out. See “Synopsis” on the right sidebar to see my other articles on synopsis writing.

--Bio. Your writing credits, any experience in the writing or publishing industry, and any social connections or life experiences that have any relevance to the story.

--Hook. What makes this story unique? How is this story different from any other book that’s sitting on the shelves at Barnes and Noble? What kind of spiritual, emotional, or personal message will a reader glean from it?

--Category/genre. Make it easy for the editor/agent to know what the major genre is.

--Length of manuscript. Round to the closest 100 or 1000 words.

--(optional) Alternate titles. Expect your publisher to change your title…

PSYCHOLOGY FOR SCREENWRITERS by William Indick

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Psychology for Screenwriters by William Indick

From the back cover:

To make their stories come alive, screenwriters must understand human behavior. Using this book, writers can make Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, Erik Erikson, and Joseph Campbell their writing partners. Psychology for Screenwriters helps scribes craft psychologically resonant characters and conflict. You’ll learn to create convincing motivation, believable identity and development, and archetypes that produce authentic screen moments.

Camy here:

It might be because I majored in Psychology in college, but I thought this book was one of the more fascinating writing books I’ve read this year.

This book was most useful to me to explain the concept of archetypes and dramatic situations—why there only seem to be a limited number of them that are used often in drama and novels, why they’re important, the psychological theories behind them that explain their power over an audience or a reader.

As writers, we’ve read about …

Dialogue—back and forth

One thing I see often in the entries I judge in contests is long passages of dialogue.

And why not? Jane Austen got away with it. Historical romance writers—even the current best-selling ones—have long paragraphs of one person talking.

Granted, historical novels have a completely different atmosphere that’s more conducive to long stints of dialogue, but let’s face it, folks—do YOUR friends like to hear you talk for that long without stopping?

Believable dialogue in contemporary fiction, especially, needs shorter passages and more back-and-forth between characters. One person says a sentence or two, the other person responds to what they said.

Historical fiction can have slightly longer passages, but big ole’ long honkin’ paragraphs might lose your reader’s attention.

Shorter passages of dialogue also serve to pick up the reading pace. Long passages of dialogue can become ponderous to the reader and stall the story flow.

Here’s an exercise that takes this to the extreme, but can help you to …

Why do I need to trim a synopsis?

I probably should have run this post when I started my short series on cutting a synopsis. (Click on "Synopsis" on the sidebar to see all my synopsis posts.)

While I haven’t talked to every editor and agent on the planet, the majority of the ones I’ve spoken to prefer a 2-3 page synopsis.

However, every editor is different. One editor will want a one-page synopsis, another will want an extensive chapter-by-chapter synopsis.

In my experience, it’s usually better to opt for the shorter synopsis when submitting a proposal. If they want a longer one, they usually specifically mention that they do.

Another reason to have a short synopsis handy: Writing contests often have you submit a short, 1-2 page synopsis with your entry.

Here’s a little tip: when querying a novel, it doesn’t hurt to slip a one-page synopsis in with your one-page query letter. And it doesn’t cost any more in postage.

Also, when submitting a partial manuscript or a proposal (only at the editor’s request, of course)…

Picking an agent #9—Ask around

If you don’t have a chance to go to a conference and meet the agent face-to-face, or if the agent doesn’t attend the conference(s) you go to, then ask other writers about their agents.

If you belong to an online writers group, ask them to e-mail you privately about their agents. Ask about communication styles and work ethics. Ask them about their relationships, how the agent works, etc.

Also, tell them you’ll keep all their information completely confidential.

Another good idea is something a published author did (I want to say Rene Gutteridge did this, but I’m not positive)—she contacted several editors and asked them to give her the top three agents they enjoy working with. That way the editors aren’t put on the spot about any particular agent.

Picking an agent #8—Communication

All agents have different communication styles.

Some agents are more minimalistic—short, to-the-point e-mails, and not very frequent. Some of them don’t mind if you contact them often, they just won’t contact you back as much. Other agents, however, prefer minimal contact from you, as well. For some people, this type of minimal-communication agent is what they prefer—they don’t want to be bombarded by information they don’t really need, they just need an agent who will work in the background for them.

Other agents are more in contact with their clients. They e-mail and/or call frequently, and welcome reciprocal contact from clients.

Since I am a more chatty person, my agent is the latter. That simply meshes with my personality—it’s an individual choice.

For you, figure out what kind of communication the agent has. Ask questions. Give hypothetical scenarios.

“How often will you contact me in a typical week?”
“Once you send the manuscript to editors, how often will you contact me? What will y…

Picking an agent #7—Bad agents

Randy Ingermanson wrote an excellent article about bad agents in his Advanced Fiction Writing Ezine:

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No agent is much better than having a bad agent. At best, a bad agent will not push your manuscripts promptly and will waste your time. At worst, a scammer will take your money and ruin your chances with publishers through reprehensible business practices.

Anyone can print up a business card and call themselves an agent, whether they have any experience or connections with editors and the industry or not.

Don’t go with any agent who charges a reading fee or sends you to a specific book doctor or editing company.

Check that the agent is a member of the AAR (Association of Authors' Representatives). Members are required to adhere to their Canon of Ethics, which prohibits scammers.

Picking an agent #6—Multiple submissions?

Many writers worry about sending queries or proposals to several agents at once.

First of all, if you received these submission requests at a conference, it’s understood that you might have multiple requests and therefore multiple submissions.

It’s also fine to send multiple queries to multiple agents, however you should check the agent’s website to see what his/her policy is on multiple submissions. Some agents discourage it. Some agents don’t care.

Whether you have multiple submission requests from an conference or you’re just sending multiple queries to agents, in your cover letter or query letter, let the agent know that your manuscript has been submitted to other agents. It’s a common professional courtesy. Do NOT skip this bit of communication.

If an agent requests a partial manuscript or a full manuscript, e-mail or write to the other agents you submitted to and let them know such-and-such agent has requested the partial (or full). It might garner more interest in your writing, it …

Picking an agent #5—How to know if they’re interested?

For some houses like Heartsong Presents and Steeple Hill, a writer doesn’t need an agent to sell to them. Some writers who have targeted those houses worry an agent is just taking them on for an easy sale.

As a writer, you can tell if an agent is truly interested in you and your writing. Did they read your manuscript? Offer suggestions or feedback? Do they plan which specific editors to send it to because they know the editors’ specific tastes? Do they communicate with you quickly and consistently? Is their communication thorough?

And for goodness’ sake, if an agent requests your proposal or your full manuscript, SEND IT! They don’t have time to request those things if they aren’t genuinely interested in your story idea. It’s not like they have nothing to do but log in manuscripts and then send a rejection letter. They have a lot of other things taking up their time, and they’re not going to waste any of it by asking you to send something they intend to reject later.

Picking an agent #4—location?

Some authors insist that agents reside in New York so they have more opportunities for face-to-face time with editors in New York. I can see the logic of that.

So what about if your agent lives in California? Or Colorado?

It depends on which publishers you are targeting.

Let me say that again: It depends on which publishers you are targeting.

Not all publishers are in New York. This is especially true for CBA publishers. If you are targeting Bethany House, they’re in Minnesota. If you’re targeting FaithWords, they’re in Tennessee. If you’re targeting Zondervan, they’re in Michigan.

My agent lives in California, which is terrific because I can meet with her every so often. She flies to visit publishing houses every year, and she has connections with all of them that she encourages by attending various conferences.

She is the primary reason Zondervan bought my chick-lit series, because of her connection with the Zondervan editor.

So . . . New York? In my opinion, not necessarily. However, it i…